You might think that journeying from an Oscar-nominated performance to playing second-fiddle in a Kevin Costner flick over the span of a few years is a weird career move.
But it made perfect sense for 17-year-old Hailee Steinfeld, who started her feature film acting career earning all sort of accolades as Mattie Ross in the Coen Brothers’ 2010 “True Grit” adaptation, and can be seen beginning Friday as Costner’s daughter in the Paris-set action-comedy “3 Days to Kill” from writer-producer Luc Besson.
“[Besson’s] ‘The Professional’ is one of my all-time favorite movies,” Steinfeld says. “When I found out that this was a Luc Besson [production], that he had written the script, I was so excited to meet him, be working on a film that he wrote, which was really incredible.”
The movie, centered on the relationship between Costner’s CIA agent and his estranged daughter, played by Steinfeld, defies simple characterization, Steinfeld adds.
“You read it as a whole and you think this action-thriller, a lot’s happening, a lot’s going on, that’s sort of what you take away firsthand,” she says. “Then you go back through and you realize there’s so much heart and there’s these comedic moments you wouldn’t necessarily pick up on the first time.”
It is, in short, a part unlike any Steinfeld has played so far. But even as the California native moves further and further away from her auspicious start in “True Grit,” that experience has stayed with her.
“It’s definitely very, very surreal. At that time, I remember so many people saying, ‘You have no idea how lucky you are. This is an amazing opportunity. Everything along those lines,” Steinfeld says. “And I was being told those sort of things for months. For the longest time, I would nod my head and smile. It took me awhile to realize what everyone was saying was true, and that an opportunity like that really only comes once in a lifetime. For me to have experienced that right away was very overwhelming and very exciting, but it’s something I’m so thankful for and I owe a lot to that.”
Since “True Grit,” Steinfeld has starred in a “Romeo and Juliet” adaptation and “Ender’s Game,” among others. She has a host of promising films on the docket, including collaborations with “Once” director John Carney, Tommy Lee Jones and Brit Marling.
“It’s who’s involved and the script and the story and all of that,” Steinfeld says when asked what she looks for in a project. “A few times, I’ve asked my parents and my agents not to tell me who’s involved with a project before I read it, because that can influence a decision very, very easily. Something that I love so much about what I do is the future is so unpredictable.”