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LOS ANGELES — In the three years since earning an Oscar nomination at age 14 for her film debut in Joel and Ethan Coen’s True Grit, Hailee Steinfeld has had barely a moment to catch her breath.
Last year, she tackled sci-fi (Ender’s Game) and Shakespearean tragedy (Romeo and Juliet). And the 17-year-old high school junior has a cluster of films completed, including 3 Days to Kill, which opened Friday. Penned by Luc Besson and Adi Hasak and directed by McG, the spy thriller-drama finds Steinfeld playing Zoey, the estranged teenage daughter of a dying CIA assassin (Kevin Costner).
Also in the pipeline for the actress are the Toronto Film Festival fave Can a Song Save Your Life?, Tommy Lee Jones’ The Homesman and the action-comedy Barely Lethal — in this one, she’s the assassin.
Q. So the Internet was abuzz last week with pictures of you smoking.
A. I did get a phone call from my dad after those pictures got out.
Q. What did he say when you told him they were actually herbal cigarettes and the pictures were from the set of Ten Thousand Saints?
A He’s like, “It’s all part of the game.” I get it. It’s cool. The movie, which involves a lot of things including smoking, drugs, and alcohol, has been an interesting learning experience for me.
Q. Speaking of interesting experiences, what was it like being on location in Paris for 3 Days to Kill?
A. That alone was so incredible! It was my first time spending more than a weekend there.
Q. There’s a quiet moment where Costner teaches you how to dance.
A. That was one of my favorite scenes in the movie. We had a great time. Kevin and McG worked with me in creating something really special.
Q. You also just worked with Tommy Lee Jones, who not only stars in but also directs The Homesman.
That is a period piece. I don’t know if it is sort of classified as a Western, but I play a very small part in it. I will say I don’t think I have ever been more nervous in my life as I was when I was doing one scene with Tommy Lee Jones. I had like three lines and they wouldn’t come out of my mouth. I get nervous about pretty much everything.
Q. Really? Even when you were just 14 and going through the Academy Awards three years ago, you seemed unflappable.
A. The thing I find as I get older that I think, maybe, I get more nervous because I have become aware of what is actually happening. When I was 13 and shooting True Grit and when I was at the Oscars, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It took me a very long time to realize just how incredibly special that entire time in my life was. I enjoyed every single minute. But I would do anything to sort of relive it. But I have been so fortunate to have had amazing experiences since then.
Q. You’re a home-schooled high school junior. Are you thinking about college?
A. Last year, I was thinking about it nonstop. The norm is that you go after you graduate from high school. I don’t know where in the world I will be next week and I don’t know where I will be in a year, so I was sort of worked up over that. I had conversations with my parents and my teachers. That brought to my realization that college is always there. That is a comforting feeling. I hope that I can find a good time to do that.