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Hailee Steinfeld: Our EXCLUSIVE Interview with the New Juliet

Oct 08, 2013

By: Lynn Barker

We were first blown away by 16-year-old actress Hailee Steinfeld when she played the spunky, brave Mattie in the movie True Grit. The portrayal earned her an Oscar nomination. Now, Hailee takes on an even more iconic, timeless role as Shakespeare’s Juliet in the new film.

Hailee is a totally modern teen girl. We wanted to know how she transported herself back to ancient Italy and into the head of a rebellious teen in love. How does she feel about her leading man? Can she relate to Juliet?

Hailee at our interviewHailee at our interviewCourtesy of Lynn Barker

Hailee looked really classy/cute in a puffy black skirt with a floral decoration and a Givenchy black sleeveless top with a cute graphic design that includes Disney’s Bambi. Her long brown hair is down. Her nails are red and her black heels are super high. For our interview in her hotel suite, Hailee has kicked off the heels and is wearing black flats and sipping on a Coke.

Kidzworld: I loved the blue dress Juliet wears to the ball but did you have a favorite and did you get to keep any clothes or accessories from the movie?

  • Hailee: One of my favorites would be the blue dress you first meet Juliet in. It’s so beautiful and so effortless-looking and it just flows when she walks. It’s got beautiful detail down near the bottom. I also love the red one at the very end of the film.

Romeo and Juliet meet at the ballRomeo and Juliet meet at the ball

Kidzworld: With your dark hair you look really good in red!

  • Hailee: (beaming) Thank you!

Kidzworld: Did you get to keep any jewelry? She wears some really pretty stuff.

  • Hailee: Swarovski (also a co-producer of the movie) created the ring that Romeo gives Juliet and I actually have that.

Kidzworld: Which role was harder for you, Mattie in True Grit or Juliet?

  • Hailee: There were definitely challenges with both of the roles. I think with True Grit the language was very specific, as is Shakespeare and you couldn't really improvise, nor did you ever really have to. It was written so beautifully and it was all right there. And with Shakespeare, it was definitely a process learning that text and going through it and translating each thing. My script is filled with little itty bitty writing of just like the translation of every line. But they were both, I would say, equally as difficult.

Hailee a few years ago as Mattie in True GritHailee a few years ago as Mattie in True Grit

Kidzworld: Romance is at the center of this movie. What is your pet peeve on a date? If they do this, they don’t get a second date?

  • Hailee: I think just being on their phone when they are supposed to be getting to know you.

Kidzworld: You are active online with tweeting etc. Do you think teens might spend a little too much time online or texting rather than just out interacting in person? Or, does texting just help you get closer?

  • Hailee: I’m guilty of it but I don’t think it’s keeping me from getting to know anyone I’m around. Maybe you go through phases where you just got a new phone and “I just downloaded the new yadda yadda” and you’re really excited about it and want to be on it but it kind of phases out.
  • Normally, when I’m with my friends, I don’t really use my phone because I’m already with whoever I’d be talking to (on the phone).

Juliet plans her reunion with RomeoJuliet plans her reunion with Romeo

Kidzworld: Back to R&J. What was your introduction to the story? Had you read the Shakespeare play?

  • Hailee: I actually read the book (of the play) a little over a year ago around the time we were filming the movie. I was reading it in school so that was very convenient. I would consider this whole experience my introduction to the story and to Shakespeare.

Juliet's mom tells her to marry a man she doesn't loveJuliet's mom tells her to marry a man she doesn't love

Kidzworld: What was your favorite scene to shoot and why?

  • Hailee: One of the things I realized with this film that I haven’t experienced with any others, I normally have one or two of my favorite scenes but with this one I just can’t put my finger or one or even two.
  • All of them are so important and all done so well. Every moment of every scene is needed for the story. We started with the balcony scene.

On the balconyOn the balcony

Kidzworld: Wow, that is a very hard and personal scene to start off with.

  • Hailee: It was but it was very special. It’s incredible that Romeo and Juliet meet that night and then meet later on the balcony and, at that point, Douglas (Booth who plays Romeo) and I had gotten to know each other but this was still our first scene and still very new and spontaneous and exciting.

Kidzworld: Like it was for the characters, so that works nicely. You and Douglas met at a MET gala in New York. Did you talk much?

  • Hailee: Yes. We both knew that we were reading together (for the parts) in a week or so from then so he actually came and found me and brought up this great point that we met at a ball and that’s where Romeo and Juliet meet for the first time.

Hailee and Douglas Booth at a premiereHailee and Douglas Booth at a premiere

Kidzworld: Very cool! And I’ll bet you were dressed up and looking your best. Always a good idea to meet a cute guy when you look your best.

  • Hailee: (laughs) Always!

Kidzworld: Once you started working together, what really surprised you about Douglas?

  • Hailee: There were tons of surprises with Douglas. I think mainly, because, you come to the table with your own interpretation, your own idea and your own take on a role and that’s your base layer. Then you have the director’s ideas on top of that and the actors’ on top of that and you have the things that are around you. The way Douglas would make it work altogether was so fascinating. He was able to bring it together and bring it 100 percent so he was amazing.

Romeo and Juliet falling in loveRomeo and Juliet falling in love

Kidzworld: I’ve seen the outtakes online with you and Douglas cracking up during a scene on set. Was he a jokester or prankster on set or was that somebody else?

  • Hailee: Oh man, the thing is, with a project like this that is so intense, it’s always great to have somebody there to break the ice.
  • Everyone had a little bit of that in them. Douglas and I would get to the point where we were on take six or seven of a scene and we literally couldn’t look at each other without bursting out laughing.

Kidzworld: You're really close to the age of Juliet, and she just didn’t want to do what her parents demanded of her. Can you relate to her rebellion or relate to her at all?

  • Hailee: Yeah, I do. I think what I loved so much about Juliet is how youthful she is and how innocent she is, and it was really interesting exploring her emotions myself at that age. I definitely explored a side of vulnerability and innocence that I had never really done before, so that was really fun.

Hailee signs autographsHailee signs autographs

Kidzworld: She's very pro-active in doing what she wants to do.

  • Hailee: Yeah, and that's another thing. She is very strong and independent, and I think what's so beautiful about the story is that she doesn't really know what she wants until she doesn't have it, and that's like most of us in some situations. You really see her fight for what she loves, and she does whatever she can to get to what she wants.

Kidzworld: You were shooting in Italy so did you get to hang out with cast off set and go do any touristy things?

  • Hailee: Yeah! Right before I left the production had a few more days left where they were going to go up to Verona and finish the film so I never made it up there to work but, with my mom and grandparents, we took a little trip up there. When we were shooting in Rome, the cast would go to The Spanish Steps for lunch and dinner. Can’t go clubbing yet.

Juliet waits for her loveJuliet waits for her love

Kidzworld: What music are you into right now?

  • Hailee: I really love all types of music. I’m really open to that.I really love Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake and some James Taylor and Elton John stuff.

Kidzworld: Do you have “besties”?.. girlfriends you can talk to about guys? Juliet only had her older nurse. That was a shame!

  • Hailee: Oh yeah. Girls need besties. When I’m travelling a lot, I’m so grateful that I have friends who are just a phone call away and I’ll step out for a few minutes and call and I’m like “You’re not gonna believe what he did” and we have a whole conversation about it but being in person with your best friend is so much fun.

Kidzworld: So you have any pets? I saw you in an Asos ad with a really cute dog.

  • Hailee: That’s my dog! Her name is Paris. She came with the name. She was in a litter where all the puppies were named after hotels in Las Vegas. I was seven or eight when we got her. She’s a miniature golden doodle. We actually just got a new puppy. We named him Bruno.

Hailee with her cute dog ParisHailee with her cute dog Paris

Kidzworld: Why take on this iconic role of Juliet and why do we need this story now?

  • Hailee: At an early table read of the script, (writer) Julian (Fellowes) said to us, and it’s something that has stuck with me, was that this generation deserves their own Romeo and Juliet. I really think that’s really true. There’s the excitement of introducing this to this generation and I think everybody deserves to discover and rediscover this story.

Romeo & Juliet is in theaters October 11th!