Landing the role of “True Grit’s” Mattie Ross took some perseverance for 13-year-old newcomer and virtual unknown Hailee Steinfeld. First, the Los Angeles-based teen made the requisite video pitch (as did some 15,000 other hopefuls in the nationwide search for one of the most coveted young actress roles of the year). In preparation for her audition with casting director Ellen Chenoweth, she memorized 15 pages of sides; at her callback she read another 25 pages of sides for helmers Joel and Ethan Coen while thesp Jeff Bridges sat in. Despite the pressure, she believes that being dressed in character — wearing an old-fashioned long skirt and buttoned-up ruffled shirt — helped her confidence.
And after the down-to-the-wire audition, Steinfeld’s film career got a major jump-start. “I read on a Saturday, got the call on Tuesday, and then I left a week later, got to the set and started filming,” explains Steinfeld, who lauds co-stars Bridges, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin for helping her feel comfortable on set.
Although Steinfeld has studied acting since age 9, “True Grit” is her feature debut. Since the production, she’s shot a Nickelodeon pilot, “Summer Camp,” and a guest spot on short-lived Fox sitcom “Sons of Tucson.”