When Hailee Steinfeld took to the stage at the MTV Music awards 2018 last month, it was natural placement for the 22-year-old. The actress, songstress and host for the night commandeered the stage with an unmistakable demeanour — the kind of striking presence embodied only by great showmen.
As Steinfeld’s mini dress, entirely encrusted in glitter caught the light — and along with it, the audience’s attention — her ineffable personality shone brighter, engaging viewers in her every word. On the same night, she returned onstage to perform her single “Back to life”. The earworm, which features in the soundtrack of what also happens to be the latest of her filmography: hollywood blockbuster “Bumblebee” — a spin-off of the “Transformers” series.
Every bit a seasoned performer, Steinfeld enthralled the crowd as she manoeuvered the sprawling stage all while nailing dance choreography without missing a beat. Every move in her performance is a reminder of her immaculate talent, equally impactful when stripped down from a showy production to an unadulterated silver screen role.
At just 22 years old, the Los Angeles native counts more than a decade of experience in the entertainment business. Her accolades, too, go way beyond her years.
“I watched ‘Paper Moon’ when I was eight and started acting shortly after. My parents felt it was important for me to study so they challenged me to commit to classes for a year. We made a deal that if I was still passionate about acting at the end of the year, we could explore getting an agent,” says Steinfeld in an e-mail interview with T Singapore.
The fire in her belly burnt stronger with time. When Steinfeld was 14 years old, she became an Oscar-nominated actress for her role in Amercian revisionist film “True Grit” (2010), later earned herself a Golden Globe award nomination for the coming-of-age classic, “The Edge of Seventeen” (2016), and along the way established herself as an identifiable figure in tinseltown through her role in the widely popular installments of “Pitch Perfect” amongst other films.
In a seemingly natural evolution succeeding her performance in “Pitch Perfect 2” (2015) and “Pitch Perfect 3” (2017), Steinfeld dabbled further into music with a self-empowering debut single titled “Love Myself” in 2015, closely followed by the release of an extended play, “Haiz” (2015) and a slew of other singles in the following years.
Early in December, Hailee Steinfeld roused herself from bed and tweeted to her more than one million fans: “Woke up beaming with excitement this morning … ♥”
And why not? She was about to celebrate her 22nd birthday. The animated “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” in which she’d voiced Gwen Stacy, had just been nominated for a Golden Globe. Best of all, she’d spent the week bouncing between Berlin, London and Los Angeles, where she lives, to promote “Bumblebee,” the latest “Transformers” installment. And the word on the street was glowing.
“I’ve been getting so much love from fans, and I just have moments that it kind of hits me,” Steinfeld said. “I was like, ‘This is crazy!’ I’ve never been a part of something on this scale, and seeing it come together for the first time was just incredible.”
“Bumblebee” is not one of Michael Bay’s “Transformers” (although he’s a producer). Directed by Travis Knight, this Bumblebee origin story steps back to 1987, where the stouthearted, blue-eyed Autobot has been hiding from the evil Decepticons as a yellow 1967 Volkswagen Beetle in a California beach town.
And Steinfeld, the franchise’s first female lead, is not a typical “Transformers” babe. As Charlie — lonely, on the edge of 18 and grieving her dead father while tinkering on his 1959 Corvette — her body isn’t the eye candy of yore. Instead of cleavage and abs, Charlie flaunts her biceps and quads in punk rock T-shirts and ripped jeans, a symbol of strength, independence and self-reliance as she screeches along highways and puts up a fight. In fact, the only ones removing their tops in “Bumblebee” are the guys.
It’s the perfect vehicle for Steinfeld, who notched an Oscar nomination at 14 for playing Mattie Ross, a farm girl avenging her father’s murder, in the Coen brothers’ 2010 remake of “True Grit.”
She’s also a pop star in the making who showed off her voice in the second and third “Pitch Perfect” installments and last summer opened in Britain, Barcelona and Lisbon for Katy Perry on “Witness: The Tour.” In a phone interview from Los Angeles, Steinfeld spoke about sliding into the Transformer’s seat, her long-awaited album and discovering her own voice.
Here are edited excerpts from the conversation.
You’re turning 22 in a couple of days. Any big plans?
I’ve been joking about this for a few days now. I’m flying to Hong Kong tomorrow night, which means I will be flying all of the 11th and landing on the 12th, so I will be spending this one in the air. [Laughs] We’ll see what that has to offer.
Actress Hailee Steinfeld is rumored to return for a female-centric spinoff to the animated Spider-Verse film, leading the next film alongside characters like Jessica Drew’s Spider-Woman and Silk. When asked about the possible spinoff movie, Steinfeld expressed excitement at the future of the Spider-Verse.
Speaking to Entertainment Tonight, she said: “Oh my goodness. To be a part of this and play this strong female superhero, in this film particularly, is quite a privilege. The thought of a spin-off is incredible. If that were to ever happen, I would be thrilled to be a part of it. I would love that opportunity. Anything to do something like this again with these people would be amazing.”
Hailee also revealed she was blown away by her animated character’s appearance.
She said: “I remember seeing her for the first time and feeling like this is the coolest thing I’ve ever done. And it was one of those things where you hear about the directors were so excited about how she was coming together, and the outfits, her look as a whole… I was hearing all about it. It was one of those things where I was like, ok, now they’re going to show me a sketch and I’m going to have to act like it’s great… And sure enough when they showed it to me… like I said, this is the coolest thing ever and too bad this isn’t live-action, because I wish I actually look like that.”