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.”