With Oscar season just around the corner talk has once again turned to young actress Hailee Steinfeld being a strong contender to be nominated for the coming-of-age drama/comedy The Edge Of Seventeen. Of course, it’s not the first time that Steinfeld’s name has been mentioned alongside the prestigious awards – she was also nominated for 2010’s True Grit. Hearing Steinfeld talks about her role of Nadine, a depressed teenager who feels like she has been betrayed by her best friend you get a real sense that she had a personal connection to this film.
“When I was auditioning for this film I went in talked to Kelly (the director) about a number of experiences that I had at school that were so similar to Nadine’s,” she explains. “It felt very weird going there and being like ‘I went through this’ because of course, you do want them to believe that you went through this or something similar, but it is just weird to be in this vulnerable state that I felt that I was in because I did go in there and say ‘This is so similar to what I’ve been through in my life and what I know so many of my friends have’.”
Steinfeld is also quick to admit that Nadine is also a vulnerable character who has a number of different relationships throughout the film. “Nadine wears everything on her sleeve, and even when you know, she is trying hard not to let whatever she is going through get to her you know how she is really feeling. There is something so refreshing about seeing someone feel. You know there is so much that she goes through with so many different people in this movie, from her best friend to her mother to her father to her brother. Her relationship with Krista (her best friend) is more than a best friend relationship. It is a relationship where if you aren’t in the same room you are texting the person, or you’re on FaceTime with that person talking about you’re doing or not saying anything at all because you’re just there. Then there is her relationship with her brother, and that is so complex, and again it’s so layered because there is so much hatred for this person that she looks at and sees that he got absolutely everything. She sees that he got everything beyond the looks, he’s got the grades, the school success, he’s got that thing where everyone that walks past him in the halls turns to him and gives him a high-five, and they show him attention and love. And then I walk down there, and people just look at me up and down. Although we are related people look at us like I am the last person that he would ever be related to because he’s so not like me, he’s so different. ”
Of course, Steinfeld is joined in the cast of The Edge OF Tomorrow by another Oscar nominated actor Woody Harrelson, and she says Nadine has an interesting relationship with his character, Mr Bruner. “Mr Bruner is the only person who pretends to show any interest in my conversation. And the great part about how it is written is he’s there for her, and he listens to her, and he welcomes her to an extent but he is just so unphased about what she has to say, and that has her on her toes and keeps her thinking of what she can possibly say for that shock value and I guess that is what I love so much about Nadine, she just doesn’t hold back, she just goes for it.”
Bringing Mr Bruner to life is Woody Harrelson who is quick to say that The Edge Of Seventeen is a very different film to what he is normally part of. “I suppose it’s not the kind of story I would normally see myself involved with,” he says with a small smile. “This story about a high school gal who is in the middle of all these crises, but you know it is really wonderful writing. It’s very funny; it’s very smart and also unique so… you know… I was psyched to jump in.”
He also says that audiences shouldn’t be expecting his character to be the ‘typical’ teacher that you see in most films. “I think Mr Bruner is one of these guys who is probably pretty good at his job, but he really is one of those guys who comes in, punches the clock, then looks forward to getting home to his girlfriend and his baby. So in some ways, he is not the model teacher ah but has a kind of special relationship with Nadine in that he really likes her. He tells her that she is his favourite student but only after he really upsets her, and he’ll make a joke about something after she’s been quite vulnerable so for some reason Nadine, who in this scene is feeling really lonely and doesn’t connect with anyone else in the school, connects with my character and while my character isn’t the most sentimental guy it is obvious to her that he cares about her. I don’t think my character is the catalyst for all the changes that happen with her but I think I am her sounding board and like I said I’m not the most sentimental guy, so it’s not like I’m giving her deep and emotional advice or anything, but I’m kind of there for her”
When asked what it is like working with Hailee Steinfeld Harrelson says, “I think there is a kind of chemistry there. I think she is an extraordinary actress and I really was amazed when we did our first scene together. I was really amazed at how she just flows with everything and trying new things and she is just a very creative and a very smart actress. She really has the goods, and even when a scene is a little more complicated, she knows what she is doing. It’s great to see someone with that ability at this stage of her career, and I mean such an early stage of her career. I think she has the capacity to be acting for the next sixty years… she really is good.”
With that kind of glowing praise from an actor as talented as Woody Harrelson, it’s not hard to see why Hailee Steinfeld is shaping up as a real Oscar contender for her performance in The Edge of Seventeen. Now it is just a waiting game to see whether she gets the nomination or not.
The Edge Of Seventeen opens in Australian cinemas on the 1st January 2017.