Hailee Steinfeld on how ‘Ender’s Game’ was like Battle School

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Since getting Hollywood’s attention — and an Oscar nomination — for “True Grit” in 2010, 16-year-old Hailee Steinfeld has kept some impressive momentum going. This fall, she debuted “Can a Song Save Your Life” at the Toronto International Film Festival before seeing “Romeo and Juliet” hit theaters. Now she co-stars in the long-awaited film adaptation of the science-fiction novel “Ender’s Game.”

It’s still early in your career, but you’re making some great choices.

There’s really been no specific method in terms of picking roles. I find that everything that I’ve done has been so different from the last, and I love that. But it’s a process that involves my agents and my parents, so there’s a lot of filtering before it gets to me. It comes down to just sort of loving the idea and loving the whole story and wanting to be a part of it.

You’re also doing a lot of adaptations, which is becoming a common theme.

Yes! Which again is not necessarily intentional but really helpful. I always find it interesting when some actors don’t read the book [something is based on] — which is starting to make more sense to me given the fact that you’re given a script to make a movie, and it may or may not have anything to do with the book. I remember when I shot “True Grit,” the fact that it was a book and had been done before was huge for me and it helped me so much. And then with “Romeo and Juliet” and “Ender’s Game,” it’s just a couple hundred extra pages of knowledge.

With “Ender’s Game,” some viewers seem to be looking for a love story between yours and Asa Butterfield’s characters where there isn’t one. Is that frustrating?

Yeah, right? I know. I think in some ways it’s expected. But the beauty of the relationship is that there’s no pressure in terms of liking each other or any of that. They don’t have to fall in love to trust each other. There doesn’t have to be any of that. They have a really great friendship, which I think is really special. And again, they’re in Battle School. People aren’t secretly going out, there’s none of that happening. There’s no place to go, there’s nothing to do, you’re under strict rules and you’re away from your family so all you really want is a friend.

You make Battle School sound almost like a film set.

Yeah, totally! [Laughs] No, it’s really interesting how that crossed over to our lives, being away from home and working however long each day. We were getting up at 7 a.m. for boot camp and all that stuff, but we had a really good time. It’s funny, when we talk about it we make it sound like it was so grueling and horrible and hard, but it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I walked away with some of the guys being some of my best friends.

And you did wire-work training with Cirque du Soleil?

Oh my God, that was so much fun. You read that stuff on paper and you wonder how they’re going to pull it off. The most annoying part, I’d say, is you get there and you’re super-excited and you’re ready, and they do it and you’re like, “Oh, that looks so easy,” but you forget that they’ve done Cirque du Soleil. You become so self-conscious. You’re there stretching and they’ve got, like, their nose to the ground doing the splits while you’re like, “I can’t go any further. How do you do that?”


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