Ask actress Hailee Steinfeld what she’s been reading lately, and she may struggle to name a novel that isn’t becoming a big-screen adaptation in which she’ll star. It seems the 16-year-old star of films like “True Grit” and “Ender’s Game” is quickly becoming the go-to adaptation girl, and she’s totally OK with that. To wit: next she’ll star in the latest re-telling of Shakespeare’s famous tale of star-crossed lovers, “Romeo and Juliet.”
“I was reading the book in school at the time that I heard that they were remaking the film, and you know, I had watched the [director Franco] Zeffirelli version a few years ago … The idea of knowing that it had been done before was present but just sort of walking into it with a different director who had a different take with all these incredible actors — everything about it was so different although we’re retelling the same story,” Steinfeld said of why she signed on to the project. “But I think what’s so incredible about it, and what I love so much, is that so many themes in the movie are so relevant today, and no matter how it’s told or who tells the story, it’s still relevant. It’s so relatable.”
Though Steinfeld referenced the 1968 version during our Fall Movie Preview week interview, she’s no stranger to the splashy Baz Luhrmann version from 1996, which it’s worth noting, opened the same year she was born.
“I love that film. I love how different it is,” Steinfeld said. “Again, it’s the same story but told completely different. I love that that can be done.”
Steinfeld’s casting in the Carlo Carlei update raised a few eyebrows, owing to a widely publicized nude scene in the script penned by “Downton Abbey” creator Julian Fellowes. The scene was, of course, removed.
“I played the age of Juliet, and nothing in the script was changed,” Steinfeld said. “You know, the way we shot things were different due to my age, but nothing in the script changed. It’s just implied. People know the story, and they know what happens.”
But Steinfeld did admit to being a bit intimidated by the idea of even hinted-at intimacy.
“You read it on paper, and it seems like it’s one thing. So after you’ve read it the first time, your mind starts racing on how you think it’s going to be done and what you think it’s going to be like and all this stuff, and you’re thinking all these different thoughts, and then it happens and it sort of just happens,” she explained. “A lot of the scenes … we just got right into it and didn’t have much time to think on it or sort of get nervous about it. But obviously reading it on paper, it seems kind of intimidating, but Douglas [Booth] was great, and we had a very respectful cast and crew. It went really smoothly.”
Next on Steinfeld’s to-do list? In addition to prepping for the action thriller “Barely Lethal,” co-starring Samuel L. Jackson, Steinfeld needs to catch up on a certain television series.
“I actually started watching ‘Downton Abbey’ on my way to Italy to film the movie,” Steinfeld enthused. “I was a little late, and I’m still behind, but I love it so much.”
“Romeo and Juliet” opens October 11.
From “Romeo and Juliet” to “Ender’s Game,” “Riddick” to “Oldboy,” the MTV Movies team is delving into the hottest upcoming flicks in our 2013 Fall Movie Preview. Check back daily for exclusive clips, photos and interviews with the films’ biggest stars.