We haven’t seen anything from Hailee Steinfeld since she scored a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination two years ago for her (leading) role in the Coen Brothers’ “True Grit” — but at just 16 years of age, she can afford to take her time. And whatever time she has lost, she’s about to make up for in a big way.
Steinfeld is set to appear in no fewer than five films this year, including roles in “Ender’s Game,” John Carney’s “Once” follow-up “Can a Song Save Your Life?” and the umpteenth redo of “Romeo and Juliet” — every generation needs its own, after all. (Want to feel old? Steinfeld was born one month after Baz Luhrmann’s MTV-chic adaptation of the Shakespeare standard opened in US theaters.)
And the young star’s slate continues to shape up nicely: it was announced today that she’ll be returning to the frontier terrain of “True Grit” with a role in Tommy Lee Jones’s new directorial project “The Homesman” — a pioneer-era western about an outlaw and a schoolteacher teaming up to escort a trio of mentally unbalanced women from Nebraska to Iowa. Steinfeld will play Tabitha, a destitute teenager — though it’s unclear how she figures into the narrative.
“The Homesman,” meanwhile, is shaping up into quite the prestige project. With Jones himself and Hilary Swank cast in the lead roles, Steinfeld joins an ensemble that already includes Meryl Streep, James Spader, John Lithgow, Tim Blake Nelson and David Dencik (best known for “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”). It’s nice to see Jones extending his working relationship with Streep and Spader, both of whom, of course, he starred opposite last year in “Hope Springs” and “Lincoln” respectively. Good, too, to see Hilary Swank nab a quality role again: the well’s been pretty dry for the two-time Oscar champ since that surprise SAG nod for “Conviction” a couple of years back.
Most exciting of all, however, is the promise of Jones’s first theatrical feature as a director since his superb 2005 debut “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.” An elegiac neo-western with another handpicked ensemble — including Melissa Leo, Barry Pepper and a pre-“Mad Men” January Jones — “Three Burials” caught many a critic off-guard when it debuted in Competition at the Cannes Film Festival, ultimately winning Best Actor for Jones and Best Screenplay for Guillermo Arriaga. (It also nabbed a quartet of Independent Spirit nods, including Best Picture, but skipped the Academy’s radar entirely.)
This time, Jones has co-written the screenplay in addition to his duties as actor, producer and director. He’s also assembled an ace team of collaborators for “The Homesman”: Oscar-nominated composer Marco Beltrami (who excelled in the western genre on “3.10 to Yuma”) was also on board Jones’s debut, but ace cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto is an exciting new addition. “Three Burials” was something of an unheralded surprise, but Jones’s follow-up should be considerably more anticipated.