Hailee Steinfeld: The 14-Year-Old Breakout Star of ‘True Grit’

The western remake True Grit left its mark at the Christmas weekend box office, premiering in the number-two spot with $36.8 million, the biggest opening ever for the film’s famed directors, Ethan and Joel Coen. The really big news, though, is the performance by the movie’s breakout star, 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld, who rides her pony through a high river, gunfights with bad guy Josh Brolin and more than holds her own opposite Oscar winners Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon.

Speaking of true grit, Hailee beat out 15,000 little ladies for the role of Mattie Ross, a fast-talking, tough-as-nails teen determined to avenge the death of her dad with help from a grizzly U.S. marshal brought to life by Bridges. To see them in the trailer makes it pretty tough to believe True Grit is scene-stealer Hailee’s film debut.

“What a tough, challenging role for a seasoned actor. All that dialogue, kind of tricky way of speaking. Thirteen-year-old girl, never been in a movie, and she comes up with that performance,” Bridges gushed to MTV. “Isn’t that remarkable?”

Who can disagree with The Dude? It’s especially remarkable considering Hailee’s past roles are limited to bit parts in short-lived sitcoms like Back to You and Sons of Tucson. If you remember Hailee from anything, it might be her appearance in the K-Mart “Blingitude” commercial.

Hailee went from K-Mart to earning more than a half-dozen supporting actress awards and nominations from critics across the country. Off screen, she showed serious star potential and major poise during recent interviews with David Letterman and Jimmy Fallon, revealing she’s been playing with her new iPad (a birthday gift) and keeping Bridges’ and Damon’s advice in mind for her growing career.

“I learned more from their actions than any of their words,” Hailee told Letterman. “The best advice that they’ve both given me is to not take anything too seriously.”

Though Hailee was snubbed at the Golden Globes, the rising star still has a shot at an Oscar nod. Celebuzz can’t wait to see what this talented young star does next.

What do you think of Hailee Steinfeld? Sound off in the comments.