text by Nao Machida
photo by Shuya Nakano

『バンブルビー』 ヘイリー・スタインフェルド来日インタビュー/Interview with Hailee Steinfeld about “Bumblebee”


——I was very excited when I heard that you were going to play the protagonist in the new “Transformers” movie, and the story is centered around a girl for the first time in the series. How did you feel when you first got the offer?

Hailee Steinfeld: “I was so excited to learn that this was of the Transformers franchise. That alone was so exciting to me, because it’s so huge and it’s so popular everywhere around the world. But I was more excited about the idea of creating a different kind of “Transformers” story like you mentioned. This is so different on so many different levels, though it does have elements in a movie that Transformers’ fans know and love, the incredible visual effects and action packed sequences. But this story is so heartfelt and emotional and humorous and character-driven, and I thought that was really interesting about it.

——You must have been surprised to get the offer for the protagonist of the “Transformers” movie, right?

Hailee: “Well, yeah! I mean it hasn’t been done necessarily, so it definitely was exciting and intriguing, but an honor to be able to play a character that is at the center of this that is a young female.”

——What I loved about it is that not only Charlie is a girl, but she doesn’t have a super power nor is she a princess. She is just like one of us and is so real.

Hailee: “Yeah, I love that too.”

——Before you started filming, what did you and the director, Travis Knight talked about the character of Charlie?

Hailee: “One of the most important things to me and Travis was making the relationship between Bumblebee and Charlie feel as real and authentic as possible. Because of course it seems bit far-fetched to have this relationship between a young girl and a robot, and make it feel emotional, and make you want to cry and laugh and dance and go under your covers all at once, you know? That was the main thing that we were really serious and passionate about making sure that it felt real. We had conversations obviously long before we started filming. We created enough of the backstory that felt real, and that we felt made sense to Charlie and her story where she comes from, and with Bee where he comes from. Those conversations never stopped while we were making the movie. We kept making these small discoveries here and there that could play into the part.”


——This is actually a movie written by a woman about a woman. Did you get to talk to the writer, Christina Hodson about the character?

Hailee: “I did, I was able to talk to her and Kelly Fremon Craig who wrote and directed ‘The Edge of Seventeen.’ She also did a pass on the script. And I was able to talk to Kelly as well. Obviously we worked together, so I had a relationship with her, and it was easy to talk to her and Christina and figure out who Charlie is and what she sounds like. And a young woman written by women is so ideal, because it just feels real. There is a sense of sensitivity that women have towards other women, and when creating the voice of a young woman, most men don’t really know what it’s like to be a teenage girl. Therefore, it’s hard for them to write what they think a young girl would say.”

——I see.

“And when I read this, it felt so real. I feel a lot of the times with young female characters, a lot of the disconnect that I tend to feel is in the dialogue, right? And it’s because a lot of the times whoever is writing it is writing what they think an 18-year old girl would say, not what an actual 18-year old girl says. At one point, Christina was that and Kelly was that, so therefore they knew exactly how to make this character feel real.”

——Do you relate to Charlie in any ways?

Hailee: “I love the fact that you mention she doesn’t have any special powers, she is not a super hero, but she has the qualities of one. Just because she doesn’t have special powers doesn’t mean she can’t take on the world. She doesn’t necessarily know that in the beginning. She is in the place of confusion and loss and frustration, and she feels misunderstood. But she overcomes just about every single obstacle she is faced with, and is a completely different person at the end of the movie. She realizes that there is such thing as inner-strength and inner-confidence and security within oneself, and she gains that. At the end of the film, she kind of is brought back to who she is and that is a strong brave courageous young woman.”

——It was a nice surprise that the franchise this huge decided to tell a story about a young woman. Do you consider the way female characters are depicted when choosing a role to play?

Hailee: “Of course! I want them to feel like they are being honestly portrayed. Charlie is obviously turning 18 in the movie. I’m 22, and I watch this story and I watch her and I feel like I can relate now. I wasn’t 18 not long ago, but a lot changes within a person especially in that time, 18 to 22 is like, ‘I’m an adult now’ [laughs] But I wish that I could have had this character when I was 17 or 16 or 18. Because I think it’s so important for young girls to see that it’s ok to be lost and confused and not to know who you are, or not to know what you are good at, and go through the process of finding what makes you special as Charlie does in this movie. So yeah, I hope that this opens up many doors for new audience and new audience of young women.”


——You also wrote the theme song “Back to Life” for the film. That song totally echoes with the relationship between Charlie and Bumblebee and brought me happy tears. I also thought it was amazing how there is so much music from the 80s in the film, and this song is brand new, but fit right into the world of “Bumblebee.”

Hailee: “I definitely wanted the production of the song to feel as though it would fit into the film, but also feel contemporary enough to where fans of my music would not be turned off by it if it were too 80s. It was fun sort of exploring music of the 80s just in general while making this movie, but when came time to making the song, finding a good balance like I just said that was 80s enough and contemporary enough. It was so special to have the opportunity to write a song for a movie that I’m in. That’s the first time I’m able to do that and it’s pretty cool.”

——How did you feel when you first heard it at the end roll?

Hailee: “I had happy tears as well. It was so surreal. I’ll never forget when I saw the first movie I ever did, ‘True Grit’ for the first time. I went and saw it in a small theater with my family. It was at Paramount actually in LA. I just remember the movie was over and everybody kind of went to grab their things and get up, and I just kind of stayed planted and watched the credits roll to the very end. It was so exciting to me because I knew everybody! I had become friends with everybody, and I didn’t realize until that moment how many people it takes to make a movie, how many people go into making something so special. So I’ve always been a fan of watching the end credits and waiting till they finish rolling, because I think that everyone is so deserving of a round of applause at the end of something like that. Everybody played a part in what you just spent two hours watching.”

——When did you see “Bumblebee” for the first time?

Hailee: “I saw ‘Bumblebee’ for the first time at the premiere in LA, which was very overwhelming because you know, when you see something for the first time, it’s nice to kind of like see it alone, and then see it with the world, but I saw it with the world. But then when the credits started rolling, that to me alone is something that’s been so special to me, but when the song played it was just like, ‘wow, this is so cool!'”

——As you could see last night at the Japan premiere and also at the airport when you arrived, you are already a big inspiration for a lot of young women here in Japan. How would you want them to feel when they see this movie in the theater?

Hailee: “I hope they feel good. I hope that they can watch this movie, and go and laugh and enjoy it and get carried away in the action and the beauty of the visual effects. But I also hope that they feel like it’s ok not to be ok all the time. It’s ok to feel lost, it’s ok to feel confused and frustrated. And there are times where, you know, Charlie even says she doesn’t like who she is. She feels like she is a burden on everybody else, because the energy she carries around because of the loss that she is going through. I hope that they feel like that’s normal and that’s ok, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. But above all of that, because there are so many emotions that this film sort of handles, I do hope that at the end they feel good, and they enjoy the movie and get carried away in the experience, because it really is a ride.”

——I’m so excited for your future. How would you like to evolve as an actress, artist and woman?

Hailee: “Thank you. Well, as I’m currently working on more music, I just would love to continue documenting my experiences through film and through music, and be as honest as possible, and share my experiences with young women all around the world and people around the world. I feel so lucky that what I’ve done has brought me all the way to Japan multiple times, and I can’t wait to come back many more times with new projects.”

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