Blake Jenner, Hailee Steinfeld, Kelly Fremon Craig, Kyra Sedgwick and Haley Lu Richardson at the Premiere of 'The Edge of Seventeen.'
Hailee Steinfeld began acting at the age of eight when she caught the acting bug after seeing her cousin, True O’Brien, in a commercial. She started her career acting in short films, commercials and TV show guest spots. Her big break happened when Steinfeld was chosen out of 15,000 girls for the role of Mattie Ross in True Grit when she was 13. The role would clinch her Screen Actors Guild and BAFTA nominations and would earn her the distinction of being one of the youngest Oscar nominees ever. Unlike Steinfeld, Blake Jenner didn’t get his big break until the ripe old age of 20 when he won the second season of The Glee Project. Their latest film is The Edge of Seventeen.
Growing up is the great equalizer. No matter your family situation, walk of life, or specific personal experience, anyone who has ever gone through adolescence understands the growing pains and awkwardness that go with the territory when it comes to navigating the transition to adulthood. The times change, the modes of communication evolve, but some things—like the first pangs of love or the sting of a friend’s betrayal— never change.
In the film, Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) and Krista (Haley Lu Richardson of The Bronze) are inseparable best friends attempting to navigate high school together…until Nadine’s older brother Darian (Blake Jenner of Everybody Wants Some) and Krista begin dating. With her view of the world rocked, Nadine is forced to see the people in her life – including her well-meaning but distracted mother (Kyra Sedgwick), and unlikely mentor and History teacher Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson) – with fresh eyes and new appreciation that people—and life—are more complicated than she thought. The film also costars Hayden Szeto (Chop Shop) and Alexander Calvert (Arrow).
Though not as extensive as True Grit, the casting search for the role of Nadine involved over 1,000 girls. Steinfeld was thrilled when she won the part since, besides the obvious paycheck, she loved her character.
“Nadine is so smart, witty, quick, and feels everything. Most times when characters are hit with a curve ball, they try to cover it up or mask their emotions. But Nadine wears her feelings, her heart, and her everything on her sleeve. There’s something so refreshing about seeing someone that feels so much. She’s so desperate for any kind of human connection, it’s amazing to watch her seek that with anyone she possibly can. I’m 18-years old, so I know almost everything in a teenager’s life is, in such a reasonable way, so blown out of proportion. Every little thing that happens is such a huge event. Everything that happens to Nadine means so much. Everything matters. Everything is so deeply felt.”
Though some parents might not be thrilled, the filmmakers, including writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig, were thrilled when the film was given an R rating. Everyone who went to high school, which I hope is most of us, knows that teenage conversations aren’t exactly G rated. Most of my favorite high school movies are rated R. Technically, an R rating means restricted, but sometimes an R rating can mean realistic, an idea Steinfeld and Jenner agree with.
“I felt so connected to the core of the story because of how many characters that have something so relatable going on in their lives. The script was true to a teenager’s life in the 21st century. I personally have experienced so many of the things that Kelly wrote for this character and her writing is so honest and raw,” Steinfeld explained. “It was a weird vulnerable state going in there admitting to Kelly the similarities to what my friends and I have really experienced. Real conversations between kids in a high school hallway are not always appropriate. Kelly did an incredible job capturing that, but not making it more than what it is. The tone of the script has a perfect balance. Kelly made every single page so descriptive and so deep, yet focusing on the internal struggles of each character. I loved that the script goes so far into the details of this girl’s world, covering everything from how she’s feeling to what she’s wearing.”
“Kelly’s script is so youthful, timeless, and definitely not sanitized,” comments Jenner. “It’s a story about a family who lost their way a long time ago and with ebbs and flows, they find themselves again and reach peace. There are several different little movies within the movie. I love that Nadine is ballsy and not filtered. I know a lot of girls who are very forward with their language, so it’s nice not to see a watered down version of a girl who has gone through a rough time. The movie definitely does not shy away from the R-rated language. It sounds corny, but it’s just life. It’s not trying hard. These characters are who they are. They’re losing their temper and dropping F-bombs when it’s warranted. They’re crying and keeping to themselves and reaching out for a loved one when it’s warranted. It’s all real, which I like.”
Friendship and sibling relationships can always be complicated. Throw in the teenage hormones and the complications are multiplied.
“The relationship between Nadine and Krista is the ultimate best friend relationship,” describes Steinfeld. “If they’re not in the same room, they are likely texting or on the phone or on FaceTime. They’re everything to each other, especially Krista to Nadine. Krista is every person in Nadine’s life that she’s ever wanted. Krista is always there for Nadine. Nadine feels her best friend is being taken away. Krista is the only person that understands Nadine. She can get along with anybody, but Nadine’s hard to read, and Krista’s the only one that’s ever given her that time and shown her affection. The moment she perceives that Krista is being taken away, it tears Nadine into a million pieces. Even though Krista is with her brother and wants so badly to make it work between all of them, Nadine sees it as her life coming to an end. Unfortunately, she feels her best friend is no longer hers.”
Though Darian and Nadine’s brother/sister relationship is, well, complicated, Jenner and Steinfeld loved their sibling dynamic.
“In reality, I’m very close with my family, so to play a character that feels so completely isolated has been really challenging,” admits Steinfeld. “Specifically, it’s been very hard to work with Blake because I really like him. We find so many things in the moment. He’s such a great guy, but he is very good at playing the brother that Nadine doesn’t like very much. Their relationship is so layered because Nadine thinks he has everything – looks, grades, and friends. Every person he walks by shows him attention and love. Nadine walks down the hall and people snicker… and we’re related!”
“I love their relationship. It’s a tug of war the entire time because they’re speaking different languages,” adds Jenner. “He’s setting aside his frustration, and she’s speaking freely about hers. My last audition was a chemistry read with Hailee, doing one of our heavy scenes, and she was just all there. She’s a great actress, who is willing to jump into the deep end and give it all she has. She’s inspiring as this misunderstood character trying to find her way in the aftermath of tragedy. Nadine related to their father the most and when she lost him, she lost her light. She’s playing the victim because all she’s ever really known is being lost, so Darian has had to be the responsible one.”
Like Steinfeld, Jenner loved his character and related to him on many levels.
“The perception of Darian can easily be that he is Mr. Popular and he’s got it all, a perfect life. But on the inside, he’s definitely broken. He’s been putting himself back together since he was 14. Once his family lost their father, he dubbed himself the caretaker. Their mom couldn’t cope and be the mother that they needed. He’s always subdued his own emotions for the sake of his family. He’s cut off the potential of his own life to be their Batman. There’s more than meets the eye with him. There’s a lot of pain. His dad passed away at the prime time where most fathers and sons talk about the birds and the bees, and what it means to be a man. He has had to teach himself, so there are a lot of voids in Darian.
I come from a big family, so I’ve always been a sucker for family-oriented films. Stories revolving around a family in turmoil always hit home for me. The second I read the script I was hooked because they are all living their own separate lives within this one world that they share. I was Darian growing up, except I was the youngest of four boys. But with my friends, I always felt some responsibility to them because I wanted to be a big brother. I tried to be there for them, so I understand what it’s like cutting off your own ability to feel for the needs of others. This movie is a lot like therapy for me.”
The Edge of Seventeen opens in theaters November 18th.