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True West

Jeff Bridges as Marshall "Rooster" Cogburn; Matt Damon as La Boeuf.  

The actress (whose highest-profile role prior to this was talking about “blingitude” in a Kmart ad) made a point of seeing all the films of Bridges and Damon before shooting began, “so I’d know what they’re talking about if they’re talking about one of their movies, you know?” But they ended up behaving more like surrogate parents; both are well tested in raising daughters (Damon has four, Bridges three). The Coens, on the other hand, became Steinfeld’s all-time favorite teachers: “They were always asking if I needed explanations and giving me encouragement.” She was most impressed by the relationship of the notoriously private brothers. “Joel and Ethan were so cool with each other,” she says. “I love my [16-year-old] brother to death, and he’s my best friend, but I don’t know that I could ever direct a major motion picture with him. I mean, they’re just so easygoing—always agreeing with each other and making sure that the other’s happy with whatever happened.”

Did she take anything away from the original film? “The main thing that inspired me about Kim Darby’s performance was that she held her own next to all these guys and the Duke,” says Steinfeld. “And I felt that I wanted to bring that to the role of Mattie Ross: holding my own next to the Dude.”