Hailee Steinfeld on singing, friendship and will there be a Pitch Perfect 4?
The Barden Bellas are back once more in Pitch Perfect 3. Star Hailee Steinfeld sits down with Laura Harding to tell her whether the third film about the all-girl a cappella group is really the last
IT MUST be exhausting to be both an Oscar-nominated actress and a chart-dominating pop star, but Hailee Steinfeld looks remarkably well-rested. In fact she is all wrapped up like a present, dressed in a gold lame top with a huge bow across the front, and sporting daring crushed velvet trousers.
When we meet it's just days before her 21st birthday but she's already crammed in more than most people will in a lifetime. She was only 14 when she bagged an Academy Award nod for her role in the Coen brothers' film True Grit, holding her own against Jeff Bridges and Josh Brolin.
Then in 2015, when she was 18, she boarded one of the most eagerly anticipated sequels of the year in the follow-up to a cappella smash hit Pitch Perfect.
Now she's back again for the third, and supposedly final, Pitch Perfect film, which reunites her with original stars Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson, and sees newbies including Orange Is The New Black's Ruby Rose and The Crown star John Lithgow join the cast.
For Hailee, it made a pleasant change not to be the new girl.
"I felt like I had it down and knew what I was doing," she laughs. "I didn't have to prove myself and the process was a little bit easier that time round.
"We showed up to aca boot camp and went right to work as if no time had passed. It's always so awesome because you get into a dance rehearsal or a recording session, and you fall right back into the groove."
Off screen, she's shown off her vocal talents too and released the cover of Jessie J's song Flashlight which she performed in the second Pitch Perfect film.
She signed a record deal and her debut single Love Myself went platinum. Last summer, it was impossible to turn on the radio without hearing the strains of Starving, her ear worm hit with Grey and Zedd.
Despite all of that, she's happy to admit that the complicated vocal arrangements for the centrepiece a cappella numbers and riff-offs in the Pitch Perfect films don't get easier.
"At the start of it. I always wonder how they are going to pull it off. You always question, how is this going to happen? How are they going to pull this together and what is it going to look like?" she says.
But any musical doubts she has evaporate quickly because as she confesses: "It just works."
There was a number in the new film that brought with it extra pressure though – a performance of George Michael's Freedom, which Hailee says was "emotional".
The film is released almost a year to the day after George's tragic death at the age of 53 and the young star was a big fan of his music.
"We were so honoured to perform it and we could not have had a more perfect song that represented the moment in which it took place," she says. "It was an all around great moment."
The third outing sees the Barden Bellas take their show on the road and race round Europe.
All bar Hailee's character Emily have graduated and discovered adult life is not all it's cracked up to be so, after ditching their depressing grown-up jobs, they get back together to sing for US troops.
It's not a spoiler to say things do not always go as smoothly as planned – starting with a bitter rivalry with a bad-ass girlband called Evermoist, led by Ruby, and ending with explosions and mayhem.
But at the centre of the film is the relationship between the Bellas. The franchise has been praised for the emphasis on female friendships, with romantic entanglements featuring as more of an afterthought.
That feels particularly important right now, Hailee says.
"It's nice to have a movie that is genuinely focused on female relationships and how a group of women from all around the world, all different backgrounds, different personalities, can support each other and lift each other up and empower each other and come together as one to create something really special."
In fact it is Hailee who performs the most anthemic number of the film – a version of Daya's Sit Still, Look Pretty in which she sings: "I don't wanna be the puppet that you're playing on a string. This queen don't need a king."
Change is already coming in the more empowering scripts she gets.
The actress says: "I'm starting to see a difference, which is obviously amazing and feels good and I'm excited to see what the future holds in terms of more of that."
Could that mean another Pitch Perfect film? The advertising campaign for the film calls it the "last call," but Hailee isn't so sure her time with the Bellas is over.
"I could imagine doing another film, I mean I would love to. I was such a huge fan of the first movie that to be a part of the second was like a dream. We are calling it the farewell, but I think it's like farewell for now, so we will see what happens."
Even if they don't make another film together, it seems Hailee has made pals for life. A few days after our chat, videos emerge on social media of her cast mates, Ruby and Rebel, helping to throw a huge surprise party in Los Angeles to celebrate her 21st.
As the characters of Pitch Perfect would say, it looks aca-amazing. Better hit pause on that last call.
Pitch Perfect 3 is released in UK cinemas on December 20.