Hailee Steinfeld Looks Back on 'True Grit' Ahead of 10-Year Anniversary (Exclusive)

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It's been nearly 10 years since Hailee Steinfeld's breakout role in True Grit, but the actress and singer remembers it like it was yesterday.

"It was such a wild experience," Steinfeld recently told ET's Katie Krause, looking back on her role as Mattie Ross in the acclaimed Coen brothers' Western. "I do feel like I freaking won the lottery with that whole thing. I mean, that role was incredible, the writing was amazing, the filmmakers obviously. Everything about that whole thing was perfect."

Steinfeld was just 13 when she was selected from an open casting call of thousands for the part -- which would ultimately score her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. While she admits now that "so many of those moments were so pivotal for me," at the time she was most excited about things like getting to dress up and get her makeup done for the press junkets.

"I cried my eyes out the last day of shooting the movie, because I literally thought the world was coming to an end," she recalled with a laugh. "Both Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon looked at me and they were totally kind of like, laughing under their breath. They were like, 'Kid, it's just the beginning,' meaning, 'We're gonna see so much of you, you're gonna be sick of us,' and I was like, 'I'm never gonna see you again, what am I gonna do tomorrow morning when I don't have a call time?'" 

In the film, Bridges and Damon play a U.S. Marshal and Texas Ranger, respectively, with whom Steinfeld's character embarks on a mission to avenge her father's murder. While they've kept in touch over the years, the actress said there's a bit of that True Grit influence in every job she's had since.

"They're amazing, those guys," she marveled. "Just being in their presence, I learned so much. And I still, if I'm on set, I find myself doing something or another that reminds me of them, and I know that I'm doing it because I learned it from them."

"I couldn't have dreamt of a better place to start," she added, noting that some of the best advice she received was to have fun with her work and not take things too seriously. "At that point in my life, I had never been on a movie set like that before, I didn't know what was coming... It was so amazing to see how wonderful and kind and professional they were constantly -- and they have fun, I will tell you that."

"I think sometimes, 'If I could go back and make that movie now,' you know what I mean? I wouldn't do that, because I wouldn't want to touch it, but I think that would really teach me what it is I've learned in all this time."