What was life like growing up in Ohio?
I lived somewhat of a nomadic life even when I lived in Ohio. We spent time in rural areas, in suburban areas, never really city areas. We rode four-wheelers. We had pigs and ferrets. And creeks. We had a creek in my backyard. It was like Huckleberry Finn.
What does one do for fun in small town Ohio?
Mostly we would spend time with family. That was the small-time values. We would go to my aunt's house and my grandma's house. My grandfather was always planting roses and we would go fishing. We would cook together, or my grandmother would cook for all the grandchildren. So I’d spend time with cousins and we would just lay outside, which I feel like is a lost art: laying outside.
And what were you like growing up?
I was kind of a tomboy for awhile. It's tough to explain because I grew up with my mom and my dad simultaneously but separately because they weren't together. So I kind of get femininity from my mother and boyishness from my dad. He loved fishing, he loves hunting, he loves boating, and football, baseball, and basketball. So that really saturated my life. And then my mother was very soft and also strong, but more of an artist. So I kind of had the best of both worlds.
Paint me a picture of peak-tomboy Haley Bennett.
[laughs] I tried to play sports, which was a disaster and probably one of the reasons I ended up being an actress. [I was] totally uncoordinated. My peak-tomboy era? Hm. My dad banned me from doing anything like wearing make-up or wearing certain clothes. I think I just gave up on trying to be girly. I wasn't getting any boyfriends. That's for sure. I went through a really dorky phase. I had very crooked teeth and a really bad haircut and no boobs. I was just riding four-wheelers and catching tadpoles in the creek. Probably 6th or 7th grade was my Tomboy-est.
I’m surprised you scared boys away with the four-wheelers…
I flipped a couple four-wheelers. I probably almost killed myself.
How many times did you flip a four-wheeler?!
One time that I remember in particular [was] when I was in 6th grade and I thought I was going to die. And then, the second time I flipped a four-wheeler—well, almost flipped the four-wheeler, I didn't actually flip the four-wheeler—I was with director of Girl on the Train Tate Taylor, when I first met him in Mississippi. But I didn't actually flip it.
Wait. Hold on. Tell me about the first time you almost flipped a four-wheeler, the one where you almost died. You can’t just say that and not tell the story.
[laughs] I wasn't supposed to be riding the four-wheeler when my dad was at work. But every day after school I would come home and sneak the four-wheeler out and ride around in the woods. And one day I was with my best friend and she was on the back, and I flipped it. I was going really fast. I was less concerned about myself and more concerned with getting caught because the handlebar got bent. So I was really concerned not about my well-being [from the crash] but about my well-being if I got caught flipping the four-wheeler cause I wasn't even supposed to be on it.
Were you okay? Was your friend?
My friend was fine. I was fine. don't really remember if I got in trouble. I probably definitely got in trouble. I can't imagine getting away with that. [laughs] That, or I had super powers and bent it back. I might have actually, just for the sake of survival, somehow bent it back to the place it was supposed to be.
You tried to sell yourself as this laying-in-the-grass nice girl. But you were causing some trouble, clearly.
I got into some trouble as a kid. [laughs]
What’s the most trouble you ever got into?
[laughs] Well, actually, I think that I stole from my babysitter… [laughs] But I didn’t do it. I had my cousin do it. Basically, I told my cousin that we were princesses and I had this stupid—I don't [know] where I got this—but I had this little treasure chest. And I told her that we would be princesses if we had jewelry in it. So when we got babysat, I had her sneak into our babysitter's room and steal her jewelry. It's so stupid. And then I had her steal my grandma's jewelry. But I never did it. I always got her to do it.
Did they ever find out?
Well, yeah, they eventually obviously caught on, and she blamed it all on me which I deserved it because I was clearly using her to steal our babysitter and our grandmother's jewelry. And it's like costume jewelry. Not worth anything. But still, it obviously had sentimental value to my grandmother and to our babysitter. It was a pretty big scandal.
That poor cousin! I really tormented her I think. I would chase her around with knives. She would be over and I would chase her around with knives and then my mom and my aunt would come home. And then when they got there, she'd be crying, and I would tell them that she was chasing me around with the knife. And they believed me.
Are you still in touch with this cousin?
[laughs] Yeah. We're best friends.
Have you apologized profusely?
I expect that when I have kids it's going to be major payback. My parents always said that to me.
If I were to take anybody in real from the cast of Magnificent Seven—now that I've heard the stories of the knife-chasing and the four-wheelers—to achieve vigilante justice in my town, I'm picking you for sure.
[laughs] Okay, fantastic. I would've been a pretty good Harley Quinn I think. Wreaking havoc everywhere.
I feel like everyone's saying that you're on the verge of a huge breakout, even though you’ve been at this for awhile. Do you feel like that kind of mitigates everything you've done before in a sort of way?
I don't mind. I don't mind those comments at all. I think that my journey has definitely had many twists and turns and I'm in a different place now than I was two years ago, and I was in different place two years before that. It's been consistent over the past ten years, but definitely the past three, there's been a concentrated amount of very different films. And it seems like people are having a different reaction to my work than they've had in the past ten years, I guess.
You got the Music & Lyrics role pretty quickly after coming to Hollywood. To be 19 and land a big role like that, did you think, This is it. I’ve caught my big break, it’s going to be instant stardom.
Oh no. And, by the way, I'm so happy that it's been sort of a slow progression. I've obviously gained a lot more experience over time and I feel like I have a better grasp on what I'm doing and what I want to do. It was difficult for me express what I wanted then because I was so young and I was thrown into the life of an actor very, very quickly. I didn't have any time to adjust. Before Music and Lyrics, I was just doing high school plays, and singing in my church choir and my school choir. So definitely, it's taken a lot of time to find my footing and I'm very happy that it has because I wouldn't have the same perspective. I'm happy that I've been able to struggle and find myself over time.
As some guy who never wanted you to wear makeup or stuff like that, what does your dad say now that you're a big movie star?
[laughs] Well of course now my dad likes to take all of the credit. I think he always felt that it would take time for me to come into my own and blossom into a woman and into somebody who really knows what she wants. He’s told me he can't believe I'm his daughter and that I turned out the way that I did.
Why does he say that?
Well, because it wasn't like he was grooming me to be an actress. It was just something that I found on my own and went off. I left Ohio and went off into a completely different direction than he ever could have imagined. For all he knew, I might have ended up inheriting his car shop.
Did you imagine this for yourself?
I've always been a dreamer. And I guess... No. I never thought I would be in this situation. This is far different than anything I could have ever imagined as a child. Nobody left Ohio or wherever we came from. That wasn't something, in our minds, we were able to pursue. So it's definitely a strange environment. I go home a lot and visit my family, so I guess in a way it doesn't really feel strange. I definitely have one foot into that world and one foot into this world.
Do you worry about getting to a point where you’re recognized all the time?
Actually, I get recognized all the time. Allll the time. But not as Haley Bennett.
As Jennifer Lawrence?
Everyone thinks I'm Jennifer Lawrence! [laughs] It's hilarious. [laughs]
What’s your best mistaken-as-Jennifer-Lawrence story?
They're not even funny stories. People are like, “Hey, Jen!” Or I'll just see people whispering to each other. I'm just gonna start charging for autographs. What if I just created like a huge scandal—like did something crazy in public? Jennifer Lawrence takes a pie and smashes it in someone's face!
Jennifer Lawrence steals her grandma's jewelry and takes off on a 4-wheeler!
[laughs] This interview is going soo well! My publicist is going to kill me.
Have you met Jennifer Lawrence?
No, I haven't. I imagine that if we were to stand next to each other we would look absolutely nothing alike, but somehow people just connect us.
Within the next year or two, those whispering people might be talking about Haley Bennett. Is that weird for you to think about?
The only thing that's weird for me is that that would possibly be something that you're burdened with forever. It's not just like a week, or two weeks, or a month. It's not just temporary. Even when you're forgotten, people are still like, “Ooh, there's so-and-so.” That's a little weird for me.
Well it's a little late for that now.
Yeah, my mom's like, "Be careful what you wish for, honey." And I'm like, "Thanks, Mom. You're so supportive."