Shortly after Tate Taylor agreed to direct the adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ best-selling thriller The Girl on the Train, a strange thing happened. He started getting phone calls from industry friends — casting directors, costume designers, even the film’s star, Emily Blunt — with a similar message. They’d each met an actress who was perfect for the part of Train’s most enigmatic character, Megan Hipwell — the beautiful young woman whose seemingly perfect marriage captivates Blunt’s depressed alcoholic, Rachel Watson. To a one, Taylor says, colleagues would mention a certain actress, then say something like, “I can’t really put it into words, but she is Megan. She’s kinda kooky, but she’s cool…you’ve just gotta meet her.” So he did.
When Haley Bennett visited Taylor’s Mississippi home in the summer of 2015 for a get-to-know-you meeting that included ATV races, he quickly understood what everyone had been raving about. “It was one of those situations where you love her personality, you love her look, you love her energy, her sexuality,” he says. “And you think, God, I hope she can act.”
Boy, can she. Her mesmerizing performance flits from vixen to victim, from cloaked hauteur to naked agony, often in a single moment, and it has catapulted Bennett to the top of Hollywood’s It Girl list. But it sure took a hell of a long time to get there. She moved from Ohio to Los Angeles at 18 and quickly booked the role of an imperious teen pop diva opposite Hugh Grant in 2007’s Music and Lyrics. The life and career she’d dreamed of had come true, and her future seemed boundless. But then, almost as quickly, things stalled. “I struggled for many, many years following Music and Lyrics — I mean really struggled,” says Bennett, 28. “I always wanted to do things on my own terms, and unfortunately in this industry, that’s not something that is easily given. You’re at the mercy of other people, but then you still have that drive to continue on. That’s an equation for a lot of heartbreak.”
While she scrounged money together from friends just to afford rides to her auditions, filmmakers she’d read for would write her encouraging but apologetic letters about why they almost cast her. “[Those letters] never really made sense to me,” Bennett says. “It was made out to seem like it wasn’t my fault somehow, just maybe the fault of this weird industry.”
With the smaller projects she did land, like Gregg Araki’s 2011 sci-fi sex comedy Kaboom, she began to make important connections and went about learning everything she could. “My existence became a film school, in a way,” Bennett says. “I was like a sponge on set, and I had a piece of paper where I would have all the filmmakers I was working with add the films that had inspired them. At a certain point it was my most valuable possession.”
Eventually Bennett caught a break from a legendary director who’d actually made films on her treasured list: Terrence Malick. In 2011, the Tree of Life auteur cast her in his untitled project formerly known as Weightless, a movie that will finally be released next March. He also wrote her a recommendation to Antoine Fuqua, who put her in his 2014 film The Equalizer and most recently in last month’s The Magnificent Seven, in which she plays the vengeful widow who hires that band of renegades to protect her Western town. “Haley’s got a toughness about her, but she’s really delicate — she feels the direction of the wind,” Fuqua says. “That’s a rare, precious balance to have: where you just feel vulnerable and still have the audience worry for you, but at the same time, when you pick up a gun and start shooting, they believe it.”
Bennett admits her emotions are never far from the surface — an invaluable quality in her profession, but one that has its drawbacks. As much as that gift made her the perfect actress to portray Megan, it also made playing the role extremely difficult. “There was something about being in this world, and literally being in Megan’s snakeskin shoes, that made my skin crawl,” she says. “I really felt uncomfortable in my own skin, but I thought that was okay because I think Megan feels uncomfortable in her own skin.”
No, that’s not Jennifer Lawrence you’re seeing in those The Girl on the Train trailers — it’s Haley Bennett!
The Ohio native has exploded onto the scene thanks to significant roles in several buzzworthy films this fall: Girl on the Train, The Magnificent Seven and Warren Beatty‘s latest directorial effort Rules Don’t Apply. Here are five things to know about the young woman you’re about to see everywhere:
1. She already has a list of high profile roles under her belt.
Although Bennett seems like a fresh face, the 28-year-old has actually been working in Hollywood for nearly ten years. She got her start in the Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant movie Music and Lyrics in 2007 and later landed small roles in movies like Marley & Me and The Haunting of Molly Hartley. Bennett also appeared alongside Denzel Washington in Antoine Fuqua’s The Equalizer in 2014, before reuniting with the duo for The Magnificent Seven.
In addition to The Girl on the Train and The Magnificent Seven, Bennett will be appearing in the highly anticipated Rules Don’t Apply, written and directed by the legendary actor Warren Beatty. Bennett appears alongside stars Lily Collins, Alec Baldwin and Beatty himself.
2. She can also sing — but sometimes it leads to angry red hives.
When the actress made her debut in Music and Lyrics, she also showed off her vocal skills! She performed several songs in the movie, including a duet with Grant. But performing wasn’t always easy for her.
“I was so terrified before an audience that I would break out in these ugly red hives, and my lips would quiver at the sight of a word or a song,” she told Interview about her early performing days.
3. She’s a modern-day Martha Stewart.
She cooks! She bakes! Her backup career plan is to be a chef.
“If acting doesn’t work out, I’m probably going to be a professional chef,” Bennett told The LA Times. “You’ll see me on Top Chef someday. My Midwestern hospitality needs an outlet, you know?”
Bennett takes this role so seriously that she even bakes for her costars, once bringing a peach cobbler to the Fourth of July party on TheMagnificent Seven set. She also brought Antoine Fuqua an apple pie when he invited her to audition for the movie.
4. Yes, she gets mistaken as Jennifer Lawrence. A lot.
Granted, it may just be because they’re both blonde, young and pretty, but there certainly seems to be a resemblance between Bennett and The Hunger Games star.
“I get recognized all the time, but not as Haley Bennett,” the actress told GQ. “Everyone thinks I’m Jennifer Lawrence! It’s hilarious — people are like, ‘Hey, Jen!’ ”
5. She’s hunted since she was young and knows how to “dress a deer.”
Raised by a single father in the woods of Ohio, the actress was actually a bit of a tomboy.
“My dad was a single father, and he was a hunter. I learned how to shoot when I was pretty little,” the actress also told Interview. “My dad would take me deer hunting with him, which was pretty traumatic — Bambi was one of my favorite movies.”
Images of Haley from her 2016 events so far have been added to the image gallery.
I have added HQ images of Haley from a brand new shoot that she’s done for Interview Magazine to the gallery.
I had to take a break due to a medical condition but I’m back and slowly working on getting the site back up to date. We do have a new layout and I’m working on the sidebar currently and it should be finished by tomorrow to unveil it!