After auditioning more than 15,000 teenage girls, Paramount and True Grit directors Joel and Ethan Coen have found their Mattie Ross in Hailee Steinfeld. The 13-year old will play the centerpiece of a new adaptation of the Charles Portis novel, with Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin starring. Mattie Ross is the 14-year old spitfire whose father has been mowed down in cold blood by Tom Chaney (Brolin). Determined to bring the killer to justice, Mattie enlists hard-drinking U.S. marshal Rooster Cogburn (Bridges) to track the killer before a Texas Ranger (Damon) does. The Coens are producing with Scott Rudin. While most of the teens who auditioned were unknowns, Steinfeld has some credits. She has even more reps, just signing with ICM, who’ll rep her along with Coast to Coast Talent Group and Protégé.
In another youthful casting, Millennium Films and Paradox Entertainment hired Leo Howard to play the young title character in Conan, the Marcus Nispel-directed reinvention of the Robert E. Howard series. Jason Momoa, the brawny Stargate Atlantis star, plays Conan full grown. Sean Hood has just been hired to do a rewrite before the picture begins production March 15 in Bulgaria. Howard, a 12-year old karate champ, stars in Disney Channel’s Leo Little’s Big Show and was also in last summer’s G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. He played young Snake Eyes (Ray Park played him as an adult).