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Annie By August 30, 2014 0 Comments

Shailene Woodley kicked off 2014 with the Sundance Film Festival premiere of “White Bird in a Blizzard,” the Gregg Araki film in which she plays a teenager whose mother unexpectedly disappears. Two months later, she was forging her own path in a future Chicago in “Divergent,” the first big-screen adaptation of the bestselling young adult novels written by Veronica Roth. By midsummer, she was grappling with first love and a terminal cancer diagnosis in the breakout hit “The Fault in Our Stars.”

But neither her demanding work schedule nor the attendant onslaught of exposure Woodley’s received appears to have created much stress or tension for the young actress, who has developed a reputation in Hollywood for her candor and earthiness. Both qualities were on display when the 22-year-old sat down with Hero Complex last month to discuss the August arrival of “Divergent” on Blu-ray and DVD. (Click through the gallery above for a detailed look at “Divergent.”)

Stretched out on a sofa in a San Diego hotel room, Woodley snacked on popcorn — “It makes life feel like a movie” — while seated beside costar Theo James. The duo, who brought to life feisty heroine Tris Prior and her Dauntless guide Four, described their on-screen rapport and offered some details on the upcoming “Divergent” sequel, “Insurgent,” which is being directed by Robert Schwentke and is set for release March 20, 2015.

Hero Complex: There’s been a lot of discussion about the importance of strong women on screen of late, but, as a recent essay on The Dissolve pointed out, those characters don’t always have enough to do on screen. It’s great that Tris is the engine that drives this story.

Shailene Woodley: That is one of the reasons I fell in love with “Divergent,” because Tris, she’s not a superhero, and she wasn’t born with superpowers or an ability to do things. She was born a normal girl and lived a very normal life for a long time, and although she had curiosities about Dauntless and these other factions, she was never able to exercise them in Abnegation. I love that the movie follows her arc and it follows this young girl who starts from a very vulnerable place and in the end is still in a very vulnerable place but a very different place internally. I love that you get to watch her grow and learn certain skill sets. She doesn’t know how to shoot a gun in the beginning of the film, and she learns it throughout the movie. I think it’s a great example of whatever your cause is for young girls that you don’t have to start somewhere, you can always aim to get somewhere.

Theo James: Shai’s the perfect person to do it because she’s a great actress and doing the second movie, it’s nice to see the evolution with both our characters, watching them change and evolve. One thing that’s great in the first film about Tris is her strength never detracts from her femininity or her emotionality. She can be strong independent of anything, which is really interesting. Sometimes that’s sacrificed for trying to be a masculine archetype but she retains all the best elements of womanhood but she’s very strong and complex and driven and all those things. In the same way, her strength doesn’t detract from his masculinity. They can very much be strong, complex gender archetypes but there’s nothing lost in between.

By no means at the end of [“Divergent”] are these two people in love and high-fiving each other and staring into each other’s eyes. It’s still a complex relationship. They don’t know each other fully. They’re still working each other out. She’s working through heavy grief, and there are all these trust issues which are kind of interesting to explore, and realistic. And that was something we wanted from the beginning as much as possible in these types of movies is to ground the relationship in reality.

HC: Has your off-screen rapport been an asset in terms of better capturing Tris and Four’s chemistry?

SW: I always say this, but I feel lucky that we’re doing these movies together. We look at this business in the same way. We both really love the art of filmmaking and love being on a movie set, and we both understand the importance of selling a film and the importance of doing press. But also don’t revolve our lives around it. We both have very private lives that we hold dear and don’t necessarily want to share with the world. It’s a great thing to have someone who you can just talk to in that way.

TJ: After we did the first movie and we did all the press, I felt like I knew [her] way more than I did when we finished the movie, and now doing the second movie, I feel like I know [her] even better. It’s a constant process of getting to know each other properly. You know what actors are like. You can sometimes be like, “Darling, darling, we love each other,” but you don’t really know them. The great thing about this, it’s a lot of work — it’s not only the movies, but it’s all the press — is that you’re sharing things constantly and you’re changing and evolving together.

SW: The more you get to know someone the more comfortable you are, the more you’re able to explore in certain scenes because you’re able to be more vulnerable or not worry so much.

TJ: Now we know the characters, we know each other, you can have a sounding board with one another, which is good.

HC: How’s the experience been shooting the second film?

SW: It’s been wonderful. I’ve been having so much fun. It’s been really nice to switch things up. Everything in a way is different. We’re in Atlanta, it’s summer, it’s not cold, Chicago winter. Our director is different, the set design is different, the costumes are different. It feels much bigger. It’s interesting because the movie feels bigger in tone and in image but in a scene it feels smaller. Some scenes feel like we’re doing an indie film in a way because they’re so full of truth. Robert, our director, is really, really keen on making sure we feel comfortable with a scene as well as he feels comfortable with a scene. Until it has the right flow or the right tone, he won’t move on and that’s a big blessing in a big movie like this, to have somebody who really is keen on us feeling like our needs were met to support the character and that his needs were met to support the film.

TJ: We put a little taste together just to show the crew how we’d been doing and what came through is A) the scope. It looks kind of richer and bigger and more complex, but what came through to me was the emotionality behind it. Again, that sounds wanky.

SW: This movie is pretty emotional.

TJ: Yeah, but not in a cheesy way. There’s real stakes behind it, and sometimes that’s hard to find in spectacular situations. If you’re watching these movies that are spectacles, which are fun and it’s about this thing and escapism, sometimes the crux of the emotionality gets lost. That doesn’t necessarily sometimes matter, but we are trying to retain that with this film.

HC: Has it been fun to be able to build on the performance from the first film?

SW: It has. With a movie like this, we will spend a week doing a train sequence where we’re just fighting for a week or doing choreography or walking down a hallway or running, but then there’s a lot of gratifying moments. Last week for three days in a row… I was working with someone and we had a lot of emotional scenes together. It was nice to go home at the end of the day and feel exhausted for exerting a lot of feeling versus exerting a lot of physical energy.

– Gina McIntyre | @LATHeroComplex


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