“I’m sorry you have to see my pancake face.”
Those are among Shailene Woodley’s first words as she opens the door to a suite in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. She’s got a publicists’ luncheon later in the day — otherwise, she explains, under absolutely no condition would she have worn makeup for an interview.
Woodley is against makeup. She’s against new clothes. But she’s a Hollywood starlet whose job it is to mask herself in makeup and couture. She thinks people should know how imperfect her skin is in real life, but Woodley is also pragmatic about Hollywood’s demands on young actresses, especially those shouldering potentially multimillion-dollar franchises.
And Divergent, Woodley’s new movie, is being positioned as the next The Hunger Games. It’s the first installment in a big-screen adaptation of the bestselling young-adult trilogy by Veronica Roth — set in a dystopian future Chicago, where citizens are divided into factions — and Woodley’s being seen as possibly the next Jennifer Lawrence, who, of course, stars in the Hunger Games films.
Most young stars learn to quickly cultivate an aura of untouchability, but that is not how Shailene Woodley likes to operate. It’s January on the Sundance red carpet for White Bird in a Blizzard. The 22-year-old actress approaches a microphone-toting reporter with uncommon familiarity, slipping her hands under his semi-raised arms and giving him a robust squeeze. At first I think she must know the journalist, perhaps one of her red-carpet favorites. Then I realize she’s hugging every single person before they interview her. They are all strangers.
Right before the White Bird premiere, Sundance festival director John Cooper stops by backstage to congratulate Woodley. He goes in for the handshake, but she outmaneuvers him with a low body hug. He seems genuinely startled.
Later, after I receive my first of many Woodley hugs, I ask her about this habit. After all, most stars on the red carpet interact with reporters the way they endure a customs official with body language that says, “I will answer your questions carefully and pretend to like you, but this is about as much fun for me as picking gum off the bottom of my Louboutins.” By contrast, Woodley sees the press gantlet as an opportunity to transcend surface-level chitchat. She explains: “We’ve got a set amount of time in our lives, you know. You might as well make every conversation count. So that’s like the hug. It’s kind of like, ‘Hey, I’m real. You’re real. Let’s connect.’ ”
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Divergent co-stars Shailene Woodley and Theo James may be two of Hollywood’s hottest upcoming actors, but the in a sit down for the March issue of InStyle, available on newsstands and for digital download now, the duo prove to be easygoing, down-to-earth, and — much like their characters in the film, out March 21 — fearless.
In fact, Woodley was so intrepid she let on-set hairstylist Sebastien Richard cut her long locks into a sleek crop cut inspired by Linda Evangelista circa 1989. The shorter, low-maintenance style seems to suit her perfectly. “When I walk into a room with the least amount of makeup on I feel the most confident,” she says. “When I walk into a party wearing nice-looking comfortable jeans and a comfortable nice-looking shirt and comfortable shoes, and everyone else is in cocktail dresses and heels, I fee empowered because I’m fully dancing to the beat of my own drum, and that feels good.”
What else feels good? Playing the character of Tris. “She is an incredibly strong human being who isn’t bad ass by nature, like a Katniss Everdeen,” she says. James, meanwhile, describes his character Four as “a mysterious figure who is very closed and very reluctant to trust, but he falls in love with Tris and becomes very protective of her because they have these soul mate qualities.”
In reality, what do the on-screen lovebirds think of each other? Keep reading for the rest of our exclusive interview with Woodley and James, and for more, pick up the March issue of InStyle, on newsstands and available for digital download now.
Shailene Woodley: I had a lot of fun working with Theo. Having him by my side felt really reassuring and comfortable. I feel protected by him in a really great way.
Theo James: Shai has a strong sense of self and a strong sense of how she wants to handle herself as an actress and as a person who is really unique and really strong. She can keep two feet on the ground but still be able to achieve everything she wants to achieve. She’s a much better person than me, basically.
SW: I can be around Theo and laugh all day. If he messes up a scene, instead of asking to do another take, he’ll say something hilarious and start telling a joke.
TJ: Yeah, I’m definitely a joker. It’s important to find the fun in these kind of films or it can become a bit heavy. So there were a lot of pranks and water bottles on set.
SW: Theo, what do you find the most intimidating about the success that you’ve recently found?
TJ: While I find my job as an actor challenging, I also think that there’s fun in that challenge. So for me, what I find to be the most intimidating is having to go to so many parties and events and try to be a charming, larger-than-life character. Inherently, I’m not a huge extrovert, so I actually find interviews and all the glamour to be a bit challenging sometimes. Shai, since you asked me a proper question, I guess I have to ask you one, too, instead of a joke. If you weren’t an actress, what would you be?
SW: Well, I love the environment and cultivating a life where there is a respect between myself and the nature around me. It’s an entire lifestyle now—from collecting my own spring water to knowing what plants around me are healing and what plants I can use for food sources to even using plants as makeup. I’ve worn beets and berries on my lips before as a lip stain. I also love to cook—I can make a really bad-ass lasagna.
TJ: And I was going to say that Shai would probably be a pixie in the forest.
Shailene Woodley and Divergent co-star, Theo James went to Jimmy Kimmel Live yesterday! You can watch the interview below:
Twenty-two-year-old actress Shailene Woodley is self-aware enough to know that she’s young. The idealistic young actress had plans to study interior design, but has since drastically shifted career paths. She’s starred in such films as The Descendants, The Spectacular Now, and the upcoming Divergent. In her new movie, White Bird in a Blizzard, Woodley plays a 16-year-old girl whose mother suddenly goes missing in 1988. We talked to Woodley after White Bird’s Sundance premiere about working with Mysterious Skin director Gregg Araki, acting in a period piece/ghost story, and sitting next to her father while baring her breasts onscreen.
ESQUIRE.COM: White Bird in a Blizzard has lots of specific ’80s references. Depeche Mode posters, that ostentatiously placed Joy Division bumper sticker. Do those mementos resonate with you at all? It’s almost as if you were inhabiting someone else’s adolescence.
SHAILENE WOODLEY: I was born in ’91, so I did not know that world at all. But the great thing about acting is we get to be great pretenders. We got to pretend to exist in a world that I would honestly love to exist in. That whole late ’80s — even early ’80s — scene is so fascinating to me, especially the grunge aspect of it, the punk and goth scenes. And Gregg knows that world so well. He was very helpful in educating me about certain trends I didn’t know. I knew most of the bands, but different styles of attire… It was different back then. They didn’t have the same technology, so you never see Kat sitting there watching TV.
ESQ: Were there any bands that Araki insisted that you know that you didn’t already?
SW: Before we started, he sent us videos of goth dance clubs as well as multiple CDs of music he wanted in the film. You know exactly what he wants when you get there because he has such a strong, unique sensibility and tone. So there wasn’t a lot of guessing. If I had a question, he was right there with all the answers. He’s an incredible director.
ESQ: In interviews you say — and this is fairly atypical for an actor — that you have a pretty healthy relationship with your mother.
SW: [Laughs] I do, so healthy. Oh my God. She’s here somewhere…