Woodley, whose only major screen credit is playing George Clooney’s difficult daughter in Alexander Payne’s Oscar winning screenplay, The Descendants has appeared in lower budget films: The Spectacular Now, with her Divergent co-star Miles Teller, as well as the recent Gregg Araki film, White Bird in a Blizzard.
Directed by Neil Burger (Limitless), Divergent is set in post-apocalyptic Chicago where society is divided into five factions: Amity (kind), Erudite (intelligent), Candor (honest), Abnegation (selfless) and Dauntless (brave). It tells the story of 16-year-old, Beatrice “Tris” Prior (Woodley), who must take an aptitude test that will determine which faction she will join.
Screen Rant caught up with the Divergent star to talk global fame, getting beaten up, and why she stopped reading the trilogy.
Screen Rant: Congratulations on such a performance. It was fantastic. The energy was high in the movie theatre last night. Have you seen it with an audience?
Shailene Woodley: I haven’t yet, no.
SR: They are comparing this to The Hunger Games. Are you prepared for that magnitude of success?
Shailene Woodley: People are sort of saying that, but you really can’t prepare for anything in life. The second you know what’s going to happen, there’s always a curve ball, so I’m just chillin’, cruising along for the ride.
SR: That’s a good attitude. So tell us about Tris and her predicament in life?
Shailene Woodley: My gosh her predicament, well there’s a few. Tris lives in a world where who she is and what she is not accepted among the great leaders. It’s funny, I feel like it’s up until a few years ago when maybe it was a little bit easier when if somebody was gay, they felt like they had to hide it because they were going to be ostracized or criticized for feeling different feeling from what the mainstream thought was acceptable. And I feel like Tris is in the same place. She has to hide who she is because people don’t understand it and are therefore scared of it.
SR: You get beaten up in quite a bit in this movie. Can you talk about the physical training? And did you get any injuries?
Shailene Woodley: We got some bruises and some scars! A little black and blue action. I feel like if you do an action movie and you leave without a few bumps then you’re probably doing something wrong!
SR: And the training process, were you all training together?
Shailene Woodley: Yeah, like a month before filming commenced, I think it was most of us, except for Jai Courtney and Ansel, I believe got together and did basically, physical fitness and fight training and what not.
SR: Did you read all the books (by Veronica Roth) in the trilogy?
Shailene Woodley: I have not. I’ve just read the first one. I started to read the second one before we did the first and I go up to Neil, our director, and go: “Oh, we’ve got to put this scene back in.” And he goes: “Shai that’s from the second book.” So I had to stop reading it because I was mixing them up.
SR: Have you shot the other two movies?
Shailene Woodley: No, not yet. We start the second one later this year at some point.
SR: Is there a reason why your hair is cut short? Does that have something to do with the trilogy?
Shailene Woodley: I cut it for a project called The Fault in Our Stars.
SR: I want to clear up the rumors, are you a part of the Spider-Man franchise?
Shailene Woodley: No.
You had a lot of scenes with Kate Winslet and of course Ashley Judd plays your mother – what was it like working with those two actresses?
Shailene Woodley: It was amazing. I mean, they’re both incredible actresses and both just really legit women and when I say that I mean, they’re both very strong and empowered and own themselves and own their bodies. And they’re both two kindred spirits, so I feel like we connected on that level.
SR: What challenges did you face physically and emotionally with this character as she goes through so many emotions?
Shailene Woodley: Yeah, it was a sort of a mix between the two I had never done a movie where you had to play an emotionally truthful character and yet add physical aspects to the mix. That was tricky and a fun challenge!
SR: And lastly, what can audiences expect from this film?
Shailene Woodley: I think they’re in for a lot of excitement. I think they will be pleasantly surprised that even though it is an action adventure film, there is a lot of truth and a lot of humanness to it. There’s a lot of authenticity involved.
SR: Thank you very much!
Shailene Woodley: Thank you. Pound it out!
Other cast members include: Theo James (Four); Ashley Judd (Natalie); Kate Winslet (Jeanine); Tony Goldwyn (Andrew); Jai Courtney (Eric); Zoe Kravitz (Christina); Maggie Q (Tori); Mekhi Phifer (Max); and Miles Teller (Peter).
Divergent opens in theaters on March 21.