2013 was a year stuffed with high-profile film adaptations of young adult bestsellers – most of which ended up crashing and burning at the box office. (Alas, Beautiful Creatures, Mortal Instruments, Percy Jackson, and Ender’s Game – no Harry Potter-style cultural dominance for you.) But while each of those big-budget spectacles flailed, a humbler YA-based movie quietly emerged as the year’s best teen flick: The Spectacular Now, out on DVD today.
Spectacular is a sweet but dark love story about gregarious alcoholic Sutter (Miles Teller) and his relationship with his smart, slightly nerdy classmate Aimee (Shailene Woodley). What you may not realize before seeing the film, however, is that The Spectacular Now isn’t just a typical teen romance told through an indie-fied lens. “I think it’s a very unhealthy dynamic that the two of them have together,” Woodley recently told EW. “One of the things that first drew me to Spectacular Now was that in high school, so many girls fall in love with someone, and they end up losing a lot of who they are because they’re so into the other person. And I went through that in high school, where I sort of gave myself away for a different human being. It was a really toxic relationship.”
By exploring the murkier side of first love, Spectacular Now sets itself apart – and achieves a sort of authenticity that can be tough to find in films aimed at the high school set. “A lot of teenage films either dumb down the teenagers, or they exaggerate them to be larger than life, and there’s not a lot of truth involved,” continued Woodley. “So I feel very blessed to be part of a movie that kind of hones in on the John Hughes, Cameron Crowe sort of tone of adolescence.”
Want to know more of Woodley’s thoughts on The Spectacular Now, what unites (or doesn’t unite) her high-profile YA characters, and how she responded to the heartwrenching ending of the third Divergent book, Allegiant? You’ll find the answers below – as well as an exclusive deleted scene from Spectacular’s new DVD release.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s begin by talking about the movie’s ending. What do you think happens after the last scene that we see in The Spectacular Now?
SHAILENE WOODLEY: Here’s what I know I want to happen: I want them not to get back together. One of the most crucial things that’s happened in my life is being in a really unhealthy relationship, and then having the time and the freedom to get to know myself afterwards. And so I hope that they don’t get back together, so that they can both go on their own individual paths to get to know themselves, their own hearts, their own ambitions.
I understand that the ending of the film isn’t as bleak as the ending of the book.
Yeah. I actually haven’t even read the book – I chose not to read the book on purpose, because the character in the book was sort of more stereotypical, kind of a nerd, and I really was keen on making her a real human and not a stereotype.
You’ve recently become the go-to person for YA literary adaptations. I’ve been trying to figure out if there’s something that unites the characters you’re playing in all these movies – The Spectacular Now, Divergent, and The Fault in Our Stars – and what I came up with is that it seems like all of them could be described as loners.
I don’t think so. I wouldn’t say that Aimee’s a loner. I think that she’s somebody who chooses not to have a lot of friends because she just doesn’t have anything in common with a lot of high school kids. She’s got an old soul, and she’s incredibly wise and intelligent, and is an introvert. I think that Tris [from Divergent] isn’t a loner; she’s just from a faction that doesn’t lend to compassionate friendships. And I think that Hazel [from The Fault in Our Stars] isn’t a loner, I think she’s somebody that by circumstance isn’t around a lot of people often. So I actually don’t think there’s much correlation between any of them, apart from the fact that they’re all around the same age.
Your Spectacular Now costar Miles also appears in Divergent as one of your character’s main adversaries. What was it like to act opposite him again?
It was amazing. Miles is my favorite person to act across from, because we both approach acting from the same vantage point – which is, we really both love to be on a movie set. A lot of actors go on movie sets and take it incredibly seriously, and don’t talk to anyone, and kind of keep to themselves, or have to keep in character. Which is their process, and there’s no judgment, and that’s great for them. But that’s not how I work. I love the interaction with every single person involved, and so does Miles. So it was fun to have somebody that I could play with.
How did you feel when you heard that director Neil Burger won’t return for Divervent’s sequel, Insurgent?
Yeah, it was a bit of a shock. I just found out a few days ago. [EW interviewed Woodley on Dec. 19.] We were actually doing reshoots when I found out. It’s kind of strange to think that it’s his baby, and it’s going to be passed on to the next person – and I guess this happens all the time in franchises – but I’ve never been a part of a franchise, and I’ve never experienced anything like it. It was shocking. This entire movie has been about Neil’s vision, and one of the reasons I did it was because I thought his vision was so beautiful and so strong. So yeah, it was just more shocking than anything.
[Spoiler alert!] I also wanted to ask about your reaction to the ending of Allegiant.
I was stoked. I thought that it was such a badass decision of Veronica Roth, and so incredibly powerful. I love that she didn’t sort of buy into the breakdown of what most young adult books, like, the outline of what’s happened in previous young adult books. Men die all the time in films – heroes do. But a lot of sweet heroines don’t. And so I thought it was a very powerful, profound decision on her part. And I really love that she had the courage and the bravery to do that.
While we had Woodley on the line, we also asked how she felt about the recently revealed tagline for The Fault in Our Stars; you can find her answer over here.