It’s a confusing time for Shailene Woodley. The lead actress of last weekend’s No. 1 film Divergent stopped off in Vegas in the middle of her worldwide promotional tour to hock her next film, the adaptation of John Green’s best-selling novel The Fault in Our Stars. And it’s easy for her two worlds to get garbled.
“I was just saying that Fault is about two kids with cancer who jump off buildings and run on trains,” she says with a laugh. “Wait, is that not right?”
Not quite. For the uninitiated, Woodley is transitioning from lead actress in a YA dystopian sci-fi adventure to lead actress in a YA romance about two teenagers with cancer. Just don’t call it a cancer movie.
“People ask me in interviews all the time, ‘How did it feel to play a cancer patient?’ I didn’t play a cancer patient. I played a girl who happened to be leading this life and happened to have ‘a touch of cancer,’” she says, in reference to a line from Green’s novel. “This book – and movie – they don’t victimize death, they empower life. That should be the tagline.”
While the current tagline for The Fault in the Stars is the controversial line “One sick love story,” Woodley is a big fan of the poster and the risks 20th Century Fox took in backing the film.
“It’s such an important movie: It’s a big studio movie where their lead female has a cannula [oxygen tube] in, in every scene, and on the f—in’ poster my face has no makeup on it and an oxygen tube,” she says. “That is groundbreaking and it’s completely rewriting the paradigm for how female leads exist. I saw [Fox’s chairman and chief executive] Jim Gianopolus, and I said, ‘Thank you so much for having the guts and the balls to make a movie like this, to put out a movie like this.’ People making indie movies don’t even make movies like this. It’s so cool.”
The Fault in Our Stars opens June 6. But before then, Woodley will crisscross the globe, flying to the U.K., Spain, and Germany to promote Divergent internationally before suiting up for Insurgent, the sequel in the Veronica Roth novels, which will begin filming in June.
Woodley has yet to read the script. She hasn’t discussed whether she will be able to keep her new pixie haircut (she hopes to cut it even shorter and dye it blonde) and she’s just barely met the new director, Robert Schwentke (RED), but seeing the final cut of Divergent has reinvigorated her for the next chapter.
“The second book is so much darker for Tris, because she’s dealing with guilt and remorse and grief and loss. That will be fun to mess around with,” she says.
“The first movie was entering new territory [for me] and figuring out, ‘How do I keep what I love as an actor, the truth and humanness and bringing raw emotions to a character, and still be this powerful heroine?’ So the first movie felt a little bit confusing for me. But going into the second one, I feel like I’ve gained the tools to be able to approach it in a different way.”