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March 17, 2014

Shailene Woodley: This is What Badass Looks Like


Photo Credit: Jan Welters

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Kate Winslet, who plays the bad guy in Divergent as Erudite faction leader Jeanine Matthews, makes a point of praising Woodley's even-keeled sense of self. "There's an honesty and an openness to her that is really rare in young women of that age, let alone young women in a fast-paced business that can chew you up and spit you out as soon as it's said hello to you. You see young actors and actresses coming up and doing well, and then suddenly they start to unravel a bit and they forget themselves. With Shailene I get the sense that the more she does and the more of the world she sees, the more well-rounded she becomes."

Woodley says she's constantly asked if she feels weird about her newfound career. "In my mind, it's new but not new. I mean, it took 13 years to get a feature film, which was The Descendants. It took 10 years to get a series. Nothing was overnight for me. And I feel very lucky that it was all baby steps, because if I'd seen this side of it before I was an adult, I probably would have been like, 'No, thank you, I'm done.' As a kid I was like, 'I never want to be on magazines. I never want to go to the Oscars.' Now it's easier to rationalize and have fun with it. When I was young, I thought, 'That's not acting!'"

Once we clear our faces of mud and honey, Woodley suggests we go to "this amazing gelato place" down the block. She pulls on black rubber riding boots perfect for the English weather, and we set off. I wonder how she's preparing for the onslaught of public attention bound to hit her. "I don't pay any attention to the fan thing, because I think it's a very strange culture nowadays," she says, suggesting that Twilight tipped that over into something more extreme than it had been before. "People have always been fans of people, but I can't relate to any of these girls or boys who scream. It's idolizing someone you don't know. None of those people know me." Social media exacerbates that "100 percent. It's so much easier to get on with a bunch of people you don't know and to gang up on people you don't know over the Internet. It's such a beautiful gift, but the whole social media thing is…"—Woodley breaks into a whisper—"just a little too weird for me."

We're in Snowflake on Wardour Street now, where the gelato-makers have gotten to know Woodley over the past few days. She opts for pistachio with a scoop of fior di latte and explains that she recently deleted her Instagram account. "Everything I was posting was for a story—like, 'Look how interesting I am'' It felt disgusting to me. It feels as though we're so detached from actual human connection. And I got rid of my phone, too. We're all such narcissists, and that's what social media caters to. Our society conditions us to be our own planets, which is great. Independent thinking is so important. But we expect everyone around us to be our moons."

A couple of months later—after she has been traveling in Italy, gone home to "soak up" her family, and generally checked out of the movie industry for a spell—Woodley calls me from the Sundance Film Festival. The thriller she's showing there, White Bird in a Blizzard, has had mixed reviews and much chatter over her nude scenes. I bring up the rumors that she's dating Shiloh Fernandez, her White Bird costar. "Oh, no, God! Shiloh's my buddy," she replies, laughing. "You take a picture with somebody and all of a sudden you're dating. That's so funny." She knows that this is the kind of gossip that will inevitably attach itself to a beautiful young actress. Woodley repeats what she told me when we met: She's been single for four years. "I just haven't met anyone where I was like, 'Wow, I could definitely see myself spending a season of my life with you.' I don't even know if humans are genetically made to be with one person forever." I ask if she made any New Year's resolutions. "I prefer to call them New Year's evolutions," she replies. "This is the Chinese year of the horse, and I always thought the horse was a very strong, playful creature. So I kind of look at this year as a year to have fun and to exercise your power. Now that I've had all this time not working, I definitely feel I exist in the world with a new set of eyes. I feel very alive right now. More alive than I've ever felt."

Credits: Jacket, price upon request, Bra Top, $1,850, Briefs, $260, Emilio Pucci; Long Gunmetal Ring, $175, Alexis Bittar; Arrow Ring, $3,090, AS29; Star Ring, $1,940, Djula; Sneakers, $995, Giuseppe Zanotti Design; Silver Square Ring, Editor's own.

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