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Spirited Facts About Shailene Woodley, The Superstar Activist

Kyle Climans

Shailene Woodley puts her money where her mouth is. Though she’s best known for appearing in movies and TV shows like Big Little Lies, The Spectacular Now, and the Divergent series, Woodley is also a passionate environmental activist who can regularly be found at rallies and demonstrations (and once, even landed herself in handcuffs).


Shailene Woodley Facts

1. Born For School

Woodley was born in San Bernardino, California, on November 15, 1991. Her parents both work in education; her mother is a school counselor and her father is a principal.

2. I Was 11, What Did You Want?

A young Woodley originally played Kaitlin Cooper in the first season of The O.C., but when her character returned later in the third season, Woodley was gone. Willa Holland now played Marisa’s younger sister. According to Woodley, she auditioned to come back after the hiatus, but she hadn’t matured enough to play the more grown-up version of Kaitlin, so they re-cast her.

Shailene Woodley FactsThe O.C., Fox

3. Diverse Ancestry

Through her parents, Woodley has English, Swiss, Creole, and African-American ancestry.

4. Fangirl

An avid reader, Woodley credits Anaïs Nin’s Henry and June and George Orwell’s 1984 with changing her life. At one point, an interviewer asked Woodley what she would ask her favorite author if she could track them down and pose one question (like her character does in The Fault in Our Stars). Woodley declared that she would ask Anaïs Nin to marry her.

5. List Your Faves

Woodley’s favorite movies are Dirty Dancing, Rent, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, and Moulin Rouge! Decide for yourself if Woodley has good taste or not.

6. Just Need Some Movie Magic For That

In White Bird in a Blizzard, Woodley’s character is the daughter of the character played by actress Eva Green. In real life, the two of them are only twelve years apart in age.

7. Superhero Crossover?

Hollywood is full of success stories, but many, many more missed opportunities. Shailene Woodley nabbed the coveted role of Mary Jane Watson in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but even after nailing her audition and filming her scenes, she still lost out. Every single one of her scenes was cut out of the finished project. Ouch.

8. Win Some, Lose Some

Woodley was considered for the role of Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games series. Although she lost the role to Jennifer Lawrence, Woodley would later get her own YA film franchise with the Divergent series.

9. Three Rules

Allegedly, Woodley’s parents supported her efforts to get into acting on three conditions. She had to do well in school, she had to stay who she was, and she had to have fun. Seems like so far, so good.

10. He Wasn’t Acting

During the filming of Divergent, the characters played by Woodley and Miles Teller have an intense fight scenes. Because they are friends in real life, both actors were nervous about hurting each other during filming. Woodley was especially worried about a scene where she had to punch Teller in the throat. During filming, she was so timid that Teller eventually took Woodley aside and told her to be more aggressive.

After that, Woodley took her co-star’s words to heart and really did punch Teller! This is the take which appears in the film.

11. Right Out Of The Starting Gate

Woodley made her feature film debut with the Alexander Payne film The Descendants. Woodley managed to win the role over established actresses like Amanda Seyfried and Kristen Stewart. She won her first Golden Globe nomination for her debut performance.

12. Well Played

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Shailene Woodley has auditioned for tons of roles that she didn’t book. In an alternate universe, she played Cosette in Les Miserables and Lucy in I Am Sam. She also turned down the role of Anastasia in 50 Shades of Grey, was rumored to be considered for Rey in the recent Star Wars trilogy, and had to drop out of playing Ruby Roundhouse in the Jumanji movies because of scheduling conflicts with her hit show, Big Little Lies.

13. Two-Year Delay

Woodley’s first appearance onscreen was an appearance as an extra in the made-for-TV movie Replacing Daddy. The project was filmed in 1997 but wasn’t released until 1999.

14. Almost Said Goodbye To Showbiz

Before Woodley won the lead role in the hit TV show The Secret Life of the American Teenager, she was considering leaving acting behind entirely. She thought about pursuing an interior design degree at New York University. However, she ultimately continued with her acting career, much to the relief of John Green fans everywhere.

15. Friends Stick Together

As of 2018, Woodley has starred in four films with her friend, actor Miles Teller. They played romantic interests in The Spectacular Now and rivals-turned-friends in the three films in the Divergent series. He was also set to appear in Adrift alongside Woodley, but ultimately dropped out and was replaced by Sam Claflin.

16. Just A Salad, Please

Twice in her career, Woodley has played characters who are specifically identified as vegetarians. One is Hazel in The Fault in Our Stars, and the other is Tami in Adrift.

17. My Competition

Amongst the many actresses whom Woodley beat out for the role of Hazel in The Fault in Our Stars were Hailee Steinfeld, Mae Whitman, Liana Liberato, and Mary Kate Wiles. You can decide for yourselves how those alternate timelines would have gone, but we’re happy Woodley got the part.

18. Unromantic

Woodley recently revealed that during her early twenties, she was in an abusive relationship. While it was hard to extract herself from that situation and rebuild her confidence and sense of self, she prevailed.

19. Youthful Affliction

When she was 15 years old, Woodley was diagnosed with scoliosis. To prevent her spine from curving any further than it already had, Woodley needed to wear a chest-to-hips plastic brace. After two years, the treatment was successful.

20. See If You Can Spot It In The Show!

Woodley had to wear this brace to help with her scoliosis while she was starring in the television series The Secret Life of the American Teenager.

21. Surprise Gift

Woodley was cast as whistleblower Edward Snowden’s girlfriend Lindsay Mills in Oliver Stone’s Snowden on her 23rd birthday. We’re assuming she found out after she blew out the candles on her cake.

Shailene Woodley FactsSnowden (2016), Open Road Films

22. Reading It For Shailene

Woodley’s friend, Ansel Elgort, was set to audition for a role in The Fault in Our Stars, but at Woodley’s insistence, he not only read the script, but the book as well. As Elgort later joked, he was afraid of angering her if he hadn’t read the book, so he made sure to prepare above and beyond the call of duty. Safe to say, this preparation paid off.

23. Lucky In Love

Woodley has been in relationships with a bevy of handsome men. She dated the rugby player Ben Volavola and was rumored to date Theo James (her Divergent co-star and love interest). Additionally, Woodley has said that she has been happy in both monogamous and open relationships.

24. Early Appearances

Among the shows which Woodley appeared in as a guest star include My Name is Earl, Everybody Loves Raymond, and CSI:NY.

25. Amsterdam, USA

Interestingly, Woodley and co-star Ansel Elgort were the only American actors involved with the film The Fault in Our Stars to actually go to Amsterdam. Many of the scenes taking place in Amsterdam were actually filmed in Pittsburgh (this included the famous Anne Frank Museum, as they couldn’t get permission to film in the real building). Even Lotte Verbeek, the only actual Dutch actor in the movie, filmed most of her scenes in Pittsburgh rather than her native country.

26. The First of Many, Hopefully

Adrift marks the first time in her career where Woodley received a producing credit on one of her movies.

27. Familiar Face

Woodley frequently works with Ansel Elgort, who is also her friend outside of the film industry. In 2014 alone, they appeared in Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars together. In the former film, they play siblings, while in the latter, they play romantic partners.

28. Bummer Of An Ending

When Woodley booked the role of Tris in Divergent, she expected to star in a mega-hit franchise. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. After releasing two successful movies, the third entry didn’t meet critical acclaim or interested audiences. Originally, the studio had split up the last book into two movies, but after the third flick didn’t do so well, they cancelled the last film. This means that the entire series is, to this day, incomplete. Whomp whomp.

29. Movie Matchmaker

The reason why Oliver Stone considered Shailene Woodley for the role of Lindsay Mills in his film adaptation of Edward Snowden was a recommendation by fellow filmmaker Gregg Araki. Woodley had greatly impressed Araki when they worked together on the film White Bird in a Blizzard and Araki was also a big fan of Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who played Snowden in the film).

Araki though that Woodley and Gordon-Levitt shared a lot in common (ie. their talent and their very selective process when choosing film roles) and he was interested in having them work together on a film project somehow. With Snowden, he got his wish.

30. Next Time, We’re Filming In The Desert

While working on the romance thriller Adrift, which follows a couple who go sailing and get caught in a huge hurricane, Woodley and the rest of the cast and crew filmed about 90% of the film on the open water. On some of the days, filming lasted for twelve hours straight. Being out at sea didn’t help either; according to Woodley herself, most of the cast and crew were felled by seasickness.

31. No Thanks

Famous for being selective, Woodley has turned down a large number of roles in film and television. Three of these roles include Casey Newton in Tomorrowland and the lead role in the 2013 film adaptation of Stephen King’s Carrie. Since neither of these movies made a huge impact, it looks like Woodley was right to follow her intuition.

32. Does That Count As Method Acting?

In order for Woodley to complete her real school work while shooting The Secret Life of the American Teenager, she did her assignments in between takes on the set.

33. Making The Cut

For her role in The Fault in Our Stars, Woodley cut her hair to a pageboy haircut after her hair had previously been waist-length. She donated her hair to a children’s hospital, so it could be made into a wig. She later refused to wear a wig in the sequel to Divergent, so her character’s new do was written into the film.

34. Vote, Baby, Vote!

In 2016, Woodley joined the board of the political group known as Our Revolution. This organization aims to educate voters on relevant political issues, encourage them to vote, and get involved as activists and engaged citizens.

35. I Won’t Risk Seeing Myself Onscreen!

Incredibly, Woodley doesn’t have a cell phone of any sort. Nor does she have a television. In fact, when she was 18, she moved to a cabin in the middle of the woods and fully uncharged for months at a time. She’s kind of a hippie, honestly.

36. She’s A Maniac, Maniac, On The Floor….

Woodley underwent a lot preparation to properly portray Lindsay Mills in Snowden. Because the real Mills is a professional pole dancer and acrobat, Woodley took pole dancing classes to be as convincing as possible. We commend Woodley’s dedication to the role, given that her pole dancing skills only appear in one or two scenes.

37. I’ll Show You!

Woodley wasn’t initially considered by John Green as a serious contender for the lead role in the adaptation of his book The Fault in Our Stars. However, Woodley fought tooth and nail for the chance to be in that film. She wrote passionate letters to both Green and the film’s director Josh Boone. When she got the chance to read for the part, as Green later reflected, she reduced them all to tears and immediately won the role.

38. Choose Wisely

Before she was offered the script for Little Big Lies, Woodley had rejected potential projects for a full year. She had even gotten to the point where she was once again considering an early retirement from acting. That attitude changed completely when she found out about Little Big Lies, which would go on to receive critical acclaim and garner Woodley her second Golden Globe nomination.

39. One On One

Woodley and Miles Teller first met when they worked on the romance film The Spectacular Now. According to that film’s director, James Ponsoldt, he arranged for Teller and Woodley to have lunch together with him. However, he became worried because while Teller was very “outgoing and energetic,” Woodley was more introverted at the lunch. Later, Ponsoldt left the two of them in the parking lot, only to find out that they spent another two hours talking together.

40. For Our Mother Earth

In 2010, Woodley and her mother, both passionate environmentalists, co-founded the non-profit organization All It Takes. This organization seeks to educate youth to “practice empathy, compassion, responsibility, and purpose in hopes to foster sustainable, positive change for themselves, others and the environment.” Woodley was later honored for her part in co-founding All It Takes at the 20th Anniversary Global Green Environmental Awards.

41. Money Isn’t Enough

Although starring in The Secret Life of the American Teenager gave her career the breakthrough Woodley needed, the experience of appearing in the series became very difficult for her. Woodley began to strongly disagree with the pro-abstinence message that her show sent to audiences everywhere, but she couldn’t leave due to contractual obligations. This gave her a strong incentive to be very selective with which projects she took on after the show concluded.

42. Solidarity Forever

Woodley was one of the most well-known faces to actively participate in the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline. She was arrested on October 10 for criminal trespassing and received a year of probation when she was found guilty. Woodley would later go to the 2018 Golden Globe Award ceremony with activist and fellow Dakota protester Calina Lawrence as her guest.

Sources: 1,  2,  3,  4,  5,  6,  7,  8,  9,  10,  11,  12,  13,  14,  15,  16


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