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How Jennifer Lawrence persuaded Shailene Woodley to do 'Divergent'

How Jennifer Lawrence persuaded Shailene Woodley to do 'Divergent'
Shailene Woodley poses at the premiere of the film "White Bird in a Blizzard" during the 2014 Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 20. (Danny Moloshok / Invision / AP)

"Divergent's" Shailene Woodley could be poised for the same type of young adult stardom her contemporaries Kristen Stewart and Jennifer Lawrence have enjoyed.

But it turns out the 22-year-old, who had a large fan following thanks to ABC Family's melodramatic series "The Secret Life of the American Teenager," was hesitant about signing on to the films based on Veronica Roth's bestselling young adult book series.

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"Having come off a TV show, I was kind of in the place where I was like, 'I'm never signing a contract for more than one movie,' because once you do sign a contract, legally, you're liable," Woodley told the Hollywood Reporter's Tatiana Siegel. "[Even] if you don't find something creatively stimulating anymore, you've still got to do it legally."

So that's when Lionsgate Co-President Erik Feig enlisted "The Hunger Games" and "X-Men: First Class" star Lawrence to help him persuade Woodley to take the role. (Turns out JLaw is a fan of "The Secret Life.")

Apparently, Woodley and the Oscar winner exchanged several emails and Lawrence ultimately said: "'You must do it. You will not regret it for a second. Yes, there are some hard things, but there are so many beautiful things that will come from an opportunity like this,'" Woodley said.

The sci-fi film sees Woodley as Beatrice "Tris" Prior, a young heroine in futuristic Chicago threatening the dystopian system by diverging from the social order's five factions. Woodley has already locked in the leading role for the next three "Divergent" films.

The young star, who says her "religion is the Earth, man" and professes to "believe in trees," has become an indie film darling whose breakout film role came in 2011 with Alexander Payne's Oscar-winning film "The Descendants," starring George Clooney.

The Los Angeles native's career started at age 5 with TV commercials and has since earned praise for her turn in "The Spectacular Now." She's already generating buzz with this summer's other YA adaptation, "The Fault in Our Stars," and some graphic sex scenes in the indie drama "White Bird in a Blizzard," which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

"When somebody's doing a sex scene and they're wearing a bra and underwear, that's not how it happens in real life," Woodley said. "If I'm going to say yes to a movie where this is necessary, then I'm going to bring truth to that situation."

It is "risk-taking" films such as "White Bird" that set her apart from Lawrence, Siegel argued. However, she also likens Woodley to being the next Shia LaBeouf, because of some puzzling career choices, or potentially Lily Collins, whose YA franchise "The Mortal Instruments" flopped at the box office. Still, Woodley's warmth and ease during interviews already seems to set her worlds apart from "Twilight's" Stewart.

"Divergent," which also stars Theo James and Kate Winslet, hits theaters March 21.

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