Will Shailene Woodley be the new queen of YA film adaptations?

Shailene Woodley
Shailene Woodley at Comic-Con last week in San Diego.
(Chris Pizzello / Invision)

Judging by the movies she’ll be starring in this fall, actress Shailene Woodley has great taste in young adult books.

She was at Comic-Con last week to talk about Summit Entertainment’s upcoming adaptation “Divergent,” Veronica Roth’s dystopian young adult series. Woodley joined actor Theo James, director Neil Burger, and writer Veronica Roth (who wrote a diary about her experience for Hero Complex) at Hall H to screen footage and answer questions.

Summit, which developed Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” saga into a record-breaking phenomenon, are clearly hoping for another, potentially “Hunger Games"-sized hit, driven by the young adult audience that has flocked to book-to-big-screen adaptations. This generation has been movie crazy ever since “Harry Potter,” making bit stars out of Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson. (There are YA film failures, too: remember “The Host”? Anybody?)

The appeal of “Divergent” rests on the slim shoulders of 21-year-old Woodley, an actress who made the jump from the lead in ABC Family’s long-running “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” to a well-regarded turn as George Clooney’s teenage daughter in 2011’s “The Descendants.”


“I think it’s really profound that right now there are so many opportunities in film that depict young women as strong, courageous, and taking care of themselves,” Woodley told Hero Complex. It’s time to look ahead to The YA Books on Film That Will Star Shailene Woodley:

--“The Spectacular Now” is set for release Aug. 2. Based on the wonderful book by Tim Thar that was a National Book Award finalist in 2008, “The Spectacular Now” is a naturalistic romance between a party guy, Stutter Keely, and what could be his polar opposite, Aimee, a shy, “nice girl” played by Woodley. Director James Ponsoldt’s adaptation, written by the “500 Days of Summer” screenwriting duo Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, was screened to strong reviews at Sundance, and it’s likely that the film could be an echo of last year’s well-reviewed, future cult hit “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” But what makes “The Spectacular Now” unique is its devotion to showing a real teenage experience. As Ponsoldt told The Times, “At a certain point you stopped seeing yourself as a teenager in movies -- unless you’re a vampire, unless you have superpowers. But what about when it’s just me? The purpose of good storytelling is to make yourself feel less lonely, to make yourself feel less alone, and you need that when you’re 13, 15, 16. You need those movies, and they have not been made.”

--"Divergent” is set for release on March 21, 2014. Like Jennifer Lawrence, Woodley will be straddling two worlds -- naturalistic indie films and big budget, sci-fi extravaganzas -- with her leading role in this hotly anticipated adaptation of Veronica Roth’s hit series. In a futuristic, dystopian Chicago, Woodley stars as Tris Prior, a girl who doesn’t fit into her strictly divided society. As somebody with many skills and gifts, she’s “divergent,” and she may just save humanity, in the span of three novels and what should end up being three movies. Woodley stars, Kate Winslet is the villain, Theo James is the love interest, and a young newcomer, Ansel Elgort, will play Woodley’s brother (keep this in mind). “I’m a strong advocate of taking charge and being a wild woman,” Woodley told Hero Complex, and those leadership skills are going to be on display in this series.

--“The Fault In Our Stars” is now filming in Pittsburgh and set for release in 2015. It is the adaptation of John Green’s tearjerking, bestselling novel about Hazel Grace and Augustus, two star-crossed teens with cancer who fall in love. Neustadter and Weber also adapted this book for the screen, and it’s helmed by new, young director Josh Boone (“Stuck In Love”). It’s a wonderful role for a young woman -- if it goes well, there’s certainly awards potential -- and in an amusing twist, the actor who won the role of Augustus is Ansel Elgort. After Woodley and Eglort finish their work on “Divergent,” where they play siblings, they immediately have to go to Pittsburgh and fall in love. Green weighed in on the “controversy” around the casting on his Tumblr page, writing, “If the movie works, you’ll sit down in the theater and you won’t say, ‘Oh look it’s Shailene Woodley,’ or ‘Oh, look, it’s Tris from Divergent.’ You’ll say, ‘Holy wow Hazel Grace.’”


In the next two years, there will be many opportunities to forget that it’s Woodley, always Woodley, playing the female character in the young adult adaptation.


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