Is Shailene Woodley the new Jennifer Lawrence?
That’s the increasingly relevant question as Woodley has made the media rounds this past month, talking up her new indie romance “The Spectacular Now” and next year’s “Divergent.”
Certainly, there are a handful of obvious parallels: Each actress quickly climbed to the top of the Young Hollywood ranks with a hot award-season title (Lawrence with “Winter’s Bone” and Woodley with “The Descendants”). They both now star in film adaptations of bestselling YA books — Lawrence with “The Hunger Games” and Woodley in the equally dystopian “Divergent.” Lawrence apparently even offered Woodley advice before she signed on to “Divergent,” which is widely viewed as the next big tween phenomenon.
But Lawrence, 22, and Woodley, 21, also seem to share the same kind of offbeat, carefree attitude that fans find endearing these days. Though neither is averse to getting dolled up for a red carpet, they have what seems to be an indifferent attitude to the whole game. Each are often photographed in public without makeup on and talk frequently about how much they like to eat.
They also go out of their way to accommodate the media. When Woodley arrived at “The Spectacular Now” screening Wednesday night, she greeted each reporter on the short red carpet with a hug. Sure, she and Lawrence make fun of the corsets and stilettos they’re expected to wear at premieres — but they’ll still happily attend them.
It was on a red carpet that it first became apparent Woodley wasn’t exactly the typical starlet. Last year, she posed for the cameras at a Golden Globes after-party with her rubber skele-toes peeking out from underneath her formal gown. Soon, quirkier details began leaking out: She’s studying to be an herbalist. If she wasn’t an actress, she’d open a fruit stand in Hawaii. She begins every day by screaming: “Good morning! Good morning! Exciting day! Exciting day!” Seriously.
If this all seems like some contrived hippie-dippie shtick, it’s not, insists James Ponsoldt, who directed “Spectacular Now.”
“She has a complete sense of who she is,” said the filmmaker. “I don’t think she needs a career to define her. You don’t get the sense that she’s hyper-needy and needs people to like her desperately.”
You’d think that some would make fun of Woodley for her in-your-face earth mother vibe. But because she doesn’t view her quirks as bizarre, somehow fans don’t have a tendency to, either.
At the “Spectacular Now” premiere, she bounded up to the press, gleefully showing off the oversized dream catcher hanging from her neck.
“Sick, right? It’s sick!” she said, holding up the necklace. “It’s from Venice Beach. It’s like amethyst, jade, turquoise — turquoise is from Hawaii!”
Asked when her passion for the environment took hold, the actress recalled being 15 and seeing pine needles floating in the wind.
“It was so beautiful, and then I looked down and the juxtaposition of the pine needles in the wind and the trash from a bunch of ignorant teenagers really pissed me off.”
Ponsoldt finds Woodley’s outspoken nature refreshing. “It’s not an obnoxious thing. It’s pretty inspiring, actually,” he said.
Less so Miles Teller, who plays the rebellious high school senior that Woodley’s character falls for in the movie. “Shailene always has a mason jar with her, and 100% of the time it smells like crap,” he said. “Usually it’s, like, seaweed or something weird from the ocean.”
The willingness to go her own way is perhaps what people respond to about Woodley. Let’s not forget that just as Lawrence was embraced by the public after winning her Oscar in February, fellow Academy Award winner Anne Hathaway was facing backlash for seeming too eager to please. She was too fearful of showing her flaws, many argued — too perfect.
That’s definitely not the first word that comes to mind in describing Woodley, whose heel snapped off on the “Spectacular Now” carpet while talking to The Times.
“Oh, no!” she gasped. “Oh, God. I just broke my heel! Am I the first person to ever do that?”
She casually bent down to remove the shoes, handing the damaged pair to a publicist as a smile creeped onto her face. “Wait, does this mean I get to be barefoot for the rest of the night? I get to be barefoot ‘cause I broke my heel! Ugh, this is such good news.”
It was a moment that could only remind, albeit in a lower-profile way, of a certain other actress’ shoe-themed stumble.