Who is Divergent’s Shailene Woodley?

Tom Butler
Senior Editor
(Credit: Hollywood Reporter)

Shailene Woodley. The first name is pronounced SHAY-leen.

We thought you should know, because come 4 April, 2014, EVERYONE is going to be talking about her.

Her new film ‘Divergent’ is released on that day with its aim firmly set on the teen market that made lucrative franchises out of ‘Twilight’ and ‘The Hunger Games’.

[Shailene Woodley slams 'Twilight']

Woodley plays Tris, the heroine of the dystopian Chicago-set tale, who uncovers a sinister plot brewing in her otherwise perfect world. 

Whether the film’s a success or not, what’s clear is that Shailene Woodley is on the verge of stardom.

She possesses the holy trinity of the good looks, acting chops, and humility that proved to be the making of Jennifer Lawrence, but what makes the hotly-tipped 22-year-old tick?

Who is she? Let’s find out.

A star is born
Shailene Woodley’s parents both work in education, but they clearly had other plans for their eldest child (she has a younger brother Tanner).

She began her showbiz career at the tender age of four modeling in commercials, before landing her first IMDB credit in 1999 playing ‘Little Girl’ in TV movie ‘Replacing Dad’.

[Gallery: Child stars: Then and now]

She went on to have a few more minor TV roles, nabbing a Young Artist Award best actress nominations along the way, taking in well-known series including ‘The O.C.’, ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’, ‘My Name Is Earl’, ‘CSI: NY’, and ‘Cold Case’, before landing the part that would make her name.

Breaking through
In 2008, Shailene bagged the lead role in ABC Family’s ‘The Secret Life of the American Teenager’. She played Amy Juergens, a 15-year-old who finds out she’s pregnant, with the show playing out what impact that has on her life at home and at school.

She appeared in all 121 episodes of the hit series before it ended in June last year, picking up host of best actress nominations along the way, but it was a big-screen role that would propel the young actress into the limelight.

In 2011 she starred opposite George Clooney in Jason Reitman’s Hawaii-set family drama ‘The Descendants’. She earned rave reviews, many suggesting she stole the film from Clooney, winning a handful of trophies come awards season.

Her next film role was 2013’s indie romance ‘The Spectacular Now’ which premiered at Sundance film festival last year to huge critical acclaim.

On the verge of greatness
Despite having all her scenes cut from ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ (she was due to play Mary-Jane Watson), 2014 is sure to be a breakthrough year for the young actress.

Not only does she have ‘Divergent’ in the bag, but she also has two highly-anticipated indie films in the can too, both scheduled for release later this year.

[The 35 most exciting films of 2014]

‘White Bird in a Blizzard’ is a 1980s-set coming of age drama, based on the novel of the same name, with Woodley appearing opposite Eva Green. It received a rapturous response at Sundance earlier this year, as did Shailene’s performance.

Her other film, ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ (another literary adaptation) sounds like a tearjerker, with Shailene playing cancer patient Hazel who falls in love with fellow patient Augustus, an ex-basketball player and amputee.

Her best quotes
What’s refreshing about Shailene (and J-Law before her) is that she’s not afraid to plough her own furrow. She’s no dizzy starlet, in fact she’s far from what you’d expect from a Hollywood star in the making as her recent interviews have proved.

She’s a feminist: “In [Divergent], there’s no envy and no jealousy — no ridiculous girl-fights. It’s such an important message to send out there in this age of feminism because, yes, men need to respect women, and women need to be the leads of films, but at the same time, how do we expect men to respect women if women don’t respect women?” (Sugarscape)

She’s not a fan of a certain other YA lit-flick: “Twilight, I’m sorry, is about a very unhealthy, toxic relationship. [Bella] falls in love with this guy and the second he leaves her, her life is over and she’s going to kill herself! What message are we sending to young people? That is not going to help this world evolve.” (Variety)

She’s a technophobe:

"I'm not a big technology person. I don't even have a smart phone. I don't even have a cell phone!” (EOnline)

She’s not into social media any more: "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.” (Marie Claire)

And finally, she likes to dispense beauty advice, whether you want to hear it or not: “I was reading an article written by an herbalist I studied about yeast infections and other genital issues. She said there's nothing better than vitamin D. If you're feeling depleted, go in the sun for an hour and see how much energy you get. Or, if you live in a place that has heavy winters, when the sun finally comes out, spread your legs and get some sunshine.” (Into The Gloss)

You can find out what all the fuss is about Shailene Woodley is when ‘Divergent’ hits cinemas 4 April, 2014.