Shailene Woodley On Sundance's 'White Bird In A Blizzard,' Leaving Spider-Man, And Why Miles Teller Is Her Leo

Cast member Shailene Woodley poses at the premiere of the film "White Bird in a Blizzard" during the 2014 Sundance Film Festi
Cast member Shailene Woodley poses at the premiere of the film "White Bird in a Blizzard" during the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014, in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Danny Moloshok/Invision/AP)

Shailene Woodley has changed a lot in the last three years. When I spoke to Woodley while she was promoting "The Descendants" in 2011, she was certainly polite, but there was a sense that she would have liked to have been anywhere else but in that hotel room, answering yet another question about George Clooney's pranks.

Now, though, a little over two years later, Shailene Woodley is very different. Her answers are sharp and off-the-cuff. In our interview at Sundance this week, she even admitted to being on autopilot during "The Descendants" press tour. She's also a hugger. Woodley is so much of a hugger, in fact, that I was advised by colleagues that she was going to hug me before the interview even started. That was not false information.

I met Woodley in a lounge off of Park City, Utah's Main Street to discuss her role in Gregg Akari's "White Bird in A Blizzard." Woodley plays Kat in the film, a young woman whose mother disappears in 1988. Slowly, Kat starts putting the pieces together of what happened. Ahead, Woodley talks about her attitude toward acting -- and her attitude toward being cut out of "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" -- and why her "Divergent" co-star Miles Teller is the Leonardo DiCaprio to her Kate Winslet.

I feel you've been on a roll as of late.
Am I? [Laughs]

I'm sure there was more to it than this, but even when it was announced that you were cut from "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," it just seemed like you're attitude was, "Eh, I have other things going on."
You know what it was? I'm a very firm believer that everything happens for a reason. And it made complete sense -- the fact that they didn't have time for the movie and Mary Jane is such an important character -- she was only in three scenes. And so they were like, "Let's hold off and wait and introduce her in the next one," which makes complete sense, in retrospect. Complete sense.

And career-wise, you've got "Divergent" coming out.
Yeah, but not even that. Even if I wasn't doing anything else, from a business point of view, it made sense -- and how can you argue with that? You know?

You are in the trailer.
I know, it's hilarious. How do you know that?

Because people analyze every frame of a trailer and you're in it for like a split second.
You don't see my face, though, do you? You just see my hair.

There's a big crash ...
A big car crash. Oh my god, that's so funny.

See, you made the trailer. You're still in it.
[Laughs] Well, they wanted me to be there in spirit.

"White Bird in a Blizzard" is bizarre.
Yes. When did you see it?

Last night at the premiere. Is that why you like it, because it's bizarre?
Hell, yeah. And because it was Gregg Araki. And I think that nobody makes movies like him -- and people either love his movies or they hate his movies.

That's accurate.
People are either fans or not. And I think that there is something so special about him listening to his own voice and not the voices around him. God, I'm his biggest fan, and I wanted to do a movie with him since I saw "Mysterious Skin," which I thought was so beautiful and eerie and creepy.

You seem to work with good directors -- or at least interesting directors.
I don't know how I got so lucky. People have asked me what directors would you like to work with in the future -- and there's a few that I would love to work with. And then I really thought about it and I was like, if I could just work with the same people I've already worked with ...

A lot of people do that.
Dude! Alexander Payne, James Ponsoldt, Gregg -- like, I don't know how I got so lucky.

Alexander Payne directed your breakout role in "The Descendants."
I didn't know who Alexander was before I met with him. I haven't really seen very many films in my life. I just never sit down and watch movies. I do now, more than ever. When I met Alexander, everybody was like, "Oh my god, it's AP, it's Alexander Payne!" I was like, "Who's Alexander Payne?" Like, whatever.

He's very casual when you meet him.
Yeah, totally. But I had never seen anything he'd done. I saw "Sideways" when I was younger, but I didn't really understand it -- so I think I thought it was funny, you know. So yeah, when I met him, when we first started filming, I got to know him as Alexander the human before Alexander the director -- which was so lovely.

Did that help when you're acting?
I mean, he helped. He said to me, best advice he ever gave to me, he said, "You're not being you. You're acting. Stop acting." I was acting versus just being present.

So when you get the script for "White Bird in a Blizzard, do you just say, "Oh, it's Gregg Araki. I'm In"?
Yeah. Well, I mean, this script has been around for a long time, a version of the script, with a different director, and I read it like four years ago or five years ago or something crazy. And I didn't really respond to it.

Oh, really?
Yeah. It was different. It was a different adaption of the same book. It wasn't an Araki film, so there wasn't anything poetic about it.

It was before he was attached to it?
Yeah, it was a completely different director, completely different writer.

You've been in a lot of interesting movies. Is that by some grand design or it's just, "we got fortunate"?
That worked out, yeah -- really lucky. I mean, my whole thing is I act because it's fun and because I love it and because it's an art form and I feel something indescribable within me, you know? So if I read a script that I don't connect to, I'm not going to do it -- because it's not going to do anything good for me and it's not going to do anything good for that character. There's another girl out there that's going to be so much better than me because she's going to have tons of passion for this project. So, for me, unless I have passion -- unabridged passion for a project -- I won't do it.

Do you make the final decision?
Hell, yeah, I do.

I assume to have a team you listen to.
But I know if there was something -- like for press, for instance -- sometimes my publicist is like, "You should do this, it's important." And I'll be like, "I don't want to do it. That goes against my integrity." And so, she'll give me the reasons why she thinks I should, but at the end of the day it's like, "Even though I think it's important, it's up to you."

If I were you, I wouldn't do any press. I mean, this can't be something you look forward to doing.
Dude, you know what, though? Here's the thing. When I first started doing press for "The Descendants," I was like, "This is not fun. This is so whatever." But look at the life I'm living.

I mean, we're at Sundance.
There is no complaints. Yeah.

I spoke to you when you were promoting "The Descendants," and, yes, your answers felt very scripted as opposed to now.
That was like what I was saying like, I was like, "Oh my god, I don't want to do this at all."

It felt like everything you said, you had said 20 times earlier that day. You seem much more at ease now.
Totally. Well, I realized -- and this is just like in my personal life, too -- we have a set number of days to live, you know? Or like, whatever, breaths to breathe. And you've got to enjoy all of them, even in the moments where you're like, "I don't want to be here. I don't want to do this." Am I going to complain about it? No. I'm going to fucking make it fun [laughs].

You're going to hug people. You're going to hug strangers.
Yeah. Yeah, why not?

I can't believe "The Spectacular Now" didn't do better than it did at the box office.
I know. I think it's a movie that's going to grow. Like, I think it's a movie where 10 years from now, people are going to be like, "Remember that one film?" "No, I don't remember it." "You should watch it." You know? I think it's going to grow, especially as James' career progresses and as Miles' career progresses.

You and Miles should do even more movies together after "Divergent."
Oh, we will. Don't worry.

So that's a done deal?
Yeah, definitely. He's going to be my -- we always say, Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. You know, they were just good together, like always? Or who are the comedians who always do movies together? Drew Barrymore and what's-his-face?

Adam Sandler?
Sandler, you know? Like Miles is my team player.

I'd stick with Kate Winslet and Leo.
No, no, no. I just mean like --

Nothing against Drew Barrymore in this equation, but I don't think you want to be making "Grownups 6" in 20 years.
But just how they sort of -- how people travel together, Miles and I.

Leo and Kate is a great example.
Yeah. He's my Leo.

Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.



Sundance Film Festival 2014