Shailene Woodley

Shailene Woodley takes a break from the franchise to star in Gregg Araki's indie pic probing memory and grief


WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD written and directed by Gregg Araki, from the novel by Laura Kasischke, with Shailene Woodley, Eva Green, Christopher Meloni and Angela Bassett. A VSC release. 91 minutes. Opens Friday (October 24). For venues and times, see Movies.


Shailene Woodley is in New York City, on a noisy cellphone connection that makes it sound like she’s standing in the middle of Times Square. (I’m assured that she’s indoors, at least, so maybe she’s in a Starbucks in Times Square.)

Still, even surrounded by the chaos that comes with being the megawatt star of the Divergent franchise and this summer’s smash The Fault In Our Stars, Woodley is generous with her time – and incredibly patient with repeated questions about her work in White Bird In A Blizzard, the independent drama she’s made with Gregg Araki.

White Bird casts Woodley as Kat, a young woman in 1988 whose life is upended by the disappearance of her mother (Eva Green) and the inability of her father (Christopher Meloni) to cope. But it’s also about other things, like Kat’s emotional and sexual development and the slippery truths of memory.

“That’s something I loved about this,” she says. “I always love watching films where you leave the theatre going, ‘Okay, my life has changed. There wasn’t any apparent big message that was thrown in my face, but I can’t get this movie out of my head. It just won’t leave me alone.’ Those are the movies I like to watch, so when I read scripts [like] that, those are generally the ones I pull for.”

Woodley says she wanted to work with Araki as soon as she saw his 2004 drama, Mysterious Skin.

“I was so blown away by Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s performance and the movie as a whole, just how haunting and amazing and beautiful and different it was. It was another project that stayed with me for months after I’d seen it,” she says. “And since then I’ve seen some of his other films as well.”

White Bird In A Blizzard was shot nearly two years ago, while Woodley was in a cycle of smaller projects like The Descendants and the terrific young-adult drama The Spectacular Now. And as befits an indie, it was a really quick shoot.

“The first time I met Chris was when he came in and we started working together,” she says. “And the first time I met Eva was on the day we started our work together as well. Eva was only in town for about a week and a half. She came in, did her thing and left. There wasn’t time to build chemistry – we just had to jump right in,” she laughs.

Since then, of course, Woodley’s become the very bankable face of two major studio projects. The first of three Divergent sequels, Insurgent, opens next March.

“We just finished that one,” she says, “and then we start the next one in probably about six months. But other than that, I don’t have any other projects lined up.”

I ask if she’d consider using her newfound box office status to try producing something for herself, and even through our garbled connection I swear I can hear her shake her head.

“I don’t know how that works,” she laughs. “I haven’t had that experience yet.”

normw@nowtoronto.com | @normwilner

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