Ever since The Descendants hit the film festival circuit this summer, people have been talking about the breakout performance of Shailene Woodley and how she’ll likely be a Supporting Actress Oscar contender this year. Fans of ABC Family’s Secret Life of the American Teenager were way ahead of the game in recognizing the 20-year-old actress’ talent. But after seeing her portray George Clooney‘s daughter as they prepare to take her mother off of life support and search for said mother’s boyfriend on the side, the rest of us will be getting onboard. Believe the hype, people.
“I saw a couple hundred girls for that part and she’s the only one who came close, in my opinion,” Descendants director Alexander Payne told TheFABlife. “I didn’t have an also ran. … She just came in and knocked my socks off. My mental model had been a young Debra Winger — that look, that fire and vulnerability in her eyes. I didn’t find Debra Winger, I found this gal. She has her own version of that package of fire and vulnerability. She’s going places. And she’s nice as pie.”
The feeling is mutual, apparently. “The set was so phenomenal, and I think it all goes to Alexander,” Shailene said. “He’s such a happy, phenomenal human being on this planet. And then George, obviously, who was never in his trailer, and always on set and never did makeup and no personal trainer. Was just the coolest, most down to earth guy you could ever imagine and I think it was those two that really created such a happy atmosphere. … It was a bunch of artists coming to work every day. Everyone came to set with the same mindset of gratitude.”
It certainly helps that Shailene instantly fell in love with Hawaii, where the film was shot. “I may be from L.A., but my heart is from Hawaii,” she gushed. “That was the four months of my life that I will always remember as a young adult, the four months that shaped me into who I am now.”
Shailene’s age and expressive face make her a perfect pick for many a blogger looking to fantasy cast the next big YA novel adaptation — we could easily see her in Jennifer Lawrence‘s or Lily Collins‘ shoes, for example. So we asked if she’d read any books she’d want to star in lately.
“No, actually!” she answered quickly. “Right now, I’m reading weird books that I wouldn’t want to be in because they’re all nonfiction, about really boring things. Right now I’m reading a book called Fats That Heal and Fats That Kill. I wouldn’t want to be in any of those films!”
Look back at Shailene through the years here: