Behold the glamour, Hollywood star-trackers: Woodley spent her Friday night hunkering over a pot for hours in her Venice rental, waiting for the marrow bones she’d bought at the butcher’s to boil down. She finished up the last of it for breakfast this morning.
“I was laughing on the way here because I was worried I had beef broth breath,” admits Woodley. She doesn’t, but the soup must be doing her some good. In flowy linen overalls and a loose cream-colored T-shirt that slips off her shoulders, Woodley appears relaxed and engaged, if a little tired in the occasional moment when her thoughtful responses peter out into silence. She easily springs back to life when the topic turns to her favorite preoccupations, few of which have anything to do with movies. She’s just as fascinated by the powers of galangal (Thai ginger), cramp bark (for PMS), or meditation—she kicks off every morning with a little zazen—as she is with whatever legendary director she happens to be working with (at the moment, it’s the famously intense Oliver Stone on the upcoming Edward Snowden biopic) or what projects she’d like to do next (a “big, stylish musical”—who knew?).
As Ansel Elgort, her co-star in The Fault in Our Stars, explains it, “Shailene appreciates the simplest things: farmers’ markets, hikes, hanging out with friends. I don’t think that’s ever going to change. She couldn’t care less about the spotlight, or going to the Hollywood party and being cool. She’s very real that way.”
If there’s one standby that gets trotted out about actors as proof that they’re not raging narcissists, it’s the classic “she’s grounded” or “she’s real” comment, coming from co-stars or parents or, even more biased than a mother, an agent. But the truth is that Woodley does seem to be the rare actress who, according to Elgort, “is different in this great way but totally normal.” What he’s tapping into is exactly what’s made Woodley the go-to performer for some of the strongest coming-of-age films in the last five years, including The Spectacular Now, The Fault in Our Stars, and the Divergent series, which sealed her as an unlikely action hero, especially to the young women who clamored around the best-selling dystopian books by author Veronica Roth. In March, the second installment, Insurgent, hit theaters, reinforcing Tris’s paradoxical ability to kick Erudite ass all while seeming like the kind of girl who, if she lived in our world, might lull herself to sleep watching Taylor Swift videos on her cell phone.