IAR INTERVIEW: Shailene Woodley Talks 'White Bird in a Blizzard'

Thursday, 23 October 2014 09:45 Written by  iamrogue
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IAR INTERVIEW: Shailene Woodley Talks 'White Bird in a Blizzard'

With this Friday's White Bird in a Blizzard, Shailene Woodley continues her year of exceptional performances in films based on novels.

The acclaimed young actress kicked off 2014 in blockbuster fashion starring in Divergent, the first in a series of franchise pictures based on a bestselling series.  Over the summer, she stuck the landing playing as in the adaptation of the enormously popular The Fault in Our Stars.

White Bird in a Blizzard is adapted from the book of the same name by Laura Kasischke, but it steps away from the Young Adult tone of both Woodley's other 2014 efforts.

She stars as Kat Connor, a teen experiencing a sexual awakening in 1988, just as her beautiful mother, frustrated by her daughter's blossoming and years in a loveless marriage, suddenly disappears without a trace.  As Kat attempts to track down her vivacious mom, she juggles her repressed father, her hunky but dim boyfriend, and the detective investigating her missing mother.

It's the latest from acclaimed indie auteur Gregg Araki.  With Woodley maintaining the film's center, White Bird in a Blizzard also stars Eva Green (Sin City: A Dame to Kill For), Christopher Meloni (Man of Steel), Shiloh Fernandez (Evil Dead remake), Gabourey Sidibe (Precious), Angela Bassett (American Horror Story), and Thomas Jane (The Mist).

IAR Managing Editor Jami Philbrick was on hand for the White Bird in a Blizzard press conference in Los Angeles, speaking with Shailene Woodley about stardom, how she chooses a project, the awkwardness of onscreen intimacy, nudity, playing Kat, and the themes of White Bird in a Blizzard.


Since her breakout film role in The Descendants, the erstwhile star of The Secret Life of the American Teenager has seen her star rise consistently, but the young actress isn't daunted by her nascent stardom.

"I do not have any social media, and I do interact with people in that way," she said.  "People who I have met are always very generous and kind. I do not really have any crazy fan stories."

While many actors on the rise follow a rigorous plan and carefully cultivate an exacting image, Woodley's choices reflect a more eclectic sensibility.  In fact, her filmography is so varied that it's natural to wonder just what attracts her to a role.

"It is sort of an instinctual decision. When I read a script, I look at butterflies or I do not," she said.

"There is obviously lots of factors that go into choosing a project, whether it is a director I want to work with or a screenplay that just affects me on such a deep level or certain actors," Woodley continued. "But at the end of the day for me, no matter how much I might love the director and love someone’s body of work, if the screenplay is not there or does not elicit a certain physical response or a physical passion to do something, then I probably will not do the film. But never say never. You never know."


From The Doom Generation to Mysterious Skin to Kaboom, Araki's work invariably deals with sexuality, particularly the experience of young people waking up to their complex feelings.  In White Bird in a Blizzard, Kat's nascent sexuality is at the forefront and after the relatively chaste onscreen relationship of The Fault in Our Stars, one scene in particular could prove surprising to audiences.

"The thing about intimate scenes in movies is that it is not like it is a sexy environment or that you are really heated in the moment. It is a sort of very clinical action. I really loved that scene," said Woodley. "When I first read the script, that was one of the butterfly moments because you do not ever see that unfold. I think that is something that some young people do. I definitely think it is something a lot of young people think about.

"Every time we did it, it was a little bit different," she said of a sequence she shares with Thomas Jane as Detective Scieziesciez. "I love that scene."

"To prepare for a scene like that, you just have to learn your lines, show up and see what happens. There is not really a lot of preparation. Thomas Jane is so good, and he is so fun to work with because he is very much in the moment," Woodley explained. "Thomas was very much in his body and very natural in his movements. I love the fact that it is creepy, but you kind of love it. You feel weird watching it, but it is kind of intriguing. I love that because there is something so unique about that. You do not often see that in cinema."

"I felt like it was very truthful. I felt like it lent itself to this movie. It was not exploitative," she said.


As for appearing nude onscreen for the first time, Woodley said that White Bird in a Blizzard's verisimilitude made a decisive difference, explaining, "There is something that bothers me about seeing people have intimate scenes in films and the woman has clothes on and full makeup and the man has boxers. That is just not how it works. Intimacy is a natural part of being a human being. Especially when you are young, you are exploring that part of yourself for the first time."

"I think that a lot of young films that have young people in it, do not often explore that factor because of various reasons," she said. "But I do love Gregg’s films in that way because they are truthful and daring, especially this one."

Any risque material in the film is a reflection of character, Woodley said. "Kat, even though she is an adolescent, is extremely mature and strong and confident in a way you do not see in coming of age films. I think part of that lends itself to the fact that her parents were not emotionally available for her when she was a child so she had to age herself quickly and realized that for her own survival she had to be her own parent," the actress explained.

"As we evolve and as we grow, the things that you suppress always seem to find you. I thought it was interesting, the juxtaposition of a teenager having so much anger and disrespect for her parents in a way and really tried to be someone else that they were not. When you see her at the university, you realize that she is subconsciously becoming her mother and subconsciously has her father’s traits. That is something we often do. The things we try to run away from wind up running towards us," Woodley concluded.

White Bird in a Blizzard opens in select cities Friday, October 24th.


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