Spotlight on the Stars: Shailene Woodley

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For this week’s spotlight piece, I wanted to take a look at one of Hollywood’s best young women. Without question, there are few better out there than Shailene Woodley, a rising star who literally only has the sky as her sole limit. She’s impressed pretty much from the very start, moving quickly up the industry food chain from a young supporting player to a franchise lead. During that time, she’s also managed to become a bit of a lifestyle icon and a genuine person who stands out in the crowd. All those things and more make her a real A-lister and one well worth this sort of tribute today.

Woodley got her start on television with various guest starring roles. Programs like Crosing Jordan, The District, Everybody Loves Raymond, Jack & Bobby, The O.C., Without a Trace, and others gave her a beginning, which of course any young actor or actress needs. Luckily for her, she’d only need a few years before landing a starring role on the show The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Besides raising her profile, it also caught the attention of filmmaker Alexander Payne. The rest, as they say, is history.

Her introduction to film came in Payne’s movie The Descendants, where she announced her presence with quite a bit of authority. Playing George Clooney’s troubled teenage daughter, Woodley immediately received awards attention, leading to speculation that she’d receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. While that didn’t come to pass (which was considered a mild surprise and a snub), she did get a Golden Globe nomination, cementing her as someone to watch out for. She was officially on her way to the A-list with just one theatrical credit to her name. That’s really something…

She’s since managed to consistently deliver better and better work in projects like The Fault in Our Stars (which I’ve written about on this site multiple times since its release) and The Spectacular Now. Both how showcased her in awards worthy performances. The latter fell short last year, but this year she’s very much in play for Best Actress, which of course would be her first Oscar citation. Some consider her a long shot, but I think she’s much closer than people realize.

Woodley is I’m sure probably best known for Divergent, the franchise she leads and helped make a hit out of. It’s a decent enough movie, raised up by her strong work. It’s the start of a whole series of films, building up to next year’s Insurgent and then the two part Allegiance finale. By the time that wraps up, she’ll likely be a superstar and perhaps even an Oscar nominee, if not better than that.

This week, she shows a whole new side to herself (both literally and figuratively) with the coming of age story White Bird in a Blizzard. Not only is it the most sexually explicit work of her young career, it’s also the quirkiest, requiring her to give a performance that she’s yet to give before. As you’d expect, she’s excellent in the role, though frankly she’s excellent in everything. This is another case though, like with Divergent, where she raises up the project by being a part of it. That’s hard to do at an early age, but she seems more than capable of doing it, and doing it really well.

Overall, Woodley is clearly one of the best young actresses that the business has to offer, with her star only further on the rise. Going forward she has those Divergent sequels (Insurgent, Allegiant: Part 1 and Allegiant: Part 2) along with whatever else she chooses to pursue next. My hunch is that she’ll become a go to actress for big time filmmakers in the same way that Jennifer Lawrence is now. Woodley is going to continue to become a bigger and bigger star, trust me. Those Oscar nominations aren’t far off now, even if this year she’s hardly assured of that first one. That being said, when all is said and done, she won’t just be a nominee one day…she’ll be a winner too.

Stay tuned for another look at an A-lister next week!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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