Where did Shailene Woodley — the 20-year-old star of ABC Family’s “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” — learn how to play drunk for her role as a rebellious teen in “The Descendants”?
From George Clooney.
“George told me the night of that scene that the key to being drunk is to pretend like you’re not drunk,” said Woodley at the Four Seasons Hotel in mid-October. “When you’re drunk and someone says, ‘Ha, you’re wasted,’ you say ‘I’m not drunk — I’m not even buzzed’ even though you’re belligerent.”
In the Alexander Payne-directed film Clooney plays Matt King, a father who is attempting to juggle his family and a multimillion-dollar real estate deal after his wife falls into a coma from a boating accident. Woodley plays King’s daughter, Alexandra, who reveals to him that her mother was having an affair. Like just about every Clooney film that gets released these days, there is already Oscar buzz surrounding the movie, and also its lead actress, Woodley.
Asked about the Oscar talk, Woodley called it “bizarre” and insisted she doesn’t put much stock in it. She said she isn’t too concerned about the talk getting her hopes up either.
“I have zero expectations,” she said. “Anyone can say anything to me and it won’t matter, because I’m in control of where I put those expectations. And right now, I don’t have any. I’m just waking up with a big smile on my face. This experience was beyond what I imagined.”
It wasn’t that long ago that Woodley was a regular high school student. Well, other than the fact that she starred on a TV show.
During her junior year at Simi Valley High School in Simi Valley, Calif., Woodley, then known for her school spirit and participation in choir, began playing pregnant teenager Amy Juergens on “The Secret Life.” She said her friends were supportive of her TV career but continued to treat her the same. “They couldn’t care less,” Woodley said. “They just knew me as Shai.” Really, the only people who brought up the show at school were freshmen. “Every now and then a freshman would yell ‘Amy’ across the quad,” Woodley said, “but someone would yell back ‘Shut up, freshman.’”
“Secret Life” is now in its fourth season of a six-season contract with ABC Family. While Woodley has seen her profile rise over the years (and will likely continue to see it rise after the release of “The Descendants”), she insisted she isn’t very interested in being a celebrity.
“The F-word is ‘famous,’ the C-word is ‘celebrity’ and S-word is ‘star,’ in my book,” Woodley said. “The other three words are fine — you can say those. But ‘famous,’ ‘celebrity’ and ‘star,’ I think, are misused. Unless you’re George Clooney and can’t go to a baseball game without being smothered, you’re not allowed to use those words (to describe yourself).”
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