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Saturday 18 November 2017

fame

You know from the minute Shailene Woodley appears on screen in The Descendants, which opens today, that she's going to be a big star. She's utterly convincing as George Clooney's rebellious teenage daughter who, on the surface, doesn't care about the fact that mum has fallen into a coma.

2012 is clearly going to be the 20-year old Californian's year.

"I'm trying not to think about the crazy press coverage," she tells me when I catch up with her in a London hotel.

Woodley seems wise beyond her years. Having made her screen debut 12 years ago, and starring in TV dramas such as Without A Trace and The District, Woodley nabbed an MTV Best Performance nomination for the 2004 TV movie A Place Called Home before landing the lead role in The Secret Life Of The American Teenager.

With The Descendants, though, Woodley is now tasting fame.

"Working alongside someone like George Clooney gives you a lesson in how to handle yourself in this business," offers Woodley. "So if fame does actually arrive at my door I'll just have to think to myself, 'Hmm, what would George do?'.

"He's such a centred, happy guy, and he makes everyone around him feel that way too."

In the movie, we're introduced to Alex as her father picks her up from boarding school. Drunk and playing golf in the dark, her response to the news is a simple "F**k mum".

Plainly, there are issues afoot. Did Woodley decide how dark and angry to play Alex?

"I really didn't have to make any decisions," she answers. "Alexander's [Payne] screenplay was so brilliantly written that it guided us through the whole film. As actors, we just had to show up every day with our lines memorised. The words led the way, and naturally evoked the emotion.

"I got to be as messy as I wanted to be and Alexander loved it -- so many films today cover up the messiness."

Woodley has been a busy young lady ever since her 1999 TV movie debut, Little Girl. And it all started by accident. Kinda.

"It was a complete accident," says Woodley. "I was five, I saw a theatre class and I joined. I had three rules growing up -- just stay the person that I am, do good at school and have fun."

Talent, charm, beauty . . . there's got to be Oirish blood in there, right?

"Well, I'm wearing a lot of make-up," says Woodley, "so, that would explain the beauty. As for the Irish blood, I'm sure there is. I'm from California, so, we're all mutts over there . . ."

See George Byrne's review page 35

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