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Video/Interview: 'The Descendants' star Shailene Woodley

(Lenny Gilmore/RedEye )
November 15, 2011|By Matt Pais | RedEye movie critic

Yes, she really asked George Clooney that.

“I was like, ‘Are you happy? Do you like everything you have?’” recalls Clooney’s “The Descendants” co-star Shailene Woodley. “And he said, ‘No one wants to hear you complain when things are going so well. But at the same time, sometimes I wish I could just go to a baseball game with my buddies and watch it in the middle of the crowd and not have to be in a special area.’”

Woodley, who has been known only for ABC Family’s “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” is about to get more recognition thanks to director Alexander Payne’s Hawaii-set film, opening Friday. The 20-year-old is getting early Oscar buzz for her turn as Alexandra, a rebellious 17-year-old who helps her dad (Clooney) track down the man sleeping with Alexandra’s mom, who's fighting a losing battle with a post-boating accident coma.

The L.A. resident tends to bubble over with genuine gratitude for Payne and her co-stars—and ramble a little—so it makes more sense to get to know her through a series of quotes from our recent interview at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

>> “We didn’t get any huge George Clooney pranks [on set] because it was such a family oriented environment … But we did get a lot of practical jokes. We got the fart machine—the fart application on the phone every now and then.”

>> “You know when you see something that you’re so passionate about or when you look at a piece of art that inspires you or you read a book and you just can’t stop thinking about it? That’s how it was with the script. I remember being so giddy on Page 10 and then not being able to put it down. And then reading it again.”

>> “For me I can’t land in Hawaii and within two seconds of getting off the plane [not] feel who I am and feel my heart for the first time in a while. I feel like we humans get so wrapped up in these materialistic bubbles that we’re so constantly living in that we lose sight of the fact that we are nature and everything has its time and its place and everything flows together. I mean there’s more chickens there than there are human beings. I think the abundance of oxygen and the lack of smog and the happy people strolling around and the laid-back atmosphere, I just become instantly centered and involved in the things that really matter in life. Like indigenous culture.”

>> “We did a lot of hiking in every single spare second, and kayaking and snorkeling and jumping off things we shouldn’t have been jumping off of and climbing up waterfalls and going on 10-hour hikes. I think one of my favorite memories is making a bonfire on the beach and just sleeping on the beach all night in a blanket.”

>> “This whole experience has already exceeded my expectations. Four months in Hawaii was the icing on the cake; this is the bing cherry on top ‘cause I think maraschino cherries are just nasty. And then [the Oscars] in a few months, I can’t even go there—I can’t even think about it because I don’t even know what to think. I‘m just waking up every morning with a smile on my face. I’m the luckiest person in the world. I’m in Chicago right now. So whatever happens happens, and whatever doesn’t happen is obviously amazing because I have all of this.”

>> “About my performance I think people are allowed to say whatever they feel like saying because to each his own. Every opinion is different. But one thing that I do say, it has nothing to do with my performance, is for me as a human being, I hope people see me as a nice person. And say nice things about me. Not because they’re trying to make up someone I’m not, but I want to be as genuine as possible. And I hope that other people see that as well.”

>> “Life has its ups and its downs, and I don’t ever really see them as downs because in the end you’re always really grateful for the experience, and it’s taught you a lot about who you are as a human being and it allows you to grow and expand your awareness and consciousness. So as a kid I’m sure I went through my angsty period at 14, 15, where I thought I knew everything and thought I was way more educated than my parents. And then quickly I learned that that was not the case by any means. I don’t remember specifically what I would do, but I just remember thinking in my head that I knew everything.”

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