Shailene Woodley is best known for her role as Beatrice Prior in the DIVERGENT films. Recently it was announced that the final film in the DIVERGENT series would be released as a TV movie. Judging by Woodley’s reaction at the time (she had no idea it was even announced), things are not exactly going well for the franchise. Woodley, however, best shines in the roles she’s portrayed outside of the DIVERGENT series. Take THE DESCENDANTS for example, where she not only held her own alongside George Clooney, but gave a critically acclaimed performance. In the Oliver Stone bio-pic, SNOWDEN, she adds a new depth to the story even in a supporting role as Lindsay Mills, Edward Snowden’s girlfriend.
Woodley revealed that though she wasn’t overly familiar with Stone’s previous work, she did have a great amount of respect for him. When she heard Stone was set to direct Snowden, she reached out to him in a slightly unconventional way.
“Anytime somebody… decides to tell a story that is outside of the narrative that is on mainstream media, I am fascinated by it and immediately respect [them],” she said. “Even if it is a conservative story that doesn’t resonate with me… It’s someone who is at least thinking differently and is willing to take the time out of their lives to produce something that empowers us with new knowledge. When I found out he was making this movie, I wrote him a letter that said ‘first and foremost I just want to thank you. Thank you for making a film that is going to change the lives of a lot of people’.”
The film is presenting the story of Edward Snowden with new depth and highlights Ed’s relationship with his girlfriend Lindsay. Though she did not get to meet the real Lindsay until three months after filming had commenced, she did what she could with what she had to work with.
“Before we began, Oliver [Stone] and I sort of based this character off of a 2-dimensional screen. She had old Twitter posts and old Instagram and blog posts. Because she’s a self-portrait photographer, there was a lot of her photography online. But there’s again only so much you can do with a 2-dimensional facade of who someone actually exists as. As we all know, social media can put out a whole world that actually isn’t your own world. So, we based the characters loosely off of that and off of stories that we heard via Ed [Snowden],” she explained. “ I know that Oliver had met Lindsey before I had while he was writing the script. A lot of it was just trying to stay truthful and authentic. Because there weren’t that many scenes with Lindsey, it was about just being authentic in those moments to progress the story along, as well as show the juxtaposition between Ed’s character and her character.”
So, what was that juxtaposition? Everyone knows that Edward Snowden is a computer genius. He has a knack for numbers and logical thinking but, where does Lindsay fall in that relationship? Woodley did quite a bit of character work in terms of figuring out Lindsay’s place in Ed’s life.
“You know, the thing that is interesting to me about their relationship is that seemingly they’re two completely different people. She is this explorer of the world, this wanderlust-er. Liberal. Curious. Constantly finding issues to dissect them to figure out how to approach them from a new perspective. He is a conservative patriot, works really hard for his government, listens to orders, and doesn’t necessarily think outside of the box too much in terms of the rules and restrictions of his job,” Woodley said. “ I think the way that they were able to understand each other was that they spoke the same language, even though the worlds around their language were different. So, when he came home every night and said ‘I can’t share with you’, I think that there was a certain amount of trust that she had in him to know that he would share something if it would actually impact or make a difference to her life.”
With the political repercussions of speaking out about whether you agree with what Snowden did or not, it can be difficult to express yourself when you’re a public figure like Woodley.
“My opinion about Edward Snowden didn’t change. If anything, it strengthened its previous position. I think that’s one of the biggest reasons that I’m so grateful that Oliver made this movie, and I’m so proud to be a part of it. When you have an international issue, especially when it revolves around a human being like Edward Snowden, everyone creates strong opinions. But those opinions are based on a one-sided coin,” she explained. “If you ask, people are very heated to say ‘he’s a traitor’ or ‘he’s a hero’, but no one actually knows why he did it. That was something that… I never once considered. It was a great eye-opening experience.”
“We’re so quick to judge, especially when everyone is talking about one narrative. These are all external narratives. What this movie presents in an unbiased way is that it doesn’t say ‘believe this’, ‘believe that’. It says ‘here is what actually happened’. Obviously it’s a dramatization, but here’s what happened. Here’s why he chose to do what he did.”
SNOWDEN opens in theaters on September 16.