Shailene Woodley did everything to avoid awkwardness when meeting Miles Teller in advance of shooting The Spectacular Now last year.
She had seen 2010’s Rabbit Hole and assumed her future co-star would be like his introverted character in the somber tale. So she sent a long pre-lunch e-mail as a conversation starter.
“But he showed up and was not introverted and was just this amazing life force,” says Woodley. “It’s not what I expected and it blew me away.”
The chemistry between the rising Hollywood stars will be on full display with Friday’s opening (in Los Angeles and New York; wider on Aug. 9) of The Spectacular Now. They play a high school couple working through young love — performances that already earned a Special Jury award for Woodley, 21, and Teller, 26, at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
“There’s certain things you cannot fabricate,” says director James Ponsoldt. “They have a real beautiful energy between them. I tried to put as much of them into their roles since they are both so honest.”
That honesty should strike a chord with teen fans as Teller’s seemingly free-wheeling character deals with commitment and abandonment issues and a growing alcohol problem.
“This isn’t high school, where people are singing all the time. You see life as it really is,” says Teller, who has partied in comedies such as Project X and 21 & Over. “Here you see the flaws.”
The imperfections are readily apparent, from pimples on faces to the odd sweaty armpit (“I love that,” says Woodley). Teller shopped at a thrift shop for his screen outfits, while Woodley wore simple blue jeans, and sports bras under her T-shirts.
“My big problem with coming-of-age movies is everyone looks so beautiful and fake. I literally wore no makeup,” says Woodley, shooting a look at Teller. “I think you wore more makeup than I did.”
Even a poignant-yet-awkward love scene, the first for both actors, reflects the realism.
“We almost want the audience to be uncomfortable watching it. Like they are invading our privacy,” says Woodley, who teases Teller about the flesh-colored thong he had to wear during the shoot. “But it’s my favorite scene in the whole movie, and Miles was a true gentleman.”
The easy banter the two display, both onscreen and off, is set to continue as both stars have just completed Divergent (March 21), the first in a potential franchise based on Veronica Roth’s best-selling novels. Woodley is the central character, Tris, while Teller plays Peter. They’re members of the same social faction, sometime rivals and possibly more.
“There is obviously some attraction there,” says Woodley. “Even in the fact that Peter puts Tris down all the time.”
“I think Tris is in love with me,” boasts Teller. “But I think every girl is in love with me.”
“That’s his fatal flaw,” says Woodley.
“But there’s definitely a strong relationship,” he responds. “And the fact that Peter hangs around for all the books (in the series), that says something.”
Peter appears in the second book, Insurgent, and reportedly the third, Allegiant, due out Oct. 22. That likely means the two will be showing off their screen chemistry for years to come.
“Miles and I are going to be doing a movie a year,” says Woodley.
“You mean like Insurgent and Allegiant, right?” asks Teller.
“No, I want to be your sister and your cousin and then another lover. I want to be your forgotten twin,” says Woodley. “I want to be your everything.”