‘Fault in Our Stars': How Shailene Woodley and an Oxygen Tube Re-Define Female Leads

'Fault in Our Stars': How Shailene Woodley and an Oxygen Tube Re-Define Female Leads

CinemaCon 2014: “Divergent” star hails film for an unflinching look at cancer and a girl

“The Fault in Our Stars” pushes the boundaries for a female lead with its unstinting look at a terminal cancer patient, Shailene Woodley told theaters owners at the annual CinemaCon trade show on Thursday.

Posters and trailers for the adaptation of John Green's best-selling teen weeper do not shy away from showing Woodley's character with an oxygen nose cannula, she noted. “It reimagines the definition of female leads in film,” said Woodley, who is currently in theaters as an action hero in “Divergent.”

It's a project that was deeply personal to the rising star, one she said taught her to look at life differently and to recognize that “all is fleeting.” She joked she would have been a production assistant on the picture if it helped it make it to the screen. Woodley previously made her mark as a troubled teenager in Fox Searchlights’ “The Descendants.”

Also read: Love or life? Join the conversation inspired by ‘The Fault in Our Stars’

Based on the teaser that Twentieth Century Fox screened for exhibitors, the picture has the potential to be a tween version of “Love Story.” It tells the story of  a passionate romance between an acerbic teen (Ansel Elgort), whose cancer is in remission, and the young terminal patient (Woodley) he meets and falls for in their support group. Even the brief footage shown at the convention had viewers wiping tears.

“It's an amazingly powerful story,” Fox Filmed Entertainment Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos told exhibitors, noting the film signals “our business isn't only about franchises and visual effects extravaganzas.”

Woodley looks beautiful in the trailer even with her hair cropped short and tubes in her nose. But it is a far less sanitized look at the ravages of cancer than say “Love Story” or “Terms of Endearment,” which wrung the disease for its emotional impact, but let the chemo appointments take place off screen.

“The Fault in Our Stars” debuts on June 6, 2014.

  • Kissellian

    I'm sorry, but the trailer for this movie looks exactly like a “sanitized look” at cancer. None of the actors look sick. Woodley's hair is cropped; it hasn't fallen out. For anyone who has actually seen a loved one suffer from a terminal disease knows they don't look like Hollywood stars doing it.

    • Ash

      The trailer may be sanitized by your standards, but the book isn't (and I don't believe the movie is either)! Hazel is not currently undergoing chemo or radiation, so she should have hair. Gus is in remission, and he has a prosthetic leg (which will be in the movie). Another character Isaac goes blind. They may not be puffy from steroids, but there are numerous parts that are faithful to reality. Don't denounce it just yet!

      Also, the support group is actually made up of teen cancer survivors, which I think is pretty awesome.

    • snl89

      As Ash said, don't let the trailer fool you… not that it's a totally miserable, depressing story where everyone is just sick and dying the whole time, but it really doesn't skirt around the real toll such an illness takes on a person (and their loved ones), physically and emotionally.

      The thing about Hazel's particular case is that, for the most part, she is in this in between state where she is indeed very likely only ever going to get worse and die young, but she's on a medication (which doesn't actually exist in real life, but for purposes of the story) that remarkably has been working on her temporarily to keep her cancer from growing. So her lungs “suck at being lungs” as she puts it, and she's not going to go into remission, but at the same time, it is possible she could keep trecking along in exactly the physical state she's in for… well, that's the thing, even in the story itself nobody knows how long, because the medication she's on is very new and doesn't work for most people.

      My point in explaining all of that is just to say that, in terms of what she'd physically look like at the time, it's not necessarily that she actually fully looks like she's dying, you know? I mean she describes in the book her own perception of herself having what she feels are super puffy cheeks from the steroids and a “cankle situation”, but again, that's her own perception so she probably sees those things as more obvious than they actually necessarily are to anyone else. Plus those are things that are kind of difficult to fake anyway.. I mean there's prosthetic makeup, but I feel like in a case like this story that would just feel obvious and distracting from the story itself which is far more important. But yeah, aside from maybe the puffy cheeks, she's not on the standard cancer treatment regimen, so she wouldn't necessarily have the hair falling out, and she wouldn't necessarily be super intensely thin or sickly looking at the time, because again, she is trekking along.

      I won't get into the details of when the typical cancer stuff WOULD come into play, because that's spoilers, but suffice it to say that stuff isn't what's featured in the trailers.

    • Jessica M.

      In the book, she is described as having a pageboy haircut, because her radiation and chemo treatments were over and she was only taking a drug that works to keep the water in her lungs down. She lost weight for the movie and is made to appear as though she isn't wearing makeup. Even John Green pointed out that it's amazing that they would even have a poster with the female lead showing a physical disability (the tubes in her nose). So of course, they aren't going to make her bald, but they have made efforts. I myself have had a loved one die from cancer, so I do know what it looks like.

      • Everlark

        Totally agree. Also, I think she genuinely isn't wearing any makeup. She didn't wear any in The Spectacular Now, except in the prom scene, because she thought her character wouldn't wear it, and I think the same is true of Hazel–I don't think she'd waste her time on amleup. I think Shailene was a really good choice for the part, as far as I can tell.

        • Everlark

          Ah sorry makeup! Stupid autocorrect.

  • Reina

    Unclear grammar in the last sentence? Can't tell if the author means “The Fault in Our Stars” or the “Terms of Endearment” when they talk about a movie “which wrung the disease for its emotional impact, but let the chemo appointments take place off screen”