Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller on Playing Lovers, Enemies, Celebrities

The actors are a couple in 'The Spectacular Now' but on different sides in 'Divergent'

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Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller in 'The Spectacular Now'

In The Spectacular Now, opening August 2, Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller take on the roles of two high-school students finding their way in love, life and academia. Next spring, they’ll share the screen in Divergent, an adaptation of a very different YA novel, in which they play enemies rather than prom dates. They sat down with TIME to discuss making that switch (and the very different project they’d like to collaborate on in the future).

TIME: So you guys just got back from Comic-Con, where you were on behalf of Divergent. How did it compare to your expectations?
Miles Teller: The big hall was pretty impressive. There were like 6,000 people in there and there’s a giant screen behind you. I’ve never been a part of a really big movie, and when the sound effects come in it’s like BOOM. It’s a big, big movie. But I thought it would be weirder, personally.

Weirder?
MT: Like, I thought it would be weird. And it really wasn’t. I was on the convention floor and I saw a couple cool costumes, a lot of zombies. But I’ve been to music festivals that were weirder—and I really was looking for it.

Shailene Woodley: I was looking for weird too and I was really bummed out. I saw R2-D2, which was pretty fancy, but apart from that…

MT: I’m surprised you know who R2-D2 is.

SW: I’m a Star Wars freak. I thought I was Princess Leia in kindergarten and first grade.

MT: This is really funny to me because she doesn’t even own a TV.

(MORE: Richard Corliss reviews The Descendants)

How does doing a movie where you have you have this incredible group of built-in fans compare to doing something like The Spectacular Now?
MT: Where you have to win them over?

Yeah.
SW: Divergent does have a huge fan base, which is really fantastic for the film and the book. But I think the concept of having fans, for me personally or for Miles personally, or anyone, feels bizarre and somewhat intimidating and doesn’t feel like something that I choose. I don’t choose to necessarily engage with fans. I think that we’ve sort of crossed this rocky bridge — rocky waters?

MT: A bridge can be rocky. It can be made of stone.

SW: — a rocky bridge of allowing strangers to infiltrate our private lives, and that’s not something that I feel comfortable with. With Spectacular Now, it’s really exciting because we get to promote the movie as Shay and Miles. With something like Divergent, I feel like there’s a limited ability to promote it with your full self because you don’t want lines to get crossed. You don’t want complete strangers to feel like you’re more than just somebody in a movie.

But you’re both on Twitter, which is sort of about engaging with fans.
SW: I started tweeting because my best friends all have Twitter and they don’t live where I live. I don’t tweet anything about the industry, though. Mine are all “go vaginas!” and “love yourself!” I just learned what the “@” was.

And yours is about Swamp People, Miles.
MT: Yeah, I was just talking to my publicist about how I want to go along on a ride. I don’t know if they do guest stars. I don’t even think I’m there yet, to where I could guest star.

SW: You could guest star on Swamp Wars and I’ll guest star on Top Chef.
MT: Swamp People. You’re mixing Whale Wars with Swamp People. Although Swamp Wars sounds like a great show too. I’d watch that.

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So what’s it like to go from playing a couple to playing enemies?
MT: What’s nice is that there was a scene Shailene and I were filming in Divergent and it just wasn’t working at first. We’re comfortable enough to talk about what’s going on. In the first book, our characters initially start to meet each other, but I think our characters will have a lot more to do with each other in these next few.

Did you have to do a lot of physical training for Divergent?
SW: In The Spectacular Now, our characters were so young. And working out at that age isn’t really a priority. At least it was never for me in high school. So we didn’t go out and try to achieve six-pack abs for when our shirts came off. We thought it would be cool if it was very naturalistic. But in Divergent I kept feeling Miles and I was like, “Buddy, you’ve got some muscle going on.”

MT: She’s, like, “You didn’t have this!”

How does The Spectacular Now’s picture of high school compare to your own experiences?
MT: I think it’s pretty right-on. I grew up in a pretty small town in Florida, an hour north of Tampa. Georgia and Florida are pretty similar.

SW: I grew up in a small town outside of L.A. and I thought it was pretty accurate, as well, that world.

Did you bust out your Footloose dance moves at your actual prom, Miles?
MT: It was funny, in high school we did the play Footloose and I played the same character. So I guess, yes.

SW: I was in Oliver Twist as a kid. I was a Fagin’s boy.

MT: I was in Fagin’s gang too! If someone can write a musical that will film for three weeks in November, Shailene and I will do it.

SW: If it’s a good script.

MT: It doesn’t have to be that good.

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