In the new movie "The Fault in Our Stars," rising star Shailene Woodley plays Hazel, a teen with cancer who experiences first love with a similarly ill boy in the adaptation of John Green's bestseller.
"It's not about cancer. It's about first love and loss. It's about appreciating moments and not taking things too seriously because nothing is guaranteed in life," Woodley says.
Woodley fell in love with Green's novel. "It changed the lives of millions and millions and millions of people," she says. The actress, 22, corresponded with the author to thank him for writing the book and to say "it would be an honor to audition" to play his heroine.
She chopped off her chestnut mane for the casting process and committed herself to the book's principle that sentimentalizing people because of their illness also dehumanizes them.
To portray a character with a terminal illness honestly, she said, "you pretend to be a normal human. Cancer doesn't define a person. For Hazel, I didn't think, 'I'm playing a girl with cancer.' I thought, 'Omigod, I'm playing a girl who's falling in love for the first time.' "