Shailene Woodley on "Adrift," the true-life story of survival at sea

Shailene Woodley talks new movie "Adrift"
Shailene Woodley talks new movie "Adrift" 06:59

After earning Golden Globe nominations for her performances opposite George Clooney in "The Descendants," and with Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon in the HBO series "Big Little Lies," Shailene Woodley now stars opposite an even more formidable force: the Pacific Ocean.

Her new film, "Adrift" (which opens in theatres on Friday), is based on the true story of Tami Oldham Ashcraft, who endured Hurricane Raymond in the Pacific Ocean in 1983. She battled 40-foot waves and survived at sea for 41 days before being rescued.

Woodley did her own stunts on the film, ninety percent of which was shot on the open ocean off Fiji.  "It was remarkable – being in the open seas and being in the open element is so rare because we're used to soundstages and green screens," Woodley told "CBS This Morning" on Monday. 

Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin face disaster at sea in "Adrift." STX Entertainment

"Every day we just put into perspective what this woman went through in her life.  It wasn't easy. But it's worth it. We got lucky. I love the water and am a strong swimmer, and [co-star] Sam Claflin as well. The whole crew was willing to play ball."

Woodley also had to learn to sail for the film. "I knew nothing about sailing beforehand. I don't know that I'd ever choose to go out on a sailboat alone, but if I had to, [I could]!"

"Adift" was based on Ashcraft's 2002 book, originally titled "Red Sky at Mourning," and now republished by HarperCollins. Despite the trauma of her ordeal, Ashcraft continues to sail to this day.

"A lot of women say, 'Oh, it's a woman versus nature story.' I like to say it's a woman working with nature," Woodley said. "That which caused her the most pain in her life, which is the ocean, is also that which helped her with her life. That forgiveness, that she's been able to reconcile or work with in her own mind and thought and heart, is what has allowed her to sail today."

Sam Claflin and Shailene Woodley in "Adrift." STX Entertainment

Woodley said it was the love story component that grabbed her. "And also, when it's real, it raises the stakes. As an audience member you watch it, and I think in this day and age of big movies and a lot of fantastic things that aren't real, it's hard to grasp a relatability factor. And for me when I watch something that's real, it just immediately reminds me of my own life and how lucky we are to be alive, and [it] puts everything in perspective."

Actress Shailene Woodley. CBS News

She said there was a lot of "self-inflicted pressure" upon her for playing a real-life character. "Not because Tami put any pressure on me at all," she said. "But we really wanted to make this for her. We wanted to pay tribute to her story, their story. …

"For me what was so powerful [about the story], I'm just such a sucker for love. It was the love that aided the survival. And without that love, survival may have not existed. And so I think this film does a beautiful job of explaining how that occurs. Yeah, who doesn't love love, and who can't relate to love?"

Woodley was also asked about her HBO series "Big Little Lies," which is currently in production on its second season, expected to premiere next year. When asked what audience could expected to see, she demurred, but said, "I think they'll respond to the second season because the producers and writers and everyone in the show aren't afraid to go there and talk about domestic violence and talk about things that happen to most people on this planet and yet very rarely get told in mainstream media and in cinemas and in shows. So, I think people just continue to feel like they're not alone in their stories."

To watch a trailer for "Adrift" click on the video player below.

Adrift | Official Trailer | In Theaters June 1, 2018 by STX Entertainment on YouTube

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  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at and