Shailene Woodley opens up about a serious health condition she has faced that caused her to say "no to a lot of projects ... because I physically couldn't participate in them"
Shailene Woodley for the Hollywood Reporter
Credit: Sasha Samsonova

Shailene Woodley is discussing a major health concern she has faced, one that forced her to turn down roles because she "physically couldn't participate in them."

The Last Letter from Your Lover actress opens up to The Hollywood Reporter in a new cover story, getting candid about an illness she has struggled with but is now "on the tail end of." Woodley, 29, previously revealed she was "very, very sick in her early 20s," though she hasn't shared much about the condition.

"It was pretty debilitating. I said no to a lot of projects, not because I wanted to but because I physically couldn't participate in them," Woodley recalled. "And I definitely suffered a lot more than I had to because I didn't take care of myself. The self-inflicted pressure of not wanting to be helped or taken care of created more physical unrest throughout those years."

"I'm on the tail end of it, which is very exciting, but it's an interesting thing, going through something so physically dominating while also having so many people pay attention to the choices you make, the things you say, what you do, what you look like. It spun me out for a while," she added. "You feel so incredibly isolated and alone."

The Big Little Lies star described what it's like suffering from a condition that isn't externally observable to others: "Unless someone can see that you have a broken arm or a broken leg, it's really difficult for people to relate to the pain that you're experiencing when it's a silent, quiet and invisible pain."

Shailene Woodley for the Hollywood Reporter
Credit: Sasha Samsonova
Shailene Woodley for the Hollywood Reporter
Credit: Sasha Samsonova

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Woodley also shared what she learned from the health battle.

"It made me learn the incredibly difficult life task of not caring what people think about you very quickly. The more I paid attention to the noise that was surrounding me, the longer it was taking my body and my mind to heal because I wasn't focused on myself, I was focused on an image of myself via the lens of everyone around us," she said.

Back in April 2020, Woodley told The New York Times about her health struggle, saying at the time, "I haven't spoken much about this yet publicly, and I will one day, but I was very, very sick in my early 20s. While I was doing the Divergent movies and working hard, I also was struggling with a deeply personal, very scary physical situation."

"Because of that, I said no to a lot of opportunities because I needed to get better, and those jobs ended up going to peers of mine who I love," she added. "They went on to a lot of success."

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Though Woodley continued to work, she worried whether she would ever be in a place again where her health wouldn't affect the projects she was able to take on.

" 'Am I going to survive what I'm going through right now and ever be healthy, or even have the opportunity to work on projects I'm passionate about again because of the situation I'm in?' " she remembered thinking. "I was in a place where I had no choice but to just surrender and let go of my career, and it brought out this negative voice in my mind that kept spinning for years and years afterward."

"Now I'm on the other side of it, thank God," said Woodley last year. "A lot of the last few years has been about focusing on mental health for me, and it's a slow process. But because of that work, I feel very grounded and rooted in who I am and very clear about everything in my life, whether it's my career or my relationships or my own internal worth. I feel very grateful to have walked that line of fire, because now I know what I don't want to ever go back to."