Silver screen starlet Willow Shields is not your average 14-year-old. I mean, how many kids hang out at New York Fashion Week and follow the work of Miu Miu and Christian Siriano like they’re playground crushes? “I like fun designers that take risks,” she says. It’s safe to say that her tastes are closer to those of a thirty-something culture vulture, but she still has time to hang out with BFF and The Hunger Games co-star Jennifer Lawrence.
Shields’s career began at the tender age of eight, narrating short film Las Vegas New Mexico 1875, alongside her twin sister Autumn and older brother River. Acting wasn’t always on the agenda though, she tells Wonderland. “So much of the film industry moved over to New Mexico for a while and that’s where I was living,” she explains. “We got really excited about the fact that there was so much going on. It was just a fun thing, but I started to really love it.” Shields says that there’s very little in the way of sibling rivalry, even when she got a part in the screen adaptation of River’s favourite book, Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games. “It’s funny because my brother was a big fan of the books, and I was in the middle of reading the first one when I got the email about the audition,” she laughs. “I was like, ‘Oh, that? I’m reading that right now!’ I flew through all the books just like everybody else, because they were so good. Then I auditioned.” Recording her first reading on tape, Shields was then flown to LA to meet the crew. “I did this one scene a couple of times, then the director told me in the room that I didn’t have to worry about auditioning anymore because I had the role. It’s kind of crazy, because I hear that that never ever happens. It was a really big deal.” It really, really was.
How did she celebrate? “I just had a nice dinner with my mum,” she says. “Filming the movie was the real celebration for me.” Just like her character Primrose Everdeen, the actress is mature far beyond her years. The saga’s third instalment (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One, out this month) sees Everdeen at her most mature. “You’ll get to really see the role-reversal between Prim and Katniss. You see Katniss start to fall apart from all the things going on in their world, and Prim is really there for her.”
“I think it’s really funny playing someone the same age as you,” she continues. “I’m really fortunate, because a lot of people don’t have the opportunity to grow with a character through four films. You uncover more things about that character, you find more things that you can try and relate to. She changes a lot through the series, just like I’ve changed a lot, so it’s really fun. I’ve grown up in a little bit of a spotlight, but it’s not too bad,” she says.A quick scroll through Shields’s Instagram feed reveals much about her interests: whether she’s posting photos of her favourite Smiths sleeves, her impressive camera collection (she’s an avid photographer), her thrift-store finds, or current literary loves (she’s reading Into the Wild at the moment), a strong sense of individuality comes across – something that has played a big part in her success.
“Over the years, Jennifer has given me a ton of advice about so many things, especially acting as she has been working since she was my age,” she says. “A lot of the advice has to do with being able to balance school with acting, and also she’s such a down-to-earth person. She’s like, ‘You have to be who you are’. She’s really into being herself and that’s what I love about her. It’s why everyone loves working with her.”With the end of The Hunger Games in sight (the second part of Mockingjay hits screens next year), Shields is set to start filming her lead role in A Fall From Grace this winter. A tense psychological thriller, it stars the Twin Peaks maestro David Lynch and is directed by his daughter Jennifer Lynch. “He is extremely talented, I’m definitely an admirer of his work,” Shields goofs about David. What’s more, rumours abound that she’ll be cast in Conversations With Andy, the story of a ten-year-old boy who turns to Andy Warhol for advice when he struggles with his parents’ divorce. “Every part is challenging, just in different ways,” she responds when quizzed about tackling complex roles, “but it’s always exciting, because I love a challenge. It’s not gonna be fun if it’s easy.”