Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin find themselves out to sea in the real-life drama Adrift, showcased at CinemaCon 2018 this week. 

At only 26 years old, Shailene Woodley has earned enough clout to get a movie green-lit – even such an ambitious project as Adrift, filmed almost entirely on open water.

“One of the most talented, collaborative and conscientious stars working in Hollywood today, she he has more than earned her place as a female star who audiences trust and respect and emotionally connect to,” is how STX Chairman Adam Fogelson described the Divergent, Fault in Our Stars and Big Little Lies actress in introducing exclusive footage of the film at CinemaCon.

Shailene-Woodley-in-Adrift

Adapted from Tami Oldman’s memoir, Red Sky in Morning: The True Story of Love, Loss and Survival at Sea, Woodley was first introduced to the story by personal friends in Hawaii before enlisting her Spectacular Now and Divergent co-star Miles Teller to star opposite.

Having already approached director Baltasar Kormakur, when Teller ultimately dropped out, he was replaced by Hunger Games and Pirates of the Caribbean star Sam Claflin.

“When director Baltasar Kormakur came to us with Shailene attached to an incredibly powerful script based on a true story about love and faith and the power and determination of the human spirit, of course we said yes,” added Fogelson.

An ambitious US$35 million production, shot in Fiji and using an insane amount of practical photography set on water, Kormakur described a gruelling six-week shoot, filming every day at sea.

“It was very challenging and I remember the first day the weather was wonderful and we were sailing and taking selfies and the crew were laughing that they were even being paid for doing this – but an hour later we were carrying buckets of puke from the galley.”

Despite having starred in Pirates of the Caribbean, to his credit, Sam Claflin reveals, “When I was approached to do this movie, I had absolutely no sailing experience, so it was an eye-opening experience from start to finish. I quickly learned how unpredictable the ocean is. It was a roller-coaster ride from the very get-go. But to be in one of the most beautiful places in the world with great people, I have very fond memories.”

Based on the true story about a couple who face one of the most catastrophic hurricanes in recorded history, Woodley describes reading the script for the first time: “It’s a survival story but it’s much more about true love and human will in the face of any tough situation. Any time you’re put in an extreme experience, what happens to your psychology? What happens to your physicality? What happens to you?

“So it was really exciting to witness two people stripped to their core, and how they get through one of the most difficult situations you can possibly imagine,” says the actress, who played George Clooney’s daughter in The Descendants.

Delighted by the fact they pulled off a movie filmed entirely on open water, she says, “I consider that a real feat in filmmaking. We filmed in rough waters and we had a crew who was willing to do that and bring cranes out in these giant swells. It was an entirely unforgettable experience.”

Adrift is in cinemas on June 28.