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Several years ago now, Hollywood film studio Summit Entertainment finished the Twilight films, and its producers were looking for another series of novels to adapt. The Hunger Games series was already taken, while several other recent movies based on young adult fiction - Beautiful Creatures, The Mortal Instruments and Vampire Academy - had done poorly as films. The studio decided to move forward with Divergent, a successful  series of books written by Veronica Roth. It is expected to be a blockbuster, with plans already in the works to film the subsequent books in the series, as soon as (hopefully huge) box office results are in for Divergent

The book is about a future version of Chicago, now divided into five factions. Each faction is based on a single human characteristic, including Selflessness, Peacefulness, Honesty, Bravery and Knowledge. But when our heroine Tris (Shailene Woodley) is tested, she is told she has multiple qualities, selfless, knowledgable and brave. As a result, she is “Divergent” from the single quality factions, which is not a good thing in her world. 

By the way, in case you are wondering, DIVERGENT is actually a word that can be found in the dictionary. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, it means “the acquisition of dissimilar characters by related organisms under the influence of unlike environments.” When you see the film, you’ll get it! Also, by the way, check out a “Diverging Diamond Interchange” if you care to see the supernatural in real life. –the editor 

Divergent

“I’ve always thought of Divergent as an indictment of myself because the virtues are selected based on how I would form my personal utopia,” book author Roth told Dish recently. “If I were arranging a utopia, it would be a world in which everyone holds themselves accountable and is responsible for their actions. These are the virtues I would choose, but then in the process of writing the book, it was one of seeing that I would just be a terrible god of the universe. Just don’t do it. Don’t give me that responsibility. That’s kind of where the world and all those virtues come from, just from a very personal place.

 

Tris’ heritage comes from the Selfless society, but she is now faced with a choice between that or two other factions. “I really admire Tris’ sense of selflessness,” actress Woodley declared. “I know that she sort of grew up with that and it was ingrained into her at a very young age, but I think that it is a trait that we could use a lot more of in the world today, and I think that, coupled with the bravery that she’s forced to call upon, makes for a really profound, complex human. I really found her admirable in that way.”Director Neil Burger welcomed the chance to play in Roth’s world, and portray the cracks in its seams. “I felt like it was a universal story about where do I belong?” Burger said. “Who am I? Who am I loyal to? Am I loyal to my family? Am I loyal to myself? What am I really willing to go out on a limb for. I liked all those ideas and I thought that they were in her book and really tightly tied to the action, to what happens. Then I felt like it expanded out to something much larger which was ‘how do you keep a society together?’ In the beginning it seems like they’ve figured it out. They’ve got this five faction system which is kind of a cool idea, and they seem to be living in peace and harmony because of it, and then it all starts to fall apart. I liked how the character of Tris goes  through all that.”

Tris crowd ridingTris chooses to join the Dauntless faction, representing bravery. There, she meets a rival in Peter, played by Miles Teller (by the way, it’s rumoured that Woodley and Teller are dating). Teller and Woodley co-starred in the Sundance hit The Spectacular Now, and Teller has been cast as one of The Fantastic Four. 

There were a lot more than four in the cast of Divergent. “This was interesting because it’s rare, for me anyway, it’s rare to be in such a big group,” Teller said. “It’s a lot of guys all about the same age, and all the characters have their own storyline, but at the same time, for a lot of this stuff, we’re part of this initiation. We’re a part of this Dauntless training program.”

He continued, explaining, “So that was cool. It really reminded me of high school theater, when you’re all the same age, you’re playing dads, moms, this and that, but you do have that kind of ensemble feel. Usually movies, if you’re acting as that guy at that age, you’re kind of the only one, but for this it was all of us there, and we all went up and started training together and sweating together. It was a lot of fun.” 

Filming DivergentWhile they were filming Divergent, Roth got to see her world come to life as she was welcomed onto the set. “The scene that felt most familiar was the ferris wheel scene,” Roth said, “because it was the ferris wheel that is in Chicago. I actually wrote about that ferris wheel in the past. So they were climbing the ferris wheel on the ladder that I researched to make sure it was there. It’s like ‘yeah, this is exactly right.’ A lot of it felt very familiar because, as Neil said, it’s very faithful to reality. I was trying to think of pivotal scenes that had been cut the other day, and I was, like  ‘I don’t really think I can remember any [mistakes]  .’” 

Even for someone who didn’t imagine or create the scene, shooting the ferris wheel scene was still a thrill for Woodley to perform. “There were a lot of good days, to be honest, but the ferris wheel day was pretty special. It was a night shoot and we climbed this ferris wheel for 12 hours, or 13 hours straight, In the middle of the night. It was also the full moon and the first super-moon of the year, which I’m such a geek over. It was so beautiful, and we got to watch the moon go across the sky. It was just a magical moment in life, and how often do you get to climb a ferris wheel? I never do.”

Divergent testing

With Roth on set, Teller took advantage of her presence to prank his cast mate. “Veronica came on set one day. We all met her for the first time, and Ben Lloyd-Hughes (who plays Will) goes back to his trailer at the end of the day and there’s a balloon and a card in there,” Teller shared. “It says, ‘Dearest Ben, it was such a pleasure meeting you. You’re such a lovely young man. I would love to get a drink and talk further about your character. Love, Veronica.’ And a phone number. Well, the phone number was my buddy’s phone.”

Lloyd-Hughes should have known it was too good to be true. His character doesn’t make it through the first film, and he got his hopes up. “Ben thought his character was coming back to life, and I felt really bad because he was so excited,” Teller recalled. “[Ben thought,] ‘Veronica really liked me and I think maybe Will’s going to have a spinoff.’ And then I felt bad, because it wasn’t true. 

Shailene Woodley shot to fame in the ABC Family series The Secret Life of the American Teenager.  She was nominated for an Oscar for her role in the film The Descendants. But the futuristic action of Divergent was a brand new challenge for her. In many scenes, the world wasn’t real. Woodley performed in front of a green screen, and the set was constructed digitally. 

Training for Woodley“Green screen acting is by far way more difficult than human interaction so that was a big learning lesson on this movie,” Woodley shared. “It was really fun. I’ve never done a movie of this scale before, with themes this big, in a world that’s completely different from the world we live in today, so a lot of it was challenging for me, I found. Because I had to erase my pre-conceived notions of how II was used to acting in movies, which is generally reacting off of somebody else, and creating a new world, and adapting my style of artistry to the style of this movie. Veronica originally created such an amazing world, and then Neil visually brought it to fruition in a way that I could have never imagined it. We’re so lucky to be pieces in the puzzle of this dystopian future.”

Teller and WoodleyReuniting with his former Spectacular Now co-star, Teller had to create a different relationship with Woodley in Divergent. He joked about the fluctuations in their on screen chemistry. “Well, this movie’s just a continuation of our last movie,” Teller joked. “It’s just you’re in love one minute and then the next minute you’re out of love;  you fall in and out and in and out of love. No, Shailene’s a great actress and for my character’s love interest, there are only a certain amount of actresses maybe, that you get a chance to work with. I’m lucky that it’s been Shailene for two of these movies. I think she’s one of the most talented actresses around, and it’s easy. She’s very pretty and we’re comfortable with each other.”

Divergent Training

As Hollywood came down with a bad case of book fever, a lot of young stars began auditioning for many popular movie franchises based on novels. Woodley made the rounds before landing Divergent. “I did audition for Hunger Games back in the day and Jen Lawrence actually helped me with Divergent,”  Woodley said. “I still have yet to meet her, but I did ask her about her experience with Hunger Games, and how her life has changed going from small independent movies to something as big as Hunger Games. She gave me really beautiful advice, just saying how much she appreciated it, and how much it’s changed her life for the positive, in positive ways. She really helped me on this journey initially.”

Teller saw the Twilight franchise through his friends’ eyes. “I had a buddy, or two, that was in the Twilight franchise and they said that your life does change,” Teller said. “I think Shailene is kind of realizing it for the first time. It’s big for all of us, but for Shailene to really be the face of this franchise and see the big poster and see how big this thing could get. You obviously have no idea, but if it does go like some of these other franchises have gone, you are trading in a lot of your personal life. There is going to be strange people taking pictures of you and it does change. But at the same time you want your work to be seen. It’s a trade-off, but I think we’re all happy to be a part of Divergent. I think it’s something that we’ll look back on with a lot of good memories.”

If Divergent does mean the end of her private life, Woodley feels it will be worth it. “I think that the whole anonymity thing is a very interesting concept,” she said. “I think that if you lead the life that you want to live, and you are the person that you want to be, then there’s really not a lot to be afraid of. There really aren’t a lot of negatives because I think you can create a life outside yourself that this industry is not able to infiltrate, a life inside of  yourself that nobody really has access to. I’m just excited for it.”

Divergent opens March 21. A sequel titled “Insurgent,” based on the second installment in Roth’s series, is already in the works for a March, 2015 premiere.

 

 

  

www.Dishmag.com / Issue 156 - September 7460
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