If you’ve seen the full-length trailer for “Divergent,” you understand why we’re so excited about the dystopian romance based on author Veronica Roth’s best-selling books. Roth’s Chicago-set trilogy about a society where teenagers must choose Factions (communities) based on their character strengths (Erudite for the intelligent; Amity for the friendly; Candor for the honest; Abnegation for the selfless and Dauntless for the brave) is so popular the final book “Allegiant” broke publishing records on Oct. 22 by selling more than 455,000 books in its first day.
Moviefone had the chance to visit the “Divergent” set in Chicago, and aside from realizing just how ridiculously attractive the entire cast is, here are 10 things we learned about turning the young adult phenomenon into a movie. Stay tuned for even more coverage of “Divergent” as we get closer to its March 20 release date!
1. The filmmakers have a respected pedigree
This isn’t a production by Hollywood upstarts hoping to get in on the YA page-to-screen trend. Oscar-winning producers Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher of Red Wagon Entertainment have produced prestigious films like “Gladiator,” “The Great Gatsby” and “Memoirs of a Geisha.” The producers selected director Neil Burger, who has a history of making both action films (“Limitless”) and character-driven dramas (“The Illusionist.”)
Burger says he connected with the story and didn’t want to make just another teen movie. “I mean that was one of things that I was just like ‘Is it going to be another one of these movies?‘ Some of which are really good, but I wanted something different. We’ve seen a lot of post-apocalyptic movies; we’ve seen these other young adult movies. So I just thought that there was a way to do it in a much more cinematic way, to tell it visually, and also to tell it in a more real way.”
2. Shailene Woodley (Tris) and Theo James (Four) have sizzling chemistry
As the new trailer makes obvious, the two leads have an undeniable chemistry. While every line they say to each other in the book didn’t make it into the screenplay, the two leads made a point of saying the Big Stuff is there, and it’s fabulous.
“I think their relationship in the book is slightly different, but obviously there’s only a certain amount of scenes that we can play in the movie,” Woodley told us. “So the arc of Tris and Four I don’t think is as full of the certain small nuances. But it’s good guys! Don’t worry it’s good.”
James confirmed that the romantic scene when Tris inspects Four’s tattoos (which the trailer teases) is as pivotal in the movie as it is in the book. “Yes, that scene remains in. That’s an important scene for us as well [as fans],” he said.”The great thing about their relationship at the beginning is that they’re not suddenly in love. I mean obviously they kind of are as soon as they see each other but they have this fractious thing because he’s trying to remain some sort of authority and she’s discovering herself so they are kind of back and fourth.”
3. Boys hit girls. Girls hit girls. Boys hit boys.
Just like in the book, the Dauntless Faction is known for its merciless initiation process, in which the transfer newbies must fight, fight, fight –- and gender is not an issue when it comes to sparring. As one of the story’s baddies, Miles Teller’s Peter had to really sell beating up Woodley’s Tris. “I would never hit a woman for the record,” Teller laughs. “With Shai there’s a certain level of comfort, which is great.”
Zoe Kravitz’s Christina has a memorable fight scene against the much larger and stronger Molly (Amy C. Newbold): “It was pretty intense. It was really tiring doing it over and over again. Like I said, Molly is twice my size, or Amy, so she throws me around and beats the sh-t out of me in this scene… At first they were like the fight sequence was just me being beaten and I’m like ‘Come on give me a few punches please.'”
Newbold, on the other hand, told us she loved the fights: “My fight with Shailene was the first day and then my fight with Zoe was the second day. So I was simultaneously super nervous because I didn’t know what to expect and it just ended up being so fun. I found out I really love to fight.”
4. It’s not like “The Hunger Games”
Although the cast and crew understands why “Divergent” is often compared to other movies based on popular young-adult franchises, they were quick to point out the many differences between the setting, the characters and storyline.
Newbold stresses how in “Divergent,” the violence isn’t supposed to be gratuitous, it’s about demonstrating your propensity for bravery: “In ‘Divergent,’ all of the initiates have chosen this and in that way they feel that it’s a characteristic that they are close to — this idea of bravery — and it’s something that resonates with them. So I think that’s a little different than your name being pulled out of something and being thrown into this arena where you have to kill.”
5. It’s not like “Twilight” either
Woodley stressed how Tris and Four are not Bella and Edward. “One of the main aspects that attracted me to Divergent was ‘their‘ relationship. It’s not one of those teenage dramatic relationships where it’s love at first sight and she’s swooning over him and he’s there with her and then he withdraws and she has to chase him,” she said. “There’s no drama [or love triangles.] I feel like it’s very real and very personal and realistic to how a lot of relationships are. It’s very different than the Bella/Edward relationship. They’re completely on the opposite sides of the spectrum.”
WATCH the trailer for “Divergent” (VIDEO)
6. Dystopian Chicago really is Chicago
Unlike “The Hunger Games,” which takes place mostly in unidentified rural regions of a dystopian North America, “Divergent” is set firmly in Chicago, so the producers decided to shoot in the Windy City as well.
“We wanted to do something that was more real, not raw in a gritty way, but raw in an immediate and intimate way. So one of the things we wanted to do was shoot on the streets of Chicago and we didn’t want to do CG skylines or digital landscapes,” Burger told us. “So I thought it’s set in Chicago and Chicago is this monumental place, why not use that? That’s the skyline, it’s already here, give or take a few building that might’ve been lost in the war. It’s pretty much the same. So the idea of shooting a movie that’s set in the future but on the streets that are familiar.”
7. Book fans need to prepare for differences between the book and the film.
Every director of an adaptation struggles with pleasing the hardcore book fans and creating a film adaptation that’s simultaneously faithful and fresh. Woodley says she hopes book fans will understand the differences.
“Obviously the book is what — 400 pages? The script is 90 pages, and there are some things in the book that logic-wise wouldn’t make sense in a theatrical way, so we had to switch the way we are presenting it,” she explained.
For example, in the movie it’s obvious that Four is more than two years older than Tris, as it’s written in the book. James thinks this was a necessary change: “I think for Four to have that experience as a leader and as someone of high skill that he is, that he joined two years ago and now he’s this f—ing legend, I think it makes more sense that he’s been there a bit longer, only a few more years.”
8. The young cast bonded over boot camp and concerts.
In addition to working out together for hours each day before shooting started, the young cast also got the chance to hang out at Chicago venues. Cast-member Christian Madsen explains how Zoe Kravitz hooked everybody up with tickets to see Erykah Badu. “Day two after I got here we went to see Erykah Badu at the House of Blues. Zoe got everyone tickets… I just remember stuff like that and we were dancing. No one really knew each other but by the end of the night everyone was into each other.”
Being her father’s daughter, Kravitz says it made sense to take everyone to the show: “It’s the first thing I do when I go to a new city; I want to go see music,” she tells us. “I was like ‘Dude, Erykah Badu’s playing!’ No one was excited as I was, and I was like ‘You don’t understand, she’s amazing!’ So we got everyone to go. Theo and Christian, the next couple of days like every time I would go to their apartments they would be listening to Erykah Badu.”
9. There’s a strong “Hunger Games” connection
Zoe Kravitz, who plays Tris’ fellow Dauntless transfer BFF Christina, is the daughter of Lenny Kravitz (Cinna in “The Hunger Games”) and the real life bestie of “X-Men: First Class” co-star Jennifer Lawrence aka Katniss Everdeen. Kravitz reached out to Jen to see what she was getting herself into.
“I spoke to Jen more about it. She was just like ‘Do it!‘ and super supportive,” Kravitz told us. “It’s obviously changed her life quite a bit for the best, she’s killin it. It’s crazy I never expected to be in a big franchise film I was surprised when I did ‘X-Men’ and then ‘Mad Max’ and now I’m doing this. It’s really crazy for me.”
10. Everybody Loves Shai
The consistent refrain from every single person we met on the set, from the producer and director to the costume designer and stunts coordinator is that Woodley is a rare combination of talented, humble and generous. Perhaps that explains why she hits it off so well with her co-stars. Miles Teller, who plays her “Divergent” antagonist Peter, was previously her love interest in “The Spectacular Now,” and Ansel Elgort, her brother in “Divergent,” plays her first love in the upcoming “The Fault in Our Stars.”
Teller reveals about his friendship with Woodley: “Me and Shai have an interesting relationship, but that’s love you know? For a couple of months you’re so in love with that person and sometimes you’re on edge a little bit… If I could work with Shai once a year for the rest of my career than I think we’d be doing some good stuff together.”