Shailene Woodley & Theo James Talk ‘Divergent’ Book vs. Movie Differences & More!
As we told you guys back in May, Teen got to visit the set of Divergent in Chicago, and now we can finally reveal some of our interviews with the cast! That's right, we spent an action-packed day on set where we chatted with a majority of the cast — who were all SO awesome, BTW — and even got to watch Shailene Woodley and Theo James film a scene! In addition to that, we got to tour all over the set, see props, concept art, and much more. We have so much to share with you, but for the mean time, read below for our chat with Shailene, Theo, and the film's director Neil Berger!
Are you feeling pressure about being the next YA heroine?
Shailene: No, I think that if I thought about that I might go insane. It’s funny because it’s based on the book but the movie that we’re making is a lot different from the book in a lot of ways. So there seems to be a bridge or gap between the two. It’s hard to associate between the fan base, everyone is stressing about that but I don’t pay any attention to it. I’m so far removed from that world.
Theo: It’s true, you have to be because you don’t cant to be too influenced by what’s going on you want to be concentrating on the material obviously because that’s where the story is coming from. You also have to do your own thing, your own message, your own interpretation.
I interviewed Veronica Roth recently and she said that you Theo, most closely matched her vision of what she had written. Who would you say when you saw them in character for the first time matched what you imagined?
TJ: That’s a good question. I thought particularly with this the casting was really good, I know I’m supposed to say that. But I think these things can go one of two directions and I think A they made a really smart choice with Shai because she’s strong but then there’s an emotionality to her which is really endearing but not in a weak way it’s in a complex way. Then when I saw Miles I thought he was perfect for it because he’s not just a straight bad guy he has a complexity to him that you kind of like him a little bit as well. He’s not just this evil foil for making snarky remarks for Shai, he’s a more rounded character because he’s such a good actor and also because of good casting. Then Ray (Stevenson aka Marcus Eaton) was cool because he’s this big dude, he’s kind of dark, he’s like 6’5”.
SW: He intimidates you, you feel like he could actually slap you with his belt.
TJ: Sexually intimidating, yeah. No I just thought he needed to be, to have that kind of hold over Four’s character, he needed to be someone with formidable strength or something to him. Those are the three that are popping in my head.
Let’s talk about the fear landscapes, as of right now it’s only what we’ve read. The first one is a dog, is it going to be a real dog or a CG dog?
SW: That’s such a good question, I have no idea we haven’t done any fear landscapes yet.
TJ: It’s a real dog, we get to kill 10 and then the authorities cut me off.
How do you think the movie is different from the book?
SW: It’s different in the sense that obviously the book is what? 400 pages? The script is 90 pages and there’s 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 because logically I just didn’t line up.
TJ: I think also there’s some talk about age. I think the logic of it, the age is unspecified. I think for example Four, for him to have that experience as a leader and as someone of high skill that as he is, the jump for two years, that he joined two years ago and now he’s this fucking legend, I think it makes more sense that he’s been there a bit longer, only a few more years. But it means that he’s had more experience than these initiates who come in.
Some of the changes like in the book Four doesn’t actually say Tris is beautiful, it’s a lot more subtle he leans in and he’s trying to be more covert about it. Did it bother you or do you like that it’s different?
SW: It has to be different. I mean there’s some things about the book that I miss, 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 and so we had to pick the most important ones. So the arc of Tris and Four I don’t think is as…
TJ: You get less time to…
SW: Establish the certain small nuances. But it’s good guys don’t worry it’s good.
I’d like to know if that scene where Tris looks at Four’s back remains in the movie?
TJ: Yes, that scene remains in. That’s an important scene for us as well because it’s like..
SW: The turning point.
TJ: Yeah and 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. Then in the second book it happens as well they’re always kind of together, their love is very forceful but at the same time there’s all the other things going which I think is much more interesting. But that key scene that is in the movie.
SW: 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. There’s no drama I feel like it’s very real and very personal and realistic to how a lot of relationships are.
TJ: There’s probably drama but I know what you mean.
SW: Of course there’s drama but it’s not, it’s very different than the Bella/Edward relationship. They’re completely on the opposite sides of the spectrum.
TJ: Yeah I would say similarly for the character Four that I love, when he’s on the Ferris wheel and she says “are you afraid of heights?” and he’s like “yeah I’m fucking afraid of heights” but there’s a way to get around it and then he talks about it. He’s not so mixed up in his masculinity. He’s at home in his masculinity so that he can be vulnerable.
After reading the second book did that change the way you played this guy?
TJ: After reading the second book? I think so yeah, it’s not just so much changes it just adds. I think the best way to become a character is by osmosis as opposed to thinking directly about stuff. The more material that you have and understand and have a going in, then the more complex your character and the understanding of your character will be. So yes it did inform me but it just gave me a more rich history so I knew exactly where he’s coming from, the darkness, the problems, that kind of thing.
This is when Divergent director Neil Berger joined the conversation.
Is there a scene that you haven’t done yet that you’re intimidated by?
Neil: Yes they’re all intimidating in a way. There’s on scene, there’s the choosing scene, which is huge and has Kate Winslet and you know that’s just going to be a big wrestling match with 700 extras and a lot of really good actors, trying to make it all work. Then all in a really really tight too small space for them. Then there’s the final scene where you guys fight and just to do that in a finale and pull that off in a really great epic way. All of it, the fight and then how the diffuse the SIM at the end, and just to make that seem great and climactic.
How do you make this movie without knowing how the 3rd book ends?
NB: How do I do that? I know a little bit about it actually and I think just enough to know that we’re not off on the wrong path with any of the characters.
Neil what attracted you to this material specifically? And also what do you hope to bring to this film that will differentiate it from the young adult franchises that are already out there?
NB: Well I wanted to do it differently. 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 to 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. Going back to your first question, that was what I really liked about it, it was really about human nature, what are you made of? Who are you loyal to? Who are you? And I like that, I really liked her journey that she began as this person who didn’t know where she fit in. She had ideas of where she should be but is that something of a whim? Or is she hoping she’s something that she’s not? Then she really fills those shoes. So I liked that journey I felt like it was a true epic story, and I liked that those ideas were really tightly tied to the action.
It’s fairly violent too, obviously you are going for a PG-13 rating rather than R so are there certain things you have to tone down or imply rather than show straight on?
NB: Yeah I think some of the violence also is less about seeing a fist smash into a face or blood splatter. It’s more about the harrowing situation that you have to step into the ring for the first time and have to fight somebody when you have no business being in that ring. There’s a sense of violence emotionally, with her parents being killed, it’s less about how they die and the fact that they do die is really disturbing, upsetting, and intense.
How have you been approaching this movie visually?
NB: 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. 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. In a way even if you think about New York, even New York 80 years ago looks like what is it now. The style of the cars were different but it’s still four rubber tires on asphalt. So I thought it would be cool to shoot it like street photography but the streets are 150 years in the future. So to take that realness and bring it to all of it, to make it really immediate and intimate with the characters. Then also when you see the post apocalyptic movies there always very gray or blue there’s a bleakness to them and we didn’t want to do it like 1984 or Children of Men. We wanted to do it where she wants to be apart of the system, so if she’s buying into it, I want the audience to buy into it as well. They should want her to be apart of it. If it’s so bleak to start with then you’re like “you’re making a big mistake right from the get-go.” In fact when the whole society she wants to find her place in, then when she comes to Dauntless it’s liberating for her. So I wanted those places, the whole society and Dauntless in particular, to be kind of luminous. That’s why we're doing the lighting, the whole pit being made out of white marble instead of gray or black or brown stone, to make it luminous or buoyant in a way. So that’s a couple things we’re doing that makes it different from other post-apocalyptic movies.