‘Divergent’ producers tap Veronica Roth’s Dauntless power for sequel

July 22, 2014 | 6:00 a.m.
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Ben Lloyd Hughes, Zoe Kravitz and Shailene Woodley in "Divergent." (Summit Entertainment)

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Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Ben Lamb, Zoe Kravitz and Jai Courtney in "Divergent." (Summit Entertainment)

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Shailene Woodley, Ashley Judd, Tony Goldwyn and Ansel Elgort in "Divergent." (Jaap Buitendijk / Summit Entertainment)

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Theo James, Zoe Kravitz, Miles Teller and Ben Lloyd Hughes in "Divergent." (Summit Entertainment)

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Shailene Woodley, author Veronica Roth and director Neil Burger on the set of "Divergent." (Summit Entertainment)

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Theo James, left, and Shailene Woodley in "Divergent." (Jaap Buitendijk / Summit Entertainment)

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Shailene Woodley, left, and Theo James in "Divergent." (Jaap Buitendijk / Summit Entertainment)

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Director Neil Burger, left, Jai Courtney and Theo James on the set of "Divergent." (Summit Entertainment)

While the spring blockbuster “Divergent” doesn’t arrive on Blu-ray and DVD until Aug. 5, the first film based on Veronica Roth’s bestselling young adult book trilogy is available for digital download Tuesday, giving fans a chance to catch up with the dystopian adventure set in a future version of Chicago.

“Divergent,” which has earned nearly $275 million at the worldwide box office since opening in March, follows Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley), a young heroine where people are tested and sorted into five factions based on personality. Tris finds out she is divergent, meaning she has an aptitude for multiple factions and doesn’t fall neatly into one category — a dangerous trait in the rigidly divided society. She hides her divergence and decides to join Dauntless, the faction based on bravery, where she finds herself among a group of tattooed warriors.

Hero Complex readers can check out a clip from one of the special featurettes included on the “Divergent” Blu-ray and DVD release below, which showcases the physical training the film’s cast received to prepare for some of movie’s intense action sequences.

The success of “Divergent” has spawned plans for three sequels. Production for “Insurgent,” based on the second book in the series, is underway, with Robert Schwentke (“R.I.P.D.,” “Red”) taking the reins from “Divergent” director Neil Burger. The sequel, which tracks Tris’ journey as war between the factions looms, is being shot in Atlanta and Chicago, with “Insurgent” set to open March 20, 2015.

"Divergent" producers Lucy Fisher and Doug Wick attend the film's Los Angeles premiere on March 18, 2014. (Frazer Harrison / Getty Images)

“Divergent” producers Lucy Fisher and Doug Wick attend the film’s Los Angeles premiere on March 18, 2014. (Frazer Harrison / Getty Images)

“Allegiant,” the third and final book in Roth’s series, will be split into two films, with “Allegiant — Part 1” to be released in theaters on March 18, 2016, and “Part 2” on March 24, 2017. The final two movies will see the young protagonists in a world they no longer recognize, where they find truths about the past and future.

Behind all four films are producers Lucy Fisher and Douglas Wick (“The Great Gatsby,” “Memoirs of a Geisha”). Hero Complex chatted with Fisher and Wick earlier this year about the success of “Divergent,” the growing stardom of the franchise’s young cast and what lies ahead for “Insurgent.”

Hero Complex: Has the success of “Divergent” been what you expected?

Douglas Wick: You’re always nervous, because it’s such a long journey, a long haul, and you’re very emotionally attached, and you’re hoping it has a great life.

Lucy Fisher: You’re just hoping people see it.

HC: And you’ve been working on “Insurgent” even before “Divergent” was out the door. What’s it been like working with a new director in Robert Schwentke and new screenwriters?

DW: It’s been exciting. The first process was great, and we were in the unusual circumstance — and in the movie business kind of a fortunate one — of preparing the next movie while we finish the first. So everyone had the opportunity to see a rough cut of the first, and see all these young actors who are creating amazing characters, so you could go, “OK, now that that character’s alive and working, what other facets of their character do you want to explore? What else would be exciting and interesting to discover in this new world that we’ve created?” It was actually very fun.

Shailene Woodley, author Veronica Roth and director Neil Burger on the set of "Divergent." (Summit Entertainment)

Shailene Woodley, author Veronica Roth and director Neil Burger on the set of “Divergent.” (Summit Entertainment)

HC: How is working with Robert different than working with Neil?

DW: They’re both very sort of distinct artists. “Divergent” is very much Neil’s take on Veronica’s world, a very distinct and successful take…. “Insurgent” is a much different movie. You have a much more complicated Tris. You have a woman who’s been through a lot of loss, and she’s got to find an angel kind of strength. She’s got to make peace with a world that’s in much more turmoil than the one in “Divergent.”

HC: So what made Robert the right choice to direct “Insurgent”?

DW: A few things. First, we listened to a lot of very talented filmmakers about how they would approach “Insurgent,” and Robert came in with both a really great gut sense of Tris’ emotional journey, and he was really fascinated by her recovery and triumph from post-traumatic stress, and he also has great visual instincts. We were very stimulated by his ideas. One of the most exciting visual possibilities is always the fear landscapes, and he had really extraordinary visual ideas. That’s always been one of Veronica’s great creations, that allows you to sort of play in the world of “Inception.”

Maggie Q and Shailene Woodley in "Divergent." (Summit Entertainment)

Maggie Q and Shailene Woodley in “Divergent.” (Summit Entertainment)

HC: In addition to Tris and Jeanine, “Insurgent” introduces the characters of Johanna and Evelyn. Most of the major leaders in the society are women.

LF: Yes, that’s what happens when you have a young, strong, female author.

"Divergent" author Veronica Roth on the film's set. (Summit Entertainment)

“Divergent” author Veronica Roth on the film’s set. (Summit Entertainment)

HC: You’ve mentioned before that you think Veronica has a “golden gut.” What do you mean by that?

DW: What I mean is that when you do an adaptation, you keep going back to the book whenever you’re lost, and what we always find with Veronica is that she’s an incredibly intuitive writer, so usually everything is kind of in the right place at the right time. She kind of almost thinks in archetypes. There’s some work that’s very slick on the surface, but there’s nothing underneath it. So when you have narrative problems and you go back to it as a resource, it doesn’t help you that much. And Lucy and I got to know Veronica anew as we kept going back to “Divergent,” back to “Insurgent” when we were stuck, and we kept finding that her impulses were really solid. The intuitive journey of Tris in “Insurgent” is such a powerful, clear journey of a warrior traumatized by great loss, trying to find their way, and kind of finding power and wholeness. And at the same time, she’s got that unbelievable craft to also make the love story completely part of that journey. As Lucy always says, you get the guy you love by being the best version of yourself.

LF: You’re Cinderella, you get the guy, but you also get him by being brave. But going back to Robert, Veronica talks about this much more eloquently than we could, about the theme of the book being going from being broken to being mended.

HC: What are you most proud of from “Divergent”?

LF: I would say the cast. We absolutely adore the cast. We think that Shailene and Theo are mesmerizing separately and together, and together they do something that you rarely get to see anymore, which is just explode with chemistry, and you want more, and luckily we can deliver more in the next movie, though some of it’s more combative. And then just to have this ensemble of newcomers that each one is so talented and funny and smart and individual and specific, that was a great crew for us to have. We think every single person that was in the movie is going to be a star. Kate Winslet was a dream to be able to work with, and the adult cast, we think each one is perfect. So for me, I think that the way that they brought the story to life and made the people be real and grounded and made you care about them even though they were in a world that was not exactly our world, you were with them so much.

HC: What’s it been like to watch this young cast sort of catapult into the public eye?

DF: Very, very fascinating. We had early dinners and we were talking about what it was like when they got the part, and one of the actors said that he lived in West Hollywood, and when he heard he got the part, he went up onto the roof of his building and cried. It was a very touching group — by the way, they are also really all fall-down funny, so barbs would follow any confession like that, but everyone in the room had a sense that if things went well, all of their lives were going to change…. I think Lucy and I, doing this for so long, see that fame is kind of a bucking bronco that throws a lot of people off, and only the strong survive. So it’s both a gigantic opportunity, and it’s always a challenge.

LF: Ansel [Elgort] has already starred with Shailene in “The Fault in Our Stars,” and Jai [Courtney] got “Terminator” and Miles [Teller] got “Fantastic Four,” so our punishment wasn’t worth the crime, ha ha! Our punishment for identifying and seizing people early was a horrible schedule to try and make it all work for the second movie, because obviously we wouldn’t want to stand in their way of getting to be leads in other movies. On the other hand, Miles and Jai are so much fun, you’d like to have them in every scene that you could. And the rest of them I think are all going to take off. I think that they’re all pretty much grounded kids, too. They have nice families. It’s the only premiere in which we met everybody’s mother.

Kate Winslet and Theo James in "Divergent."  (Jaap Buitendijk / Summit Entertainment)

Kate Winslet and Theo James in “Divergent.” (Jaap Buitendijk / Summit Entertainment)

HC: And then you also had some veterans, like Kate Winslet.

DW: She’s great too. You can imagine for that young ensemble, when she came, the vibe in the whole soundstage, you could just feel her presence. And then of course she had this unbelievable empathy, having been basically their age when “Titanic” occurred. She was such an extraordinary role model to see someone who had used all of her success to continue to do great work and have a grounded, good life…. It was also a wonderful ensemble because also, in addition to Kate, Tony Goldwyn had a totally paternalistic relationship with Ansel, and again for these young actors to see — Tony’s such a completely talented, classy human, so they were very lucky in just getting amazing adult role models. And Ashley [Judd] too, who’s had so much fame, and is just a really, smart, committed human.

HC: What lessons from “Divergent” are you taking with you into “Insurgent”?

DW: Well, I think you see things that work, and because they work and because they’re sort of alive, you want to do more with them. So I think we got incredibly lucky with the chemistry between Shailene and Theo, so as you go in sort of understanding your assets, that’s a huge asset for the movie to really explore the next incarnation of their relationship. I think everyone is very much aware that Kate is an Uzi, so you want to fire it at more targets. And I just think that the talent of some of the ensemble, like Caleb (Elgort), now that they’re kind of alive and compelling, you want to know more about them, and you want to have a story that reveals more of their nature.

LF: Also, we did learn that there are so many subplots in “Divergent” that we would have liked to spend more time with each character, but we didn’t have enough time to spend more time with each character. But as Veronica would have it, some of the characters died off. So now there’s time.

– Noelene Clark | @NoeleneClark | Google+

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