Coming to theatres and IMAX March 21st is director Neil Burger and Summit Entertainment’s highly anticipated film DIVERGENT from the best selling three book series by first time author Veronica Roth. The books have been atop the New York Times Best Sellers list since 2011 and as of October 2013 has sold more than 455,000 copies. Something tells me once the movie comes out that number will skyrocket!
The second book INSURGENT is currently in pre-production with a release day of March 2015. The final book ALLEGIANT will be in bookstores October 2013 with the final installment in theatres March of 2016.
DIVERGENT is the story of Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley), a young woman who lives in a world that divides people into groups based on human virtues. The factions are Dauntless, Abnegation, Erudite, Amity and Candor. Dauntless are brave and test their own limits but highly disciplined. Abnegation is selfless and peaceful, Erudite are intellectual and value knowledge, Amity is love and kindness and finally Candor which values honesty and say what they think.
But Tris learns she is a Divergent, meaning she doesn’t belong to any one group. Although born into the Abnegation she sees Dauntless as being free, which is what she seeks. At the choosing ceremony, which is where aptitude decides where one will live, Triss chooses Dauntless yet fears for her family.
Immediately she is drawn towards Four (Theo James) and their story together begins. She also discovers that Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet) is on a mission to destroy all Divergents!
Recently I had the opportunity to meet two of the DIVERGENT cast. Ben Lloyd-Hughes as Will who is in Dauntless and drawn to the bravery of the group and becomes friends with Tris. “He is a fountain of knowledge with so much information”, says Loyd-Hughes.
Also, Christian Madsen as Al is a ‘gentle giant’ and feels strongly for Tris as they are both outsiders of the group. Madsen says of his role, “Al is very shy, a searcher whose trying to find who he is and very quiet.”
Thanks for joining us today guys!
Both: Oh absolutely!
Do you feel the books stayed true to your characters?
CM: I think that goes back to when we first read the script together as a group and we wanted to stay as true to the book as possible. One of the most important things about Al [his character] is to keep the friendships between Will and Tris because it’s like high school and with this close-knit group going through those same challenges.
BLH: The great thing about Neil as a director is that when we were rehearsing three weeks before shooting he was so open to our ideas. He asked if there was anything in the books that we loved that we would want in the script that was a conversation we had. I thought it was amazing that he thought there would be important things to keep for us.
CM: Neil would shoot one day and go away coming back with re-writes or change certain things to be more like the book. Or we’d have these rehearsal processes where we wouldn’t necessarily act out the scene but instead talk about it and what we wanted from it. He was so open and hands on and as an actor that’s your goal to find a director that works with you and takes you seriously.
Working with such a big cast, how was that for the both of you?
BLH: I was fantastic.
CM: Really, it was so great.
BLH: It has a big ensemble vibe so that was pretty great.
CM: It was so good. It was a great mixed bunch, I mean we are similar but we all brought our own thing into the group and connected really great. We did two weeks of stunt training that was really a great bonding process. You’re on your last breath and then someone is there to pull you up. That was sort of my first experience.
How long did you do stunt training?
BLH: You said it was two I thought it was three.
CM: It was two.
It just felt like three!
CM: Yes, it felt like three! We were lucky to have it. I mean some movies take much more. I think they wanted to ingrain in us mentally and physically is that this is what the characters have gone through. The training process really helped out with that. We did things that I have never really heard of.
BLH: It’s a luxury if you have the time to do it with the director before the first day of being on the set.
Both characters chose Dauntless to be in, why do you think they did and if you had a choice…?
BLH: Anyone who chooses to change factions has that innate rebellion in them and the lust for something different and have an adventurous side to them. Will had that in him and he obviously was a bit of a know-it-all. I can relate to that because he felt like something was missing and he wanted to challenge himself. In terms of if I was in a faction – I think I would try to be Dauntless. I would try to challenge myself. I’d want to know I did everything I could to do something and never give up. I would certainly give it my best go.
CM: I think for me it was like I sort of this subtext thing for me and I think my character went into Dauntless to prove himself. I’d like to think I’d choose Dauntless too. I would do it because it’s so much different than my life now. I mean I don’t jump off trains…
Wait…what? You don’t? This interview is over!
CM: I know right!? I don’t blame you. This was a great experience though.
Now that I know you are no longer Superman I hate to ask the next question!
BLH: There are a few that are great. There is the one, at the beginning of the campaign where they lift us up.
CM: We wondered if everyone was going to get carried up. They shot a scene where we are surrounded by extras watching those get lifted up.
BLH: I kept thinking when we were doing things of how I never thought I’d be carried around like at a concert you know, through the crowd.
Check that off the bucket list!
BLH: Absolutely, check that one off. Do you see the clip of the guy from Finland who jumped from a really high scaffolding, quite Dauntless actually. You do realize you’re in a big film though when they take over the streets of Chicago. I mean there was a beautiful Saturday morning with me running down the street and you could see the L-train. It made me feel great because I always wanted to do a film where I’m running down this empty street.
CM: I remember you turning to me and saying, ‘this is awesome’.
How did you handle the auditions for your roles?
CM: It happened sort of quicker than the others. I was at this place where I wasn’t getting to the next level with callbacks etc. You know – too tall etc. I had a couple of auditions that week with this and CSI and another. I found other characters before but this is different because I came in, did the scene and got a call a few weeks later telling me not to cut my hair and after that a Skype with the director. Then I went in and we did three scenes nine different times adding more and more emotion. Everyone was pushing for more and more. They really wanted to see the range. After that I got a call from my agent right I was being evicted from my place so it was amazing timing. They said ‘you got it’ and I didn’t believe it. I still don’t believe it.
BLH: Mine was a longer period, a year before the film was made. I loved the script and wanted to be part of it. I taped a couple of times and I actually forgot about it till I did a meeting in LA and it came up again that they were casting for Will so I gave it another reading. I think Will is an amazing character and part to play. Then I met Neil who had seen me in GREAT EXPECTATIONS, a British film that I did. That’s how he knew what I had done and wanted me to be a part of it. I did some readings and met some producers and when I found out I got the role it rocked my world.
The film centers around fears, so we have to ask, what are your fears?
BLH: Are you afraid of spiders?
CM: No, but I feel like I have to say that. I don’t know – a pack of lions?
BLH: You come up with different fears depending on the situation. I got food poisoning a couple of days ago and had to fly. It’s an animalistic vulnerability and I was scared of traveling. The idea of flight while your sick is horrible. That was the last time I was afraid.
Since the film is deals with fear, how did you find that for the role – without the food poisoning!
BLH: The biggest thing with this film that I haven’t done before was reaction to a huge situation and a huge set. A lot of the projects I’d done before are dialogue based so you know the intentions and the ideas of the characters by what they say or do. Here thing were happening to us and sometimes our reactions are done with our eyes and relationships to each other. That was an interesting idea of what you can convey with your eyes and the environment you are in. Especially with the green screen and it was a good chance to do that.
CM: I think when I play something that I relate to, I’ve had those fears of the first day of high school. How do people see you, how to they judge you and going through a lot of changes. I mean I went through a hip-hop phase, a Goth phase – you do that to find yourself. Bringing out the fears I just have to be myself, it’s a weird process. I mean I did this emotional scene with Shailene where I come back to say I’m sorry. For me as an actor coming from theatre a little bit, the greatest compliment you get is when the director says something. Every cut he would spend time with Shailene or me to get it right.
Did it take you some practice to get use to the green screen?
CM: Oh, we are not here right now, this is CGI. There isn’t as much cgi as you would think. When I read the script and there’s a Ferris wheel, in the film that IS a Ferris wheel, not cgi.
BLH: We filmed in Chicago.
CM: They created everything else though. When you walked into a pit there is an actual pit. The set direction was incredible. I think that’s what made our job easier. We literally ran down the streets of Chicago – just like in the book and it was cool to go through that. When we first started shooting there has to be a B-roll of me laughing at just how realistic this was. I remember the first day of shooting we did a fight scene with Dauntless and I walked in seeing the dirty mats and such. Then we started and I thought, ‘oh wow, this is how it is!’. That’s when I knew this was cool.
It is VERY cool folks! It was such fun to have a chance to meet Ben and Christian as well. On March 21st the theatres will be ready for the influx of DIVERGENT fans from coast-to-coast so prepare to choose where you want to be! From Summit Entertainment comes DIVERGENT.