The first book in the popular Divergent series is having its big screen debut this Friday, as it looks to follow in the financially successful footsteps of youth-oriented juggernauts like The Hunger Games and Twilight. Set in a dystopian Chicago of the not too distant future, Veronica Roth’s trilogy of young adult novels follows Beatrice “Tris” Prior, a young girl struggling to find her place in a rigid and dangerous society that’s divided into factions based on personality types.
With more than 5 million copies of the series sold so far, Lionsgate is no doubt hoping they have the next big book-to-movie franchise on their hands, and it shows in the casting. Headlining the picture is indie-world success Shailene Woodley, who’s stepping into the role of Tris after garnering critical acclaim with lead roles in such films as The Descendants, and The Spectacular Now.
We recently sat down with Shailene for a roundtable interview before Divergent‘s Toronto premiere to pick her brain about what it means to go from indie-girl to It-girl, and what the film has to say about the changing face of Hollywood.
Check it out below, and enjoy!
Which of Divergent’s five factions would you belong to?
Shailene Woodley: I would chose Dauntless, because I love the adventure and I’m definitely a fighter, not a flight-er. But, the second that I felt like I disagreed with its moral values and its core compass I would fail out purposely, and become factionless so I wouldn’t have to be controlled. I’m just a Scorpio like that.
Why has that fear of control become a common theme in young adult movies today?
SW: It’s funny, that question’s been asked a lot. I don’t know why it’s such a big hit right now. I think that it’s exciting, the sense of escapism, and the sense of losing yourself in a film. That’s why films are so entertaining, because you do sorta get to forget your reality and get lost in translation. It’s the same thing for literature, the entertainment value. I also think right now there are a lot of big questions going on, there are a lot of big decisions that are created on a global level that maybe haven’t been, in years past, as pertinent as they are now. I think that big movies that take place in the future that are either utopian realities or dystopian realities, even though they could be very far-fetched, they don’t seem that far-fetched. I think a dystopian future is something easy to sort of mentalize right now, because there are so many crazy things happening right now. [Divergent] is directly correlated to that right now, there are so many parallels.
What are you thoughts on the surge of strong female leads in recent blockbusters?
SW: I think it’s amazing. It’s not so much a rarity these days, which is really something to celebrate. One of the coolest things about this movie to me, apart from Tris being a really strong, empowered female, and Kate [Winslet], the lead antagonist as a really strong female, is that Tris and Christina are such good friends, and that there isn’t envy or jealousy, or any malicious backstabbing nature between them. They are completely supportive of one another and they’re completely dedicated to the preservation of each others’ hearts, which you don’t often see. You don’t see that in films very often, it’s very much about pitting women against other women, or making one woman seem more attractive or desirable than another woman. In this movie I think that’s something to majorly celebrate, the feat of sisterhood, something that Veronica [Roth] established in her book, the feat of two women completely unabashedly supporting one another.
Do you feel less pressure now knowing that Veronica Roth has seen the film and loved it.
SW: Ultimately, whoever sees [the movie], it’s none of our business what they think about it, you know? You have to sort of think about it that way, otherwise you might go crazy with “did people like it? Did people not like it,” you know? There are so many people that are going to see it. But it’s a feat when the author of the book, the creator of the world sees it and goes “wow, maybe I would have done it a bit differently, or maybe I pictured it differently when I wrote it, but seeing it come to fruition, and seeing how it’s my story interlaced with the creativity of other people involved, is something neat to witness.” [It’s] a huge relief to know she liked it.