Be­hind the scenes with the stars of Al­le­giant

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Dou­glas Wick, pro­ducer of Diver­gent, is watch­ing the end of the world from the safety of a prison cell. “You know,” he says, point­ing to a spot in the stark, grey room, “that’s where we shot Kate Winslet in the back!” In the next room, a grand, fu­tur­is­tic cham­ber, Shai­lene Wood­ley, Ansel El­gort, Theo James and Naomi Watts are crowded around a con­trol panel, fran­ti­cally try­ing to stop an on­slaught of “mem­ory gas”. And it’s here, with his eyes still fixed on the mon­i­tor, that Wick starts to tell us the most im­por­tant thing he’s learnt from pro­duc­ing one of cin­ema’s big­gest young adult fran­chises.

“You have to leave your cyn­i­cism at the door,” he says. “Be­cause Diver­gent is ac­ces­si­ble and [ its pro­tag­o­nist] Tris con­nects with the au­di­ence in a dif­fer­ent way. [ The orig­i­nal books were] re­ally try­ing to ex­press some­thing about iden­tity and grow­ing up, and that has great power in it. I’ve been do­ing this for a very long time and I can tell you that when­ever you set out to make a suc­cess­ful young adult movie, you’re prob­a­bly doomed.”

We’re speak­ing to Wick, and his co- pro­ducer wife Lucy Fisher, on the set of Al­le­giant, part one of what will be the se­ries’ swan­song. Adapted from Veron­ica Roth’s book tril­ogy, it splits her third and fi­nal in­stal­ment into two films: Al­le­giant and 2017’ s As­cen­dant. These en­tries will con­clude the tale of Tris Prior ( Shai­lene Wood­ley), an unas­sum­ing hero in a world – specif­i­cally, a fu­ture Chicago – where society has been di­vided into five fac­tions, which its cit­i­zens are sorted into at the age of 16 based upon their per­son­al­ity. It is, es­sen­tially, the cliques of high school as dystopia, with Tris – raised as a quiet, self­less Ab­ne­ga­tion – yearn­ing to be a mem­ber of Daunt­less, the brave, ath­letic group of cool kids. In­stead she’s re­vealed to be Diver­gent: the rare re­sult of some­one who doesn’t fit into any one fac­tion, and who is seen as a threat by the rul­ing Eru­dite ( in­tel­lec­tu­als) gov­ern­ment. Not fit­ting in – re­mem­ber that?

in these walls

Fol­low­ing on from last year’s In­sur­gent, Al­le­giant picks up after the rev­e­la­tion that, for the past 200 years, the walled city of Chicago ( and its fac­tion sys­tem) has all been an ex­per­i­ment by the Bureau of Ge­netic Wel­fare, a shad­owy or­gan­i­sa­tion liv­ing beyond the wall. Thus be­gins a mis­sion to find them, with Tris and co ven­tur­ing into an out­side world rav­aged by a so- called “Pu­rity War”: a time when the gov­ern­ment, in the be­lief that society’s prob­lems were caused by “bad” genes, be­gan to mod­ify them, with disas­trous re­sults. It’s here

– in the bright, red “fringe” – that they meet David, the Bureau’s leader, played by Jeff Daniels; a man whose mo­tives may spell dis­as­ter for Chicago, or sal­va­tion.

“After two movies, we’d seen a lot of Chicago,” says Wick, “and we’d spent time in all of the dif­fer­ent fac­tions. We and the char­ac­ters were ready to go beyond the wall to a dif­fer­ent world. That’s been re­ally fun to be open up.”

Di­rected by In­sur­gent’s Robert Sch­wen­tke ( The Time Traveler’s Wife, RIPD), it’s a story that will take Al­le­giant up to a cer­tain point in Roth’s book – the scene we’re watch­ing now, in fact – with other plot points be­ing fleshed out. It’s an ap­proach, of course, that fol­lows Harry Pot­ter and The Hunger Games – who split their fi­nal sto­ries to vary­ing de­grees of suc­cess. Was carv­ing up the third book re­ally nec­es­sary?

“There was just a lot of story to tell,” says Fisher. “We had a chal­lenge with ev­ery sin­gle book, which is that Veron­ica packs a lot of plot and char­ac­ters in and we felt that we never got to ser­vice them all. We’re al­ways apol­o­gis­ing to the ac­tors that their char­ac­ters didn’t get to do as much as they do in the book, other­wise we’d have a five- hour movie. So it’s about hav­ing the time and space to do that.”

SFX men­tions the crit­i­cism that dogged The Hunger Games’ Mockingjay Part 1: that it only felt like the be­gin­ning of a story, rather than a story in its own right.

“We were very in­tent on mak­ing [ Al­le­giant] a story in its own right,” says Wick. “We did our best to make sure that, as a movie ex­pe­ri­ence, this would have a sat­is­fy­ing end­ing, and be a jour­ney in its own sake. That’s why we chose this mo­ment” – he ges­tures to the cham­ber, now fill­ing up with gas – “from the book be­cause it was very cli­mac­tic, a real res­o­lu­tion.”

meet­ing of minds

The job of script­ing the split has been cred­ited to four writ­ers: Adam Cooper, Bill Col­lage, Stephen Ch­bosky and Noah Op­pen­heim, the

we did our best to make sure this would have a sat­is­fy­ing end­ing

writer be­hind fel­low YA film The Maze Run­ner. With the adap­ta­tion of In­sur­gent – just one book – there were big changes: with a new­ly­in­tro­duced five- sided box tak­ing cen­tre stage in the film, and Winslet’s Jea­nine be­ing shot at the end by Evelyn, leader of the Fac­tion­less, rather than stabbed in the stom­ach by Tori. So how close to the source ma­te­rial is Al­le­giant? “There’s prob­a­bly less changes than

In­sur­gent,” says Wick. “Be­cause this book is so sprawl­ing we’ve re­jigged lit­tle things here and there but all the el­e­ments are Veron­ica’s el­e­ments. So some­times we’ll just ex­plore them more as that’s what’s good for the movie. Eras­ing mem­ory is a strong theme in the book, for ex­am­ple, and we’ve cho­sen to ex­plore that to build to our cli­max.”

“We’re scared of chang­ing things be­cause fans are so ra­bid,” chuck­les Fisher. “In

In­sur­gent we made that big change at the end [ with Jea­nine be­ing shot by Watts’ Evelyn] as Winslet’s char­ac­ter is dis­missed from the story two thirds of the way through the book, so we wanted to have that end­ing. But lit­er­ally not a sin­gle fan com­plained about it. It’s more, ‘ I thought her hair would be more hon­ey­coloured – how could you do that?!’”

Beyond the world it­self, one of the el­e­ments that Al­le­giant opens up is its char­ac­ters, who start to step beyond Tris’s spot­light. These in­clude Miles Teller’s per­pet­u­ally un­trust­wor­thy Peter, whose er­ratic loy­alty and dark, cal­lous morals are ex­plored (“what if he can be re­deemed?”); and Theo James’ Four, who must nav­i­gate not only his re­la­tion­ship with Fac­tion­less leader and es­tranged mother Evelyn ( who now rules over Chicago), but his ro­mance with Tris, which be­gins to crack as soon as they reach the Bureau. As for Tris her­self, you have her frac­tured re­la­tion­ship with brother Caleb ( Ansel El­gort), who watched her get tor­tured in In­sur­gent, and her new- found trust in Bureau leader David, whose views cre­ate the rift be­tween her and Four. And as book read­ers know, there’s also the small matter of her even­tual fate, “but we don’t like to talk about that,” teases Fisher.

For vet­eran pro­duc­ers Wick and Fisher – who, be­tween them, have bro­ken stars like Rus­sell Crowe and An­gelina Jolie – Al­le­giant is not only the be­gin­ning of the end for the fran­chise, but also them pre­par­ing to say good­bye to a cast that has risen out of rel­a­tive ob­scu­rity to be­come bona fide stars. Namely: Miles Teller’s turns in Whiplash and Fan­tas­tic

Four; and Ansel El­gort and Shai­lene Wood­ley’s star­ring roles in the mega- hit adap­ta­tion of John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars.

“The hard­est part was know­ing we were sign­ing [ the ac­tors] up for a fran­chise,” Fisher says. “So we were hav­ing to think, ‘ Okay, they look cute now, but how are they go­ing to look in five years? But one of the real plea­sures of this job is see­ing these guys build their char­ac­ters. I re­mem­ber when [ Wood­ley] first walked through the door. She was so young and sweet and we thought, ‘ Right we’ve got the Ab­ne­ga­tion thing, now let’s worry about the Daunt­less part.’ We asked what she was do­ing this weekend, and she said she was do­ing an ur­ban kid­nap­ping where they take away your car keys, your li­cence and you have to get from one place to an­other on your own. And there was the Daunt­less.”

The Diver­gent Se­ries: Al­le­giant opens on 11 March.

Maybe by the fi­nal part they’ll have mas­tered how to kiss. An­other case for Tat­too Fix­ers?

His black trousers must be in the wash.

Derek Med­dings should have made this. What would Lloyd and Harry think? Run! Run! Run for your tents! They’ll save you!

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