Thursday 5 December 2013

DIVERGENT Movie: Behind the Scenes Photos & Set Visit Featured in Sci Fi Magazine

Check out these new behind the scenes photos from the set of DIVERGENT featured in the latest issue of Sci-Fi magazine, and read the write up below which includes a chat with Producer Douglas Wick, production designer Andy Nicholson. In the next issue, the magazine will feature interviews with Shailene, Theo, Neil Burger, and more.

SCI FI: Unless you’re a Midwesterner, it may surprise you to know that throughout the late spring and summer of 2013, Chicago was overtaken by a large coterie of people who were bound and determined to turn the windy city into a dystopian wonderland. As almost three million citizens went about their daily lives, director Neil Burger (Limitless), his cinematographer Alwin H. Kuchler, production designer, and a whole team of artisans and actors set up shop so they could adapt to film various city landmarks described so vividly in Veronica Roth’s debut novel, Divergent.

As the first book in the successful trilogy recently completed by Roth, Divergent sets up a future society where all people are essentially sorted into specific factions that reflect their primary traits: Abnegation (selfless), Amity (peaceful), Candor (honest), Dauntless (bravery), and Erudite (intelligence). Sixteen year old Beatrice ‘Tris’ Prior (Shailene Woodley) decides to leave her austere Abnegation faction for the energetic Dauntless, and quickly discovers that she is an anomaly – a Divergent. She shows aptitude for several factions and her ability makes her a threat to Jeanne Matthews (Kate Winslet), the leader of Erudite who is making underground power moves against all the factions.

 On a humid day in late June, the production is powering through its last two weeks of principle photography as Sci-Fi magazine is exclusively invited to visit the set. On a relatively small patch of vacant property near River City in the south loop, we’re taken to a site where the crew is tearing down what looks like a boxy neighborhood of buildings in the shadow of a modern apartment complex across the street. Only 24 hours ago, we’re told this was a full street of 16 Abnegation homes, including the Prior family abode that opens the film and book. Only two buildings remain today as a backhoe makes quick work of the sparse, square residences made of concrete. Each one looks the same with vertical and horizontal windows overlooking square patches of sod and gravel walkways.

The entire set was wrapped in green screen just four days before as the filmmakers intend to subtract in post-production the modern day functionality for futuristic decay on the skyscrapers. A few minutes later at the Divergent production offices, production designer Andy Nicholson (Gravity), welcomes me into a conference room lines with concept art and images for every key set in the entire film. There’s every faction house, the Ferris Wheel that Tris will climb at Navy Pier, and even Dauntless’ infamous Pit. Nicholson points to the production art for the Abnegation set we just left and explains it was one of his biggest challenges to recreate from the book.

“Abnegation is described the most in the book,” he explains. “The hardest thing about that was I wanted the homes to talk about recycling but I didn’t want it to be boring, or just a minimal design piece. So I’m really pleased with the interior of the Prior house because so many things about Abnegation had to be done with the set rather than in the script or the acting. You had to sell the world there. I think we achieved that in a really successful way. Its not too simple and not too minimal Zen. I think we hit all those notes successfully without it drawing too much attention to itself. Good design is when you see it and take it in but then it goes away.”

So much of Divergent is contingent soundstages where producer Douglas Wick (The Craft, The Great Gatsby) is observing an action scene being shot. Burger is directing Woodley, and Wick comes over to explain how the director set the quality standard with his hiring. “We interviewed a lot of directors,” he explains. “From the beginning you are trying to send out the signal that if you hadn’t read the book, why is this attracting really talented people? You needed someone with a real tool kit to direct this. It’s a really tough adaptation in that you are talking about things that are ultra teen real: really juicy love scenes, moments of friendship, and moments of antagonism that you would almost see in Clueless. Someone had to have that sensitivity to character but they would also have to do giant action scenes, armies fighting, and people jumping off trains. We needed a fairly daunting skill set.”

He nods towards Burger and adds, “Neil also is quite a good writer. He needed to adapt the outer landscape and the inner landscape of the fear landscapes as part of the narrative. Sometimes you’re just lucky the right person exists, and Neil was there at the right time. It was the beginning of starting to put [the film] on a calibre you could keep upgrading, such as getting the best from young actors like Shailene Woodley.

He adds that wooing Kate Winslet into the fold was the powerful cherry on top. “We were very aware that as soon as you get someone like Kate it brings credibility to the whole venture. Kate was a big deal for the movie. She’s associated with quality and taste. And then on a creative level, when you say she is the antagonist, anyone who understands movies knows that’s like comparing a peashooter to an Uzi. Last week, we shot the scene where Shailene and Kate go head to head. It was like seeing the best talent of one generation against the best talent of another generation.”

 Look for our continuing Divergent set visit story in the next issue featuring exclusive interviews with Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Neil Burger and more..

Thanks to epnebelle for the scans | Thanks to clairelaluna for the tip.

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