Imagine a world separated by personalities.
That’s the plot in first-time young-adult novelist Veronica Noth’s Divergent, turned into a major motion picture, and the first installment of a New York Times bestselling trilogy (the big screen sequel, Insurgent, is already in the works). The film opens in South Florida Friday.
Two stars of Divergent stopped by to the Mandarin Oriental Miami Hotel to talk about their experiences on the latest entry in the teen-adored genre set in a dystopian future.
British actor Ben Lloyd Hughes plays Will, born into the so-called Erudite faction, dedicated to intelligence and curiosity, but who transfers into the brave, fearless Dauntless faction, of which gentle giant Al ( Christian Madsen) is also a member. Parenthetically, for movie buffs, Christian is the son of actor Michael Madsen.
So how did you guys fit into your characters? Are you anything like them?
BLH: I think [producers] saw something in me that resonated. I remember talking to the director Neil [ Burger, The Illusionist] and he said he didn’t want Will to be a cliched high school nerd. He wanted him more like a variation of a Marine, ready to do battle. To be Dauntless, you have to be physically athletic. You can’t be a four-eyes; you won’t survive. He saw the potential in me, and I related him to a great deal. Will is sensitive, funny, a great soul with a lot of integrity.
CM: When you get a breakdown of a character that is literally so much like you, well, I jumped at the chance to audition. I was lucky enough to get a call back. Neil and I did three scenes together to see how far I could take it. Really, Al is sort of exactly how I am.
There were some major stunts going on. How did you prepare?
CM: We had no time to get to know each other. They sort of threw us into this intense physical activity. But you know, we bulked up on the muscle, took some steroids [laughs]. Just joking! It was more about keeping mentally in the right place.
BLH: We had three weeks of training. Stunt coordinator Garrett Warren [ Colombiana] whipped us into shape, showing us how to fight with martial arts and weapons.
Where did you shoot?
BLH: Chicago, where the book was set. So it was great we could go to the exact locations in the text. I’m really glad they decided to do that.
CM: You could just take a cab and be in the same place that was written about.
Are you both fans of the young adult genre, aka “Twilight,” “Hunger Games,” “Mortal Instruments,” etc?
BLH: I’m a fan of good storytelling. And of the way Veronica takes you on this amazing adventure. What’s great is when you read the book and then you actually get to live it.
Are you ready for the intense fan reaction?
CM: We went on the Mortal Instruments tour to prepare us for the onslaught and all the screaming.
BLH: I think he’s pulling your leg. Seriously, we’ve had a couple of stops, and it’s been nothing but incredible to see the outpouring of emotion. Hopefully people will connect with the film the way they did with the book.