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Shailene Woodley & Theo James (Divergent)

Shailene Woodley & Theo James: The Interview (Divergent)

Shailene Woodley and Theo James star in Divergent, an adaptation of the popular novel series by Veronica Roth. The film is set in a futuristic Chicago, where society has been split into differing factions. Tris (Woodley) doesn't fit neatly into one of the factions and is thus marked as a dangerous Divergent. As she attempts to blend in with the rest of society, she forms a relationship with the strong Four (James) and the two attempt free themselves and the rest of the city from the government's hold. Shakefire had the opportunity to sit down with Shailene Woodley and Theo James to discuss the film and their roles.

Shakefire (SF): What triggered the survivalist in you because you’re such a big survivalist buff?

Shailene Woodley (SW): I started studying indigenous cultures and really loved the lifestyle they lived and loved how connected to the ecosystem they were. I started thinking about it and there’s this concept called Rewilding that a friend named Danile Vitalis introduced into my world, which is adapting to the conditions in which we live in, you know, like adapting to living under fake lights and drywall and whatnot.

That’s sort of why I started studying wilderness survival skills. A, because I thought it would be fun, and B, just because I wanted to know how to survive and thrive.

SF: Do you think that helped you get the role?

SW: I do. I hands-down do. I went in there and right before I was having a meeting with the producers and they were like, “So what do you do in your free time?” and I was like, “Well I really like do this and that. And huntings pretty fun if you actually…well not fun, but I think it’s an important thing if I want to eat meat and I want to know how to hunt, etc.” So I actually do think it might have helped with Tris because we’re very similar I guess.

SF: You have both read some of the books. Was that helpful getting knowledge about your characters?

Theo James (TJ): Yeah, definitely. Neither of us have read the last one because I think if we’re lucky enough do any more movies it would inform the performance a bit much, but definitely the first two. For Tobias, the second book really informs his background and it gives you more perspective on him so that was definitely important.

But then at the same time you need to make your own decisions about the character and be confident with them. Obviously the big question is are you nervous about living up to expectations or playing a character that’s beloved. But at the end of the day it’s good to be doing that because people already love the character which is definitely a positive thing, but then conversely you need to make decisions based on your own instinct because that is what our job is really.

SF: Can you tell us about the training you went through in preparation for the film?

SW: We had about a month of training prior to filming which was fun and awesome. Our stunt coordinators are incredibly badass and are both ex-military. But they’re very well versed in their world.

TJ: They’re definitely the real deal.

SW: So it was fun. We did basic hand-to-hand combat training as well as physical fitness. He had to pump it in the gym all the time to get those muscles, haha. And fight choreography.

SF: Did you do your own stunts?

SW: As many as we could that insurance would allow.

SF: So did you jump off the train?

SW: Oh I did do that. We both ran and jumped on and off the train. The one scene where we’re like slo-mo in the air, that wasn’t me.

SF: Were there any scenes in particular that you really wanted to do but couldn’t?

SW: I wanted to do the zip-line more. Most of it is all green-screen. There’s one shot where my stunt double went between buildings in Chicago. And I was able…

TJ: I thought it was all green-screen.

SW: No, and I did it too. She went maybe a thousand feet of zip-line, and I maybe did 300 or 400 feet, but we were both 85 feet in the air dangling in the middle of a Chicago alley at like 2am. It was fun!

SF: Can you talk about working with such a great cast, Kate Winslet, Ashley Judd, Tony Goldwyn?

TJ: Tony’s a very cool, really sweet guy. I actually didn’t do any scenes with him, but he’s really cool. Kate is one of those consummate professionals who’s obviously not only an amazing and incredible actress, has this illustrious career, but she’s someone who still has passion for it and she really believes in it. She comes in, hangs out in the trailer. She’s fully up for discussing it and is really dynamic person.

SW: Ashley and I connected a lot actually. We’re both very similar in our spiritual viewpoints and our lifestyles are very similar. It was kind of like having a big sister around.

SF: You mentioned about the characters and how popular they already are. How do you handle those fan expectations?

TJ: You can’t really be aware of it because anything that’s going to affect your performance you need to…

SW: Disregard.

TJ: Yeah, disregard, because you have your own take on the characters.

SW: I mean if I were to try and play Tris the way that you envisioned and the same way that you envisioned her, etc. she would just be like a mess of a human because there would be tons of different ideas of someone versus an intuitive sort of authenticity that we were sort of able to bring to the characters.

TJ: And they hire you for what you’re going to do to the characters.

SW: And when you think too much about the character anyway it ends being boring.

TJ: It has to be natural and intuitive.

SF: Do you think come March 21 or 22 your life is going to completely change?

TJ: You really don’t know. As actors you’re mentally trained not to go there.

SW: You don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, regardless of this industry or this whole Divergent thing. You never know what’s coming in life. To think about it or worry about seems like such a waste of the present moment.

TJ: The main thing is we hope that it has its own journey based on its merits as a movie amid the book.

SF: What message do you hope young people take away from this film?

SW: So many! One of them is that you don’t need to be co-dependent in a relationship. You don’t need somebody to need you. You can be an empowered, strong individual and you can have another empowered, strong individual and you guys can be partners. You can base your relationship on fundamentals of trust, and pride, and respect, which I think is really beautiful and a neat thing to have in a young adult franchise.

I also think that it’s really neat that Tris and Christina have such a close relationship and that they’re supportive of one another and there isn’t any jealousy or envy involved. You very rarely see that in films and in real life, where females are able to be supportive of one another without the external backstabbing and whatnot of the drama that’s involved.

I think it’s cool that there are two strong females, not trying to discount men because I love men, between Tris and Kate Winslet’s character Jeanine, where they go head to head. Neither of them are right, and neither of them are wrong. If this movie was told through Jeanine’s eyes, Tris would look bad because Tris is killing people as well. I just think that that’s sort of an interesting thing to note and correlate in today’s society regardless of whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican or whether you’re in one party or another party. Whenever there’s opposing opinions, nobody is right or wrong. They’re just different standpoints and viewpoints. I think if people can soak that up at a young age it’s a really neat thing to go into the world with.