VANITY FAIR – Yesterday, Divergent stars Shailene Woodley and Theo James took Comic-Con by storm, premiering footage from their futuristic, adrenaline-fueled film at the San Diego Convention Center. But first, the duo, who play love interests onscreen in the adaptation of Veronica Roth’s best-selling young-adult novel, sat down with your blogger to discuss the dangerous stunts they had just completed on set in Chicago.
Before production began, both actors spent a month training for the physical challenges required of the big-screen adaptation, which details the grueling initiation process that Woodley’s character endures as she tries to join the “dauntless” group in a future society that divides people by their personality traits. James—the handsome British actor best known to us as Kemal Pamuk, the ill-fated Turkish diplomat who died suddenly in Lady Mary’s boudoir on Downton Abbey—did many of his own stunts, learning a hybrid style of fighting designed by the movie’s stunt coordinators and even severely injuring one its stuntmen.
“I had a fight scene, which happened very quickly,” he said. “It was, like, six guys coming at me doing various things. And unfortunately, one of the guys ended up getting 25 stitches in his face, which was not great, and I felt very guilty about it.” While Woodley did not fend off six attackers on set, she did do enough of her own stunts to injure herself. “I fell off a train and got two hernias,” the Golden Globe–nominated Descendants actress recalled nonchalantly.
“And a black eye,” James reminded her.
“I tried to do as many stunts as they would let me,” said Woodley. “I got to zip-line, which is pretty fun. I didn’t get to do the whole distance, but I got to do part of it. I got to be, like, 40 feet up over Chicago streets. We got to climb a Ferris wheel, [which] was not as cool as it seems. There was a ladder at about 45 degrees, and we were essentially just climbing the ladder. But it was a full moon, a super moon, so it was cool.“ When asked if the Ferris-wheel stunt was for a romantic, Notebook-type love scene, Woodley and James laughed.
“We were 69-ing on the top,” joked James.
“That was actually the most intense stunt work in the film,” she laughed. “It was really tricky to figure out.”
The pair also told us how they felt about all the Hunger Games comparisons that Divergent is already receiving and what, if anything, audience members should expect when they enter theaters next March.
“I don’t think anyone should have expectations,” Woodley said. “People compare us to the Hunger Games and think that’s a compliment. They’ve done an amazing job. Expectations always screw with you, though. Visually it is very different from Hunger Games and other young-adult franchises. Our D.P. and director really created a new world.”
“And also, when you see the trailers and stuff, I think that will answer the questions. It is quite unique,” James added, before making Woodley laugh one last time. “Watch—it comes out, and it is actually just like The Hunger Games. Shot for shot.”