THE WRAP – Lionsgate may have one mega-franchise ending in “Twilight,” but the studio reassured investors and analysts Friday that it has already unearthed the next big thing in young adult entertainment.
The way it plans to keep cash registers ringing through 2014 lies with “Divergent,” a series of novels by Veronica Roth aimed at tweens and set in a futuristic dystopia. Book sales are tracking ahead of where “Twilight” and Lionsgate’s other major franchise “The Hunger Games” were at a similar point in their life cycles, Lionsgate executives said during the company’s second-quarter conference call. Moreover, the fan base for the novels is a passionate one.
“We’re putting it out to our fans right now that we think this is the next big franchise,” Lionsgate Chief Executive Officer Jon Feltheimer said.
“Divergent” will star Shailene Woodley, the beautiful and youthful actress who turned heads in last year’s “The Descendants.” Neil Burger (“Limitless”) will direct the story of a young girl who rebels against her repressive society.
The film is set to open on March 21,2014, roughly the same slot where “The Hunger Games” opened earlier this year. The timing, Feltheimer said, is wholly intentional.
“By putting it, frankly, in the original ‘Hunger Games’ time slot, we’re indicating the amount of support we have,” he said.
Though Lionsgate and Summit, the studio it purchased for $412.5 million earlier this year, are readying for the end of “Twilight,” there are still profits on the horizon from the vampire franchise. “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2” hits theaters next week and Feltheimer said that advance ticket sales are ahead of where they were for the previous film in the series.
Anticipating the taste of teenagers helped propel Lionsgate to a remarkable third quarter. Thanks to strong home entertainment sales from “The Hunger Games,” the studio reported second-quarter profits of $75.5 million, while revenue jumped 97 percent to $707 million.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY – Well Divergent fans, the time for tests and simulations is over! Things are finally ramping up on the movie front with our first bit of casting news: we may have found our Tris! As we reported yesterday, actress Shailene Woodley (The Secret Life of the American Teenager, The Descendants) is currently in talks to play the 16-year-old protagonist of Veronica Roth’s popular YA trilogy. And, truth be told, I couldn’t be more thrilled. Here are five reasons why I’m excited by this casting:
1. Woodley was one of the contenders to play Katniss in The Hunger Games: The role ultimately went to Jennifer Lawrence, of course, and Woodley has since admitted that the other actress was the right choice. She told MTV in March: “Yeah, I definitely auditioned. It wasn’t, like, a great audition. But I think that Jennifer Lawrence is perfect for that role.” Why is this a good thing? It means she’s familiar with the kind of audience Divergent will attract and that she’s prepared to take on the responsibility of playing a character that could draw lot of attention — media and otherwise.
2. She’s got cred as an actress: Okay, I know a lot of people will be scandalized by the fact that their potential Tris was also the star of The Secret Life of the American Teenager. But have you seen The Descendants? Woodley delivers a powerful performance as a drinking, cursing teen seething with resentment for her father. Imagine how hard it is to act as though you dislike George Clooney. The girl should have gotten an Oscar for that alone. Plus, she comes with a stamp of approval from Clooney himself: “She really elevates that role from a stereotype. You can write and direct it. But at the end of the day, someone has to play it.”
3. She’s committed to her TV show: Say what you will about Woodley or The Secret Life of the American Teenager, but even in the midst of all the hubbub surrounding The Descendants, Woodley stayed firmly committed to the ABC Family series for another two seasons. It has since been cancelled, but Woodley never made the move to ditch it herself in favor of her burgeoning film career. She respects her work, regardless of what anyone says. That’s who I want to see sign on to a franchise that has such lasting potential: someone who will stick with it through the end (which you know is going to be four movies) even if she gets higher profile offers. (There’s rumors E L James wants her for Fifty Shades of Grey…)
4. She has a young face: As much as I love Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss (and I really do), she doesn’t look 16. That fact doesn’t exactly hurt the movie, but I think it would be a little more powerful to see someone who looks like a teenager; that is, like someone too innocent to have to face such rough circumstances. Woodley’s got this look — her rather effeminate voice, her full cheeks, those sad eyes. No, she doesn’t look badass, but Tris isn’t a killing machine when she arrives at Dauntless. She’s a secret Divergent and she’s scared. I want my Tris to reflect that and I think Woodley’s up the task.
5. She looks like she can kick ass: Like I said, Woodley’s not a badass, but she looks like she could be. She’s no Hollywood waif. Slim, yes, but realistically so. (I felt dirty Googling this, but here she is in a bikini to give you an idea.) Aren’t you tired of too-thin girls getting these meaty action roles and tossing 400 lb men over their shoulders? Ridiculous. There are a lot of physical fights in Divergent and I want to see someone I believe could win. Tris is small, but she’s strong. Woodley looks like she could be too.
But enough about me. What do you think of your possible Tris?
THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER – Shailene Woodley, who just booked the coveted role of Mary Jane in the Spider-Man sequel, is closing in on a deal to to star in Divergent, Summit/Lionsgate’s adaptation of Veronica Roth’s YA novel.
Douglas Wick and Lucy Fisher are producing as is Pouya Shahbazian. Neil Burger is directing.
The book, published in May 2011 by Katherine Tegen Books, is set in a future society, which is divided into factions based on human traits.
Woodley will star as a 16-year old girl who leaves her faction to join a rival faction and falls in love with a young man.
While having been an actor for years, Woodley caught the attention of most in Hollywood when she co-starred opposite George Clooney in Alexander Payne’s awards darling The Descendants. The role garnered her much acclaim as well as a Indie Spirit Award for best supporting actress.
She stars in Secret Life of the American Teenager, which was cancelled last week. ABC Family will play out the last 12 episodes in March. Woodley will also be seen in The Spectacular Now, being produced by Shawn Levy’s 21 Laps.
Woodley initially had scheduling issues as an obstacle in the dealmaking, having had offers to play both Mary Jane and the Divergent lead. But the Mary Jane part is proving to be only a very small part in Amazing Spider-Man 2 but builds to an integral lead for the planned third movie as the studio seeks to build to the classic Death of Gwen Stacy story.
UP AND COMERS – “Red Riding Hood” actor Shiloh Fernandez and Eva Green have joined future Mary Jane Watson Shailene Woodley in indie drama “White Bird”, according to Deadline.
Gregg Araki will direct the film which revolves around Woodley’s character, a young woman whose life is upended following the disappearance of her mother. Last we heard, the search was on for the roles of the girl’s parents and the lead detective on the disappearance case, though we can’t say for sure either Green or Fernandez fits any of those roles.
Fernandez played Peter, aka Love Interest #1 to Amanda Seyfried, in Catherine Hardwicke’s “Red Riding Hood” and has wrapped up filming on Brit Marling’s eco-terrorist thriller “The East” alongside Ellen Page and Alexander Skarsgard, indie dramas “Deep Powder” opposite Haley Bennett and “Syrup” opposite Amber Heard, as well as the new “Evil Dead” remake opposite Jane Levy.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY – Peter Parker, you two-timing devil. EW has confirmed that Shailene Woodley (The Descendants) has been offered the role of Mary Jane Watson in the upcoming sequel to last summer’s The Amazing Spider-Man. If the deal goes through, Woodley would join Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, and director Marc Webb on the film, starting production in early 2013. (Variety first broke the story.)
The news could scarcely come at a better time for Woodley; ABC Family just decided to end her series The Secret Life of the American Teenager after its upcoming fifth season.
Played by Kirsten Dunst in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy, the red-headed Mary Jane (or MJ) was introduced in the comics as a romantic rival of Parker’s other love interest, Gwen Stacy, and ultimately becomes the love of Peter’s life (and, for a time, his wife). The fact that MJ is appearing in the sequel suggests that this Spidey franchise reboot could be aiming to recreate the ultimate end of Gwen Stacy’s story in the Spider-Man comic book canon. Commence fanboy freak-out.
MJ isn’t the only Spidey character standby set to appear in The Amazing Spider-Man 2either.The filmmakers are also reportedly on the hunt for an actor to play Parker’s bestie-turned-nemesis Harry Osborn, played by James Franco in the Raimi films. But fans may have to wait for the debut of Harry’s nefarious father, Norman Osborn (a.k.a. The Green Goblin): Currently, one of the possible contenders for the main villain is Electro, a character hinted at in the post-credits sequence of The Amazing Spider-Man.
The sequel is set for a May 2, 2014 release date.
With thanks to the wonderful Jean<, I've updated the gallery with some images from one of Shailene's earliest leading roles in Felicity: An American Girl Adventure. Scans from the Lights! Camera! Felicity behind the scenes book and production stills have now been added. Be sure to take a look!