Filed in Articles and Interviews Divergent Interviews Projects The Fault in Our Stars
Shailene Woodley & Theo James on YA, Burping, and ‘Motherf*ckin Toughness’

MOVIEFONE – If this interview is any indication, we’re going to see some serious on-screen chemistry from “Divergent” stars Shailene Woodley and Theo James.

The pair sat down with Moviefone earlier today to give us the rundown on what we can expect when “Divergent” hits the big screen in March 2014, including why the look and feel won’t be as grungy as you think, some common misconceptions about their characters, Tris’s burping prowess, and what’s changed in adapting Veronica Roth’s beloved novel for the big screen.

Moviefone: What’s the first thing you want people to know about “Divergent”?
Theo James: We want them to approach it as something different and new. Any preconceptions about it being a YA — obviously, it has that tag — but they’re all unique in their own ways. And Veronica has created a very unique and strong and dynamic world, coupled with [director Neil Burger]’s vision of it. And then, hopefully, what we’ve done collectively as a cast with our characters and the choices we’ve made make something that is not just a YA movie. It’s a movie in its own right, too. It’s both. It’s an adult movie and a YA movie. And a very strong action movie; there’s a lot of action in it, but with a very central and emotional heart.

Shailene Woodley: I agree. That was perfect. I second that.

What do you want people to know about your characters, Tris and Four?
Woodley: I want people to know that Tris is normal and that she’s not a superhero. Maybe she’s an action star just because of the definition of that, but she’s not a superhero. She’s a very normal, young woman who is trying to figure herself out as well as trying to help her community. She’s sort of been given this gift of being the only one to be able to do what she’s able to do, and I don’t think that it makes her more special than anyone else. I think that she just happens to be the one who’s in the seat to do greatness. Sort of like “With great power comes great responsibility.” I know that quote is used so often and it’s so cliche, but I f*ckin’ love it.

I want people to know she’s normal. Every interview, people are like, “What does it feel like to play a superhero?” She’s not a superhero. She’s vulnerable, and she’s sensitive and she’s broken in a lot of ways, but she’s forced to figure herself out through really extreme situations. And she doesn’t know who she is. She’s very normal. I mean, she burps sometimes.

James: I love burping.

What about Four?
James: I think he’s one of my favorite characters that I’ve played because he has this, um…

Woodley: He’s amazing.

James: He’s a really cool, complex character who comes from this broken world and broken home, essentially. He’s from a family of abuse, which is an interesting concept in itself. But he’s full of a sense of quiet self and purpose. He also has a very strong, settled masculinity. He doesn’t need to push anything.

I’ve said this before, but when I first read the scenes, to me, he had this old-school kind of Paul Newman — those old male, kind of “Hollywood men who weren’t pushing masculinity,” it just came naturally. And as a result, because they’re not pushing it, they can actually be much more complex because they can be truthful about their weaknesses. And that’s so great, because with him he can be truthful about what he’s afraid of. He’s completely honest about what he’s afraid of. All those complexities I’d like people to see, as well as his motherf*ckin’ toughness.

Would you say that this is a pretty faithful adaptation? Were there big changes?
Woodley: I think it’s somewhat faithful. It was changed a little bit just for cinematic purposes.

James: We had to condense it. And also there were some structural things that Neil and Shai had to think about, i.e. the fact that this is a first-person narrative in the book and the exposition goes on a lot in her thoughts and in her head. Some of those needed to be tackled. But I think it’s pretty faithful in terms of what it does. Some characters inevitably don’t get as much of the limelight as they do in the book just because of the nature of “it’s a movie,” but all the characters get paid off. And they are dynamic.

From what we’ve seen, the movie is very bleak and very grey-looking. What would you say is the tone/feel of the movie?
Woodley: When you read the book, you sort of get this image of it being dark and grungy. Neil really fought against that. We filmed in a lot of dark, grungy hallways, but the way he lit it was — I wouldn’t say bright, necessarily — but the colors pop.

Because we’re in such dark locations, the colors that do exist really pop and sort of make it vibrant. In the book, The Pit, which is the main location, was depicted as this sort of dark, cavernous area, and the way that it is in the film is much brighter and more marble-y, versus dark stone. So, he sort of fought against the cliche of what this film could have been and I think that was really genius. Visually, it’s going to be stunning.

Shailene, it’s pretty early on, but what can you tell us about your role in “A Fault in Our Stars”?
Woodley: I can tell you that it is one of the best screenplays I have ever read. I chased this movie for a good year to a year and half; I’m so passionate about it. And Ansel is so incredibly Augustus. I just think it’s going to be such a special, special project. I know that was inarticulate, but I’m so excited for it I don’t even have words to say. I’m so stoked — and so grateful that I have the opportunity to be in it.

Theo, don’t be offended by this. We have to ask: Do you still get recognized as “the guy who died in bed” on “Downton Abbey”?
James: Yes. Some guy said that outside and he’s dead now, so… [Laughs] Yes, occasionally, yes. It’s usually by sexy grannies who are like, “Mr. Pamuk, are up for doing a sixty-niner?” Obviously, I always oblige.

Woodley: Always, he’s learned a lot. [Laughs]

Shailene, you’ve been doing a lot of books-turned-movies (“Spectacular Now,” “Divergent,” “White Bird in a Blizzard,” “The Fault in Our Stars”). Is there something special about them to you? What’s the appeal?
Woodley: They’re just good screenplays. Honestly, I didn’t know “Spectacular Now” was a book when I read the script. I didn’t know that “White Bird in a Blizzard” was book before I read the script. Obviously, I knew “Divergent” was. Just tell writers to write more original stuff. There’s not that much original stuff out there. It seems like these days everything’s based on books. Write some original sh*t!