Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

How 'Divergent' Became a Franchise Before It Opened and Lost Its Director

Interviews
by Anne Thompson
March 27, 2014 7:46 PM
3 Comments
  • |
Shailene Woodley and Theo James in 'Divergent'
'Divergent'

Producing the movie adaptation of Veronica Roth's YA novel "Divergent" was something different for husband-and-wife producers Lucy Fisher and Doug Wick. One of many young adult would-be franchises these days, $85-million "Divergent," which opened to $56-million last weekend, started out its life in development with Wick and Fisher's Red Wagon shingle. They brought it to Summit Entertainment, which was later bought by Lionsgate. 

With that merger Summit brought the last "Twilight" installments to Lionsgate, which was already producing and releasing the blockbuster "Hunger Games" franchise. But unlike most franchises, in this case the studio decided that the dystopian romance starring Shailene Woodley ("The Spectacular Now") and hunk-on-the-rise Theo James ("Golden Boy") was such a strong bet that they greenlit the sequel before the first film came out. So Wick and Fisher, producers responsible for such high-end fare as "Lawless," "The Great Gatsby," "Memoirs of a Geisha," "Stuart Little" and "Gladiator," did what they had to: they pushed full steam ahead with both. 

Cover detail from Entertainment Weekly's June 28, 2013, issue

But they lost their director Neil Burger (interview here) once Lionsgate/Summit chose the sequel dates, which was not the producers' decision. Burger had to complete some reshoots on "Divergent," which would take his full attention. "There wasn't really a way," says Fisher in a telephone interview. "It was incredibly difficult to finish one in the middle of full-blown production and prep another. We barely had enough time to do it."

So now instead of biting their nails over word-of-mouth, poor reviews and weekend box office numbers, Wick and Fisher are fretting about getting the next script into shape and working with a new director, Robert Schwentke ("Red"), on "Insurgent," which starts in May.

I talked to Fisher about how they turned the first movie into an inevitable franchise.

Anne Thompson: What's different about this movie from the others you've made? 

Lucy Fisher: We've never worked on a movie where the sequel was greenlit before the first one came out. We're already dealing with both. Usually you're living to get through the opening of that first movie and take a breath, with a job well done or whatever. With a franchise, that mentality is very different, as was the press junket. It's a different feeling in terms of an ongoing process.

Do you still feel pressure for the movie to perform? 

The pressure is to be compared to "Twilight" and "Hunger Games," which were huge gigantic phenomena. We don't need to come close to them and we'd still be doing well. Those movies are held up as a beacon on the hill. Because the book is so successful we already have an audience for the movie, which is a wonderful feeling. We know people want to see it. 

It's a surprise how much some of the reviewers don't seem to appreciate it. It's well-made and beautifully acted, the cast is fantastic. It's a happy situation to know for certain that people will want to see movie no matter what, that fans are happy with the movie.  We had people who didn't like the color of Shai's hair, "more tawny, more honey." There are no eggs being thrown at us from the people we made it for.

Who are they? 

They're the people who read the books basically: primarily female, male also, primarily under 25, but not all. 

How did you land the property?

Red Wagon got sent the manuscript by the agent before it was published. We read it and saw a phenomenally interesting voice and premise, with rich veins of identity and conformity. Veronica Roth was still a senior at Northwestern. She was a kid herself, everyone was growing up on this movie. Shailene was 20 years old. 

3 Comments

  • zia | April 5, 2014 12:09 AMReply

    I like what Shailene said about Twilight. And I liked that franchise too, but as a heroine who actually cared for her loved ones and looked out for them, Tris is by far a better role model. Hell, Bella was ready to abandon all and run off with Edward because they were soooo inlove (emesis basin please). Kudos to her and all the people who worked on Divergent. It was a good movie. I loved the books! Schmaters haters are gonna whine like they always do.

  • truth | March 28, 2014 3:47 AMReply

    Whoever wrote this article either didn't see the movie or is a complete idiot. Dystopian romance my a$$. The movie is an action flick, the romance is not even the jist of it. She needs to go back to her basement and marathon on Twilight flicks and stop writing about stories she knows nothing about.

  • equipmentguy | March 27, 2014 10:10 PMReply

    They got Robert "RIPD" Schwentke for the second film, oh boy this is gonna be a train wreck. After that mess how does he get a second chance on any film with that big of budget, must be who you know.

Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

Email Updates

Most "Liked"

  • Sony Counters Bad Press with 'Spider-Man' ...
  • PBS Preview: Six New 'Makers' Documentaries ...
  • Toronto Film Festival Global Summit ...
  • Distribution Maestro Jeff Blake Exits ...
  • Trailers From Hell Opens 'The Doors ...
  • Trailers From Hell Loves 'All That ...
  • FIRST LOOK: Toronto Best Actress Candidate ...
  • Which World Premieres Did Venice La ...
  • Parker Posey and Jamie Blackley Will ...
  • Get Tied Down With First Trailer for ...