‘Divergent’ Set Visit, Part 1: Who's Who and What's What

In the future, Chicago residents are divided into five factions based on their core values: "Abnegation" (values selflessness), "Dauntless" (courage), "Amity" (peacefulness), "Candor" (honesty) and "Erudite" (intelligence). Together, they keep society afloat in a crumbling, dystopian version of the familiar city. Watch this clip for more of an explanation:

The world of Divergent may boil down to the five factions, but the narrative is loaded with striking story and location details that are vital to the experience, and if the team of filmmakers behind the production were going to bring this world to life at all, they were going to do it right. On our visit to the film’s Chicago-based sets last May, we learned more about the elements that are bound to make Divergent, coming out next March, stand out. 

Welcome to the new dystopia: Production designer Andy Nicholson said, “We wanted to do something different that wasn’t dystopian dystopia,” explaining, “mainly it’s a lot of use of color.” Director Neil Burger added, “I wanted to do it very real, not raw in a gritty way, but raw in an immediate and intimate way.”

Faction attraction: “What we’ve tried to do with all the factions is make them appealing,” said Nicholson. “Abnegation is sparse and minimal, but it’s not unattractive. And Dauntless is quite exciting, but it’s also a really beautiful cave.Burger adopted a similar strategy when formulating his visuals. “When you see these postapocalyptic movies, they’re often very gray or blue, there’s a bleakness to them and we didn’t want to do it like 1984 or Children of Men. If it’s so bleak to start with, you’re like, ‘You’re making a big mistake,’ right from the get-go.”

Why Chicago?: Said Burger, “We didn’t want to do CG skylines or digital landscapes and things like that, so I thought it’s set in Chicago and Chicago is this monumental place and why not use that? That’s the skyline; it’s already here, give or take a few buildings that might’ve been lost in the war, it’s pretty much the same.”

What happened to Chicago, anyway? One major plot point that goes unexplained in Roth’s novel is the catastrophic event that decimated the region. Rather than focus on providing answers, Nicholson opted to offer the same sensation in the film. “That’s how we’re throwing people in.” Residents spent 100 years rebuilding those things worthwhile; for example, the broken streets were never fixed—there are no cars anymore…

Except for one hot ride: In the film, Kate Winslet’s Jeanine Matthews, the leader of Erudite, zips around in a gorgeous silver Bentley. Nicholson said, “The one car that you clearly see is a big statement made with who owns it, who has it and why exactly they’ve got it.”

Set challenges solved!: Wick noted that shooting at the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel was a challenge because they were not allowed to shut the attraction down. They had to complete filming during off hours and ensure it’d be up and running again the next day. Wick further explained, “How do you make it seem distressed and have it ready for business the next day? Aside from a little bit of mud that you could wash off – and there were even places we couldn’t put the mud - they created these decals that would look like rust.”

Putting the stuntmen through the wringer: Stunt coordinator Garrett Warren had the team climb up to the L train tracks. “We went over to the L tracks and they actually climbed up on to that train track, and we had to wait between trains. They didn’t shut it down for the day, you know?”

On top of that, these stunt performers had to make an eight-foot jump from a train traveling 10 miles per hour. While on set, we watched as a truck pulled a train car along and, when the time was right, a group of stunt performers leaped from that train car on to a mock roof erected in a parking lot. Warren admitted, “If someone was to fall short right now, they would be in trouble.”

Another iconic stunt that Warren insisted on turning into the real deal was the enormous drop into the Dauntless pit. Warren proclaimed, “We had someone jump 70 feet into an airbag, free of a wire.” He shot the scene himself. “I [had the] camera on a wire and they dropped me on the wire.”

Read on for our set report part 2! And make sure you get the alert for when tickets go on sale.


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