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Jennifer Lawrence convinced Shailene Woodley to star in ‘Divergent’

March 7, 2014
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Word got out last summer that Jennifer Lawrence convinced Shailene Woodley to take on the role of Tris in Divergent, but now there’s much more info on the story in the latest issue of The Hollywood Reporter!

In fall 2012, Lionsgate was looking for someone with the same qualities as Lawrence and its Twilight heroine, Kristen Stewart, to carry the $85 million Divergent. The movie is based on Veronica Roth’s wildly popular trilogy that is set in a dystopic future where society has been carved into five factions. Woodley, who will be paid $250,000 to $500,000 for the first installment, according to sources, was the studio’s first and only choice thanks mostly to her breakout performance in Alexander Payne’s 2011 drama, The Descendants. At that time, she was particularly in demand after her name had surfaced as EL James’ first choice to star in Fifty Shades of Grey. She also was being hotly pursued for Amazing Spider-Man 2, and she had a fan base due to a five-season stint on ABC Family’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Erik Feig, Lionsgate motion picture group co-president, says the Divergent male lead, which eventually went to Theo James, was the much harder call.

Woodley’s Secret Life experience was decidedly mixed. Although it established her in the business, the show’s melodramatic style made her a running punch line on the E! clip show The Soup, and the contract that kept her tethered to it made her leery of committing to a multipart movie franchise.

“Having come off a TV show, I was kind of in the place where I was like, ‘I’m never signing a contract for more than one movie,’ because once you do sign a contract, legally, you’re liable,” she says. “[Even] if you don’t find something creatively stimulating anymore, you’ve still got to do it legally.”

Feig enlisted Lawrence — an admitted Secret Life geek — to reach out to Woodley and sell her on the merits of a YA franchise. In a series of emails, says Woodley, Lawrence “said: ‘You must do it. You will not regret it for a second. Yes, there are some hard things, but there are so many beautiful things that will come from an opportunity like this.’ “

“I don’t know what happened,” recalls Feig, “but I do know that after that interaction, Shailene said: ‘OK, now I’ll make Divergent. Let’s talk.’ “

Even though it must be an enormous decision to take on a role that causes you to lose all anonymity, amazing things come along with it as well. Do you think you would take a huge role in a film franchise, or would being famous not be something you’d want? Divergent hits theaters on March 21st.


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Kimmy is the founder and editor in chief of Mockingjay.net. When she's not writing about books and movies here or on Page to Premiere, she loves Tumblr-ing, eating sushi, drinking Thai iced tea, or being lazy with her cat Rue! Her twitter is @kimmymary.

  • saffron

    Im soooo excited for divergent! Just finished all the books and im sorry to say they were ALOT better then the hunger games! But still love the hunger games!

    • death2analog

      The part I enjoyed the most was knowing every detail about four but knowing pretty much to nothing about the Dauntless compound (at least he doesn’t sparkle), or how Tris grows enough muscle in a week to tear her clothes yet all they eat is chocolate cake and junk food, You know, the super cool guys from Dauntless who wear black clothes and have tattoos that apparently don’t need any special care ;)

      That’s not all! How to forget she also gets beaten up constantly yet she seems to be fine the next day? probably cause she’s Divergent, you know those special people who the rest of us know as “Capable of having a higher intelligence than an Amoeba cause they can actually think outside of just being peaceful, brave or selfless”

      WAIT! Certainly memorable:that she basically tells her plan on how to escape to Janine on Insurgent, yet they still leave her and four under the eyes of ONE person who happens to be from Dauntless too and just basically trust him even though he is just an “initiate”

      Divergent is not a good book… its a clash of Twilight with Dystopian themes, full of deus ex machina moments, that some wanna-be wrote while she was supposed to be studying in college (all she learned was that “I Inch” its a synonym for “I get closer” “I approach” as it seems to be written 250 times just in the first book) , but hey, the hungers games is a hit now, so let’s ride that wave, after all, all the kids just want to be part of something and they lack reading comprehension.

      Well done! Its now a movie :D

      • saffron

        Dudr whats wrong with you? Its NOTHING like twilight and they explain the Dauntless compound thoroughly, she never fully recovers from her injury the next day! You obviously didnt read the book with an open mind and was trying to find fault!

        • death2analog

          What is wrong with me? You’re the one who likes a book that was conceived by a student while she was studying to be a writer (clearly shown in her work) and that was picked up because the Hunger Gamer was extremely popular at the time.

          Then you come here (a THG website, no less) and claim that its better.

          I actually picked up Divergent hoping to read something awesome, as some THG fans kept talking about it, I also grabbed Delirium, and I was totally open minded to both:
          Delirium is awesome and well written.
          Divergent… I already made my point up there.

          • TeamButtercup

            Okkkkk…..thanks for your opinion? I haven’t read Divergent but I know that you should never hate on a beloved story no matter how bad you think it is. Otherwise you become an internet troll.

            The main point of the story was Shailene looking up to a fellow franchise star for advice and it should show how supportive people are of each other. Frankly I want more female leads in movies so I’m rooting for Divergent to succeed.

            Regardless of how you feel about the book, having good YA adaptations is good for the entire genre.

          • mse63

            “Frankly I want more female leads in movies so I’m rooting for Divergent to succeed.”
            ^THIS

            That’s also why I’m excited about The Hunger Games starting this trend of female-let YA book adaptations, even if some of them are destined to fail. Divergent however actually has a reasonably large following, so I expect it to do slightly better than that (although I don’t think it has the kind of crossover appeal that could make it nearly as big of a hit as THG).

            I will be the first to admit, that I had tons of problems with Divergent, and after I read Insurgent and Allegiant I had to write up a list of all the things I hated about it… But I don’t think anyone should be bullied for liking it. At its core, it’s a compelling story, especially the first book. so I’m definitely looking forward to seeing that on the big screen. And Woodley was fantastic in The Descendants and The Spectacular Now, so I’m excited about that casting as well.

            Let’s just chill. ;)

          • death2analog

            FYI, I’m not bullying anyone.

            By “Then you come here (a THG website, no less) and claim that its better.”

            I meant that just wasn’t a wise decision.
            The same I wouldn’t go to other websites from other Fandoms and say “The Hunger Games is better!” and expect to not at least debate with someone why I think that is.

          • Savanah

            God bless you.
            (That’s not sarcasm. I’m just glad that someone finally said it. Not liking something and discussing why is not being a troll or a bully!)

          • TeamButtercup

            Well I hate the unfortunate experience of someone spoiling a part of Allegiant to me (same thing happened with Mockingjay too) and I was taken aback by it. I planning on seeing this movie then reading the books so we will see how that works out.

          • death2analog

            There’s no point in having female leads if all they focus on is how cute their dates are or how good their tattoos look on them.

            And I’m sorry for having a more abrasive opinion than the rest of you, being blunt doesn’t make an internet troll, I just don’t like to sugar coat things.

            TO ME Divergent it’s a badly written story and the same way everyone can say its super awesome and it changed their lives I’m allowed to say I hated it, I’m sorry if that hurts your internet sensibilities or anyone elses, tough luck, this is the real world and not everyone is gonna be all ‘Aww, let’s agree to disagree and hug it out, shall we?’

          • Kimmy West

            I wouldn’t attack people for liking what they like. I like The Hunger Games AND Divergent. Leave her be!

          • death2analog

            I’m not attacking her… ???
            I’m sarcastically stating why I believe Divergent is badly written and how I don’t agree about it being better than the Hunger Games… am I not allowed? Would I think you guys are attacking me cause you don’t agree with me?

          • saffron

            Yeah whatever

          • Kimmy West

            You’re definitely being rather malicious. Just leave it.

          • death2analog

            If you say so.

            I personally don’t care much if either Saffron or you get offended. It’s interesting though, that I have so many of your readers agreeing with me, but clearly you don’t care about that cause:

            1.- You’re into Divergent
            2.- Mockingjay.net was probably asked to also support this movie

            Feel free to ban me from here if you think I’m too much trouble…

      • catherine

        I love this reply, iv just finished reading divergent and iv been trying to explain to my husband and friends everything u hav just written, it sums it all up for me! It was ok but loads of things we left hanging and a few things u saw coming a mile off hahaha

  • Brandon Meacham

    Seeing those two together playing two of the most brilliant heriones is like seeing Tennant and Smith in the same frame of The Day of the Doctor.

  • Mario Prince-Charming

    I don’t mean to sound rude, but I could careless about Divergent. I read a few pages of the book and threw it away. It’s like Roth went home one night, read the Hunger Games, smoked some pot and said “I can do this”.

    • senlav

      funny, because a lot of battle royale fan have accused susan collin of doing the same thing.

      • Mario Prince-Charming

        The difference is, SC put a lot of thought into THG. The only major similarities between the two is the kids killing kids part. Not to mention, THG is better written than BR.

        • senlav

          well, i am not going to start a debate or a catfight as i stumble on this site .I know this is an HG site so i will be very respectful. however having said that i will say battle royale is a superior book with better story telling and it is more of a classic of the two.

          it does not mean hunger games is bad, however battle royale overall was just stronger and appealed to a more wider audience while hunger games is obviously a YA centric book like divergent and twilight. battle roylae is a cult classic.

    • Rachel Schultz

      Obviously, Mario, if you only read a few pages of Divergent you either didn’t understand it or you’re just plain stupid not to give the entire book a shot. If you had actually read the entire trilogy, you might have actually liked it instead of being a little pessimistic asshole.

      Don’t write it off as a “piece of shit” until you read MORE than just a few measly pages.

      • Mario Prince-Charming

        Never said it was a “piece of shit”. I just said it wasn’t for me. Any GOOD author would tell you that you have to grab the reader within a few pages. Nobody is going to read a whole book waiting for it to get good. Every book I have read I either loved, liked, interested in within the first few page.

  • Emy

    **Lionsgate was looking for someone with the same qualities as Lawrence and its Twilight heroine, Kristen Stewart** Stewart has qualities, REALLY ?????

    • Rowena Hargis

      when I first saw Kristen’s first movie Panic Room with Jodie Foster I knew she will be a big star someday, and yes she can act and have qualities

  • Kara Wilson

    I’ve only read the first book and have about five chapter of the second to go but my problem is divergence seems to have turned into some sort super power and I feel they’ve went a bit overboard with all these ‘simulations’