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.