My Fridays are always spent at some film studio office interviewing authors of future blockbuster franchises. A couple weeks ago, it was Lionsgate and Veronica Roth--the author of Divergent, Insurgent and the upcoming Allegiant. No big deal.
Just kidding! A huge deal! It was a fantastic experience. And the Lionsgate office had all The Hunger Games: Catching Fire posters up--and maybe I think movie Finnick is sexy now?!
Myself, alongside other bloggers (pictured below with Roth) got the chance to interview Roth (who is the sweetest) about the upcoming Divergent movie (and the dreaminess of Theo James), a bit about the final book in the trilogy, Allegiant and Roth's own fangirl tendencies.
Can you describe Theo James as Four in 4 words?
Veronica Roth: Handsome, Intense, Sensitive and Bad-Ass.
What was your first reaction after you read the script?
VR: Reading a script was a really interesting experience because I had never read a script before. I was really impressed by how closely it stuck to the general plotline of the book. I haven't read the updated script, so I don't know how it's been transformed. But I've been told that it's transformed in really positive ways. It was surprisingly positive because I was expecting to feel very personally insulted if anything changed but I didn't feel that way at all.
What's the mood been like on set so far? How much time have you spent on it?
VR: I've only been there one day. From what I can see it's really interesting to see how the actor relationships reflect the character relationships. All the young initiates have a great camaraderie with each other and they seem really excited. I met the behind the scenes people--the guys that built the set and the people who are making the costumes--everyone seems really positive and pumped up and excited about figuring out the details of this crazy world.
Was Allegiant always going to be the title [of the third book] or did you go through other ideas?
VR: I didn't go through other ideas! Allegiant was always the title.
How was it seeing the characters that were in your brain come to life with these actors, some of them Oscar nominated? Has it been surreal or has it been exactly how you pictured it?
VR: I would be a little disappointed if had been exactly how I'd pictured it because then there's no new interpretation, no new discovery. What I was most concerned about when they were casting was finding actors that could capture the internal world of the character instead of matching the description that I wrote. In that sense, I think it's been really amazing because when I was watching them act I was like "Yes! This is it! This is the person!" I've been overwhelmingly positive about it online and that's because I feel overwhelmingly positive about it. And if I wasn't feeling that way, I'd probably just be quiet.
Is there a certain scene that you are excited to see come to life?
VR: So many of them. I'm excited to see some of the more intense moments--the deaths--that sounds really morbid. But I think that those are, especially Tris's mom, such formative experiences for Tris and I want to see that realized and see if I cry even though I've read it hundreds of times and wrote it.
Why do you think dystopian future drama is so compelling right now?
VR: I've thought about that a lot. I think it's interesting because it pulls you into different directions--you are interested in the forward thrust of the story and you are also interested in the history of the world and how it became that way. I think anything that pulls your mind that way will be interesting and create interesting backdrops for these very human struggles and stories.
I know you can't give too many spoilers. What kind of tidbits can you share from Allegiant?
VR: What can I share? Is there anything I can share? I think the things you expect to learn more about you do. You will find out who this Edith Prior person is and how they are related.
Questions will be answered?
VR: Yes! I tried really hard to answer all questions I thought that readers were likely to have because those were the questions I set up and they were the ones I had when I started writing.
What does the word Allegiant mean to you?
VR: To me it means "one who is loyal or faithful to a particular cause or person."
The second book really opened up a whole new world--it can go in so many directions. It seems like it could be difficult to close everything up with one more book. Would you ever consider another after the third?
VR: I definitely mapped it out to be three books and the ending is definitely an end.
Would you ever write from Four's point of view again or any of the other characters in the future?
VR: I mean I certainly wouldn't rule it out as side material like Free Four was. What I discovered when I wrote Free Four is that it is intensely difficult to rewrite a scene from another character's perspective because you have to keep consulting the original scene to make sure that it lines up. Then you have to keep the whole frame of the story in mind and it was so hard. It was fun but definitely a challenge.
I'm open but…I chose Tris's narrative and her voice for a reason.
When you were on set, did any of the actors come to you and have any particular questions?
VR: I had a fairly long conversation with Miles Teller about Peter which was really interesting because Peter as a character is a little confusing and is really one of the stranger characters. I had to explain some things to him that I think he was interested in figuring out. I talked to Theo a little bit about Four and Shailene a little bit about Tris.
If you were going to place yourself in the Divergent story, which character would you see yourself as?
VR: Oh god! What a question! I don't know…probably one of the side people like Susan.
Are you divergent? What faction do you see yourself as a part of?
VR: I used to think that I would choose Dauntless. That's a desire I think a lot of people have like, "I want to be a bad-ass." But I'm not. I think I'd actually choose Abnegation. I'm a Hufflepuff so it seems.
How involved are you or are you going to be in the filming process?
VR: I haven't been involved in terms of making decisions because I like to write books and I was busy doing that. But they've kept me really informed of everything and been super welcoming. They made me a chair--a director's chair that has my name.
Is it a dream come true to have a movie with Kate Winslet in it--was that the moment when you were like this is super legit?
VR: When they told me they were talking to her, I was like "yeah, that's going to happen." I don't believe anything until it's actually official. Then when it was official, I had a little panic attack. The official strategy is defensive pessimism always. Lately, I've been allowing myself to get more excited.
What's your favorite part of the writing process?
VR: I like revision a lot. My rough drafts are just insane--just a gross, word vomit mess. What I really love is getting really good notes and totally ripping it apart and putting it back together to find the story that I originally wanted to tell. I especially like late stage revisions where you are fixing little things and see what it's going to look like as a finished story.
News broke on Twitter that Uriah isn't going to be in the movie and fans are going crazy. Can you talk about that?
VR: It's obviously super disappointing when your fan favorite doesn’t make it into the first movie but I will say that I'm comforted that they didn't just slapdash cast someone. I'm happy that they are going to take their time casting someone for the second and the third that can do justice to the role.
After we read Insurgent, it really turned the whole story on its head. Can we expect that level of shock in Allegiant?
VR: I can't really anticipate how you are going to react to it. Certainly some things will be shocking and some will be "oh…yeah."
On set, were you able to see the chemistry between Four and Tris in real life?
VR: Yes. Actually when I saw the screen test, I pulled away and fanned myself. It was really good. There's a reason they cast him!
What scene [when visiting the set] did you see while they were filming?
VR: It was the knife throwing scene. Not really a great opportunity to see romantic tension but it was a great day to be there.
When you sat down to write Divergent did you have people in mind while you were writing the character of Tris?
VR: Not really. I'm not someone who makes fan casts because I don't really know actors that well. I think just the images I have of characters and the setting of the book is slightly more vague. I think that's helped me to be more open minded when seeing the filming happen. It's been more magical than disappointing because it's seeing someone flesh out the details of this thing I imagined.
You said in your latest blog, what you want to write about has changed. If you could dream write whatever you want, what would it be?
VR: I think when I wrote that I was still writing the same world, the same kind of story. But I think the third book, Allegiant, is different in some of the things it tackles. Divergent and Insurgent are heavy action, pretty violent books. The third book has action but a lot of my interests have shifted to societal struggles that are happening and the wrestling that Tris is doing inside her head. That's more what I was referring to.
Can you talk about Neil's [Burger -director] vision for the film versus yours?
VR: I was worried that the overall visual of the movie would be too futuristic sexy like really sleek and shiny. And that's not the world of Divergent--everything is falling apart. He did that which I was really happy about. The visuals I've seen have been in that vein. He's got a really detail oriented mind, so down to the littlest details I saw have been so well thought out and keeping with the philosophy of the world. He's just so interested in every little thing.
Lots of fans have commented on the age of the actors that have been cast. Do you have any comments on that?
VR: I think that headshots look a lot older than actual people. When I was meeting them in real life, I felt like this is not a problem. Seeing them together, they look younger than you'd think. I was most concerned by the age gap. Shailene is six years younger than Theo but it doesn't really look that way. I'm really happy with the maturity of the actors. I think that was crucial to making this movie work and by casting older actors they've got some of that maturity.
Which actor do you think was cast best to your vision of the character?
VR: I think Theo is the closest to how I imagined Four. And Maggie Q as Tori was spot on. I've seen her on Nikita. She's a bad-ass. She's already Dauntless.
What makes Shailene great for Tris for you?
VR: Shailene brings reality to Tris. Tris is an impetuous 16 year old. She's a harsh personality with some vulnerability. Shailene is able to do all the shades of what Tris is. She very subtle and even though she's not a tiny blonde girl, she just is this character. I knew she was a great actress, but I just didn't think anyone would be able to do it because Tris is so dear to me. Even though I want to punch her sometimes.
This is going to open it up to a new audience of people who haven't read the books. What does it feel like to have the last book coming out and closing the story not too far from when all these new people are going to be starting it?
VR: It's a little weird actually. A lot of people are asking me about Divergent and I'm just like that was so long ago. Sometimes I don't remember the details. It's incredible to see so many people gravitating toward the books over time. I convinced myself after the first burst of readership I got that would be it like "Here we are initiates. Just you and me."
I'm glad I finished writing the third book before this movie stuff started so I could just imagine the characters the way I had without that changing. It's been good to see it grow.
Do you think you'll be more involved in the next movie?
VR: I don't know. It depends on what I'm writing and how things develop from here. We're just starting so I don't even know what this world is like yet.
Divergent has such a strong fanbase. Do you have something that you are a super fangirl of?
VR: Harry Potter. Seriously, I have a wand. I'm going to Comic Con this year and I was seriously thinking about making myself some robes. I'm a big fan.