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DIVERGENT

Choosing The Cast (Continued)
Teller adds, "Shailene Woodley is a gem. She is a doll. We worked together right before this film playing love interests, which is great, so we formed a really special bond. Then to do this project less than a year later, where our characters are at odds, is great. This shoot has long days. Literally one line, you can say for four or five hours and Shailene does something different every take. She's very gracious. I've never heard Shailene complain about anything. We're all in this thing together, and this movie's bigger than any of us. We've all really bonded over trying to tell this story and give moviegoers what they want."

"When Tris starts in Dauntless, she's part of a group of initiates who have transferred from other factions. There's not that many of them as most people stay in their own faction," explains Burger. "She immediately develops this great bond with Christina, played by Zoe Kravitz, who comes from Candor. Christina has this openness and this honesty that Tris has never really experienced before... somebody that speaks their mind immediately and has no filter. It's fun and there's a truth that is really refreshing for Tris. Christina turns into a confidant for Tris because she recognizes her trustworthiness, and her ability to not tell a lie."

"Christina is a feisty little girl, who's truthful and says whatever she wants, whenever she wants," agrees Kravitz "She's a loudmouth, she doesn't hold back at all, and she's brave. Christina also believes in joining Dauntless, she's becoming a part of something great. She wants to help protect the city actively. Christina and Will have their little connection, and they with Tris and Al, form their own little clique within the Dauntless initiates."

"Zoe is a perfect Christina... tough and funny and lovable and will bite you if you don't watch your back... a great combination," comments Fisher. "We knew she was a really good actress and we knew that she and Shai would be really interesting together. They became very good friends and that part was very fulfilling to watch."

"Christina is Tris' first real friend," Woodley comments. "Christina is honest, she's confident, she's beautiful, she's everything that Tris hadn't been exposed to in her previous life. She's this new creature coming into her life and teaching her things that she had never been taught, who is open about things. That's exciting for Tris. To have a confidante is incredibly important for the evolution of young females. Zoe has been amazing, and we have a lot in common. We have mutual friends, so before we connected face-to-face we already had a respect for each other. We have ten brothers on this movie, so it's nice to have a sister on your arm."

Kravitz comments, "Christina's relationship to Tris is like me and Shai in real life. They have this immediate connection, like you do at school when you meet someone on the first day and you think oh my God, you're my best friend. They're both really honest and brave and a little scared at the same time, and they find comfort in each other."

"Shai is an absolutely phenomenal human being and actress. She's one of the reasons I was so excited to do this film," she adds. "I love what she's doing with her character. Tris is not a superhero. She's a regular young woman who's rising to the occasion. That's a really interesting thing for all young women to see. She's a girl who's been put in this crazy scenario and she handles it. Tris is a powerful, real woman and that's really great for young women to see in cinema."

"There are some really wonderful messages in this story. Young women really need to see strong, intelligent, beautiful, fearless, fiery women, taking over the screen and that's huge reason to see the film. Women who are driven, who have been put in situations where they need to take responsibility... not only young women, but young people in the world now need to take action in their lives. That's why it was so great to meet the author Veronica," shares Kravitz. "I was really nervous to meet her and really shocked to see how young she is. She's a beautiful young person doing really intelligent things."

Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Christian Madsen, and Amy Newbold play the other featured Dauntless transfer initiates. "We saw Ben Lloyd-Hughes in a British miniseries and loved him right away," remembers Fisher. "He came in the office and we practically told him right away he had the part. As Will, he will break your heart."

"Will chooses Dauntless partly for the same reason I would choose them, he's drawn to their bravery," comments Lloyd-Hughes. "Anyone who changes factions in this world is a rebel. He is drawn to this idea that you can be brave, that you can make the noble and honorable choice to stand out from the crowd in the best possible way. He's such an intelligent guy... this is not something that he does on the spur of the moment. He will have thought about it. He has a burning passion and a desire inside himself to go to where the action is."

Lloyd-Hughes adds, "Will, Tris, and Christina -- we form a bit of a trio of friends. There is a protective side of Will; he has a huge fondness for Tris because he recognizes in her that same rebellious nature. They're all drawn to each other because they've all got a twinkle in their eye of fun. There's fun to be had. Will is also a fountain of knowledge. He has so much information that they almost use him as their Google. He's like a walking encyclopedia."

"Christina talks about him having swallowed a textbook, because he seems to know everything about Dauntless already," chuckles Burger. "He speaks his own truth, and is a know-it- all, but they're things that need to be known."

"Zoe brings energy and detail to Christina. She's got a cool sense of humor. As a young British guy, there's a certain New York cool, which we're not necessarily used to, and she has it," laughs Lloyd-Hughes. "I like working with Zoe because she's very specific. Both she and Shai always have great ideas. Zoe has attention to detail to everything including her costume, which is always so customized. It's amazing. Zoe, how come you look so much cooler than the rest of us?"

Lloyd-Hughes was thrilled to work on a high profile American film with top-notch filmmakers. "Doug and Lucy are the real deal... so lovely to work with and so approachable. They have made some incredible films, amazing films that I've loved. They both come from a background of storytelling. They love telling a good story. They are all about getting it right for the right reasons."

Kravitz agrees, "Doug and Lucy are like mamma and papa on set, literally handing me vitamin C, they care about their actors and they are so hands-on. The work that they do is amazing. They do really strong films, really smart films that have really touched my heart. Because they're so hands-on, they make sure that everything they do has depth to it and I feel very safe knowing that they're producing this film."

"We were looking for Al, who is the most touching part in some ways as the character who thinks he can't make it. Christian Madsen walked into our office and, as a producer, you're never supposed to say right then and there, 'Oh I love you and you're perfect.' But we couldn't help ourselves, so we did," laughs Fisher. "Christian was in a state of shock. When he 'officially' found out later, he went up to his rooftop and shed a few tears of joy."

"Al also is from Candor. He's big and strong and should be able to knock anybody out in a fight, but he just doesn't have the will to hurt anybody," comments Burger. "He's this gentle giant, and he's also ranked at the bottom because of that. He feels this kinship for Tris: they're both outsiders and they' both realize they may not make it in Dauntless. He really cares for her, and she for him. They are in the same boat."

"He's a loner," says Madsen. "Al is very shy, a searcher whose trying to find who he is when he takes this leap of faith and joins Dauntless. He meets his friends Christina, Will, and Tris, who help him become a better person. He's very quiet and I'm the same way, and I would also choose to be Dauntless."

Madsen adds, "Al signed up to go to Dauntless, but he wasn't necessarily ready for it. Tris acknowledges that and brings him in - hey come hang out with us. But Peter also sees the sensitivity in Al, and knows he can mold him. Al is a follower and Peter manipulates him to try and help to take down Tris. Al is naïve and sensitive, and doesn't really understand the consequences."

"It's been very interesting to see our little group evolve. When Christian first arrived in Chicago, there was a driver with a little sign with his name on it, and Christian made someone take a picture because it was his first time having that happen. Near the end of filming, he threw the first ball out at a Cubs game," laughs Fisher. "So watching these kids hit their stride and begin to come into their own abilities as actors, and watching the world beginning to notice who they are, has been fun. Also knowing that their lives are perched for more recognition, there's a little bit of wonder at this crossroads. They are innocent in that they haven't had big movie star lives yet, but their lives may change."

"Rounding out the Dauntless team playing Molly is Amy Newbold, who was not a professional actress," says Fisher. "It was really interesting to find somebody who actually had not been in a movie before, and discover her. Finding the girl who would be the formidable fighter, who would take on Tris and smack her to the ground, was an interesting search. Much to our delight Amy, who is from Chicago, was working in the casting office as a day job. Put her in a Dauntless uniform and she could out act and out smack anybody. She's really someone to watch out for and it's really fun to have somebody who has not worked before, turn out to be such a star."

"I moved to Chicago to go to school for theatre because I thought I wanted to be an actor. After two years, I realized I didn't have a thick enough skin for acting," laughs Newbold. "But, I really loved actors. I loved the idea of getting them work. At the time, I had a professor who was a casting director. She was very kind and mentored me. Eventually I got an internship with a different casting director here in Chicago, where I worked for four years."

"About a year and a half ago, I decided to totally switch it up and become a nurse. In the meantime, my old boss was calling me in for little one liner jobs on TV shows. She thought of me for this script because I'm tall and could maybe be scary. I thought it would be the same as the other roles, one day of filming. I did not know what Divergent was. I had no idea the scope of the project. Now I'm going in a different direction for a little bit, microbiology will be there when I'm done with the film," chuckles Newbold. "It's been a crazy ride."

Burger says, "Unlike Al and Tris, there are other people in this initiate class that do belong in Dauntless, who are already mean and intensely competitive; initiates who are already willing to be cutthroat to make sure that they make it above the red line. Peter is one of those people, as is Molly. She is a big, tough fighter, who Tris has to face in the ring."

"Dauntless celebrate ordinary acts of bravery, so it's a faction that centers entirely around what it takes to cultivate that courage to lay down your life for another person. Molly's not afraid of other people. She marches to the beat of her own drums. She doesn't answer to anybody else. Physically she's super strong. I don't think there's anything she fears in the physical world, it's not until she comes up against some really serious emotional fears that she really starts to unravel," says Newbold. "It's really interesting to see the difference between what she expected and what the reality is, once she does get to that mental part of the initiation in the fear landscapes."

"The process of putting these kids together has been so great. Doug and I have never seen a group of actors that are more talented," shares Fisher. "They love each other and they tease each other. In Chicago, they all lived in the same apartment building. They were like a bunch of puppies, wrestling each other, verbal jousting each other, pranking each other, torturing each other, and befriending each other. They became the Dauntless crew. They're tough, but their joy and their exuberance as their characters and the way that they protect each other and the way that they torture each other all at the same time... all of it is in the movie too."

Roth adds, "I've been confident in the cast from the beginning, but seeing them in action and really inhabiting these characters was really amazing because they're so good! They were each perfectly chosen."

"They all came to Chicago a couple of weeks before shooting started to train for the fight sequences, except Ansel Elgort and he has a special place in everybody's heart because he's a little bit younger and he is not Dauntless. He plays Caleb, who was Abnegation and becomes Erudite. Ansel arrived a little bit later because he didn't have to learn how to fight. He became everybody's little brother. It's a great crowd. They all go out together almost every night. Sometimes we go out with them and we feel it the next morning," admits Fisher. "It's been fun to be with them and see their joy as Dauntless."

Fisher adds, "Doug and I both think Ansel has enormous star quality. That's something that God gave you. You can't teach anybody that. They just have it or they don't."

Caleb chooses the Erudite faction. "The decision to transfer is not too difficult for Caleb, because he feels the whole time growing up in Abnegation, he's been wronged because he wasn't really told anything. Any time that grown-ups were talking, you don't ask questions. But Caleb always wanted to know more," shared Elgort. "Caleb cares more about the greater good of society than he does individual people. He needs to know how he can make society better, and that is why he needs information. The Erudite know everything, and you're free to talk and discuss and argue about things, and he thinks that's more how a society should be run."

Elgort was in awe of the size and detail of the production. "I didn't think I'd walk into a house that looked this beautiful, or walk into a set like the pit, or walk into a studio with green screens that are more than 50 feet high. Just seeing all that was pretty mind blowing. A year ago, I was in high school doing little scenes in a black box theater."

Veteran actors Ashley Judd and Tony Goldwyn join Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort to make up the Prior Family. "They kept telling me who they were approaching for the adult's roles, we're going to talk to Kate Winslet, and I said good luck," admits Roth. "I'm a defensive pessimist. I don't believe that anything is going to work out until it does. But when Ashley Judd and Tony Goldwyn and Kate Winslet were cast, I didn't even know what to do with myself anymore! I was posting out the casting news on my Twitter, and I did not know what to say. I was so thrilled, I just wrote a series of exclamation points."

The people involved and the universal themes in the story attracted Judd and Goldwyn to the project. "Doug and Lucy are really special producers. Anything they touch is golden," comments Judd. "The story is so strong, it is very fundamentally about our human need to belong. It is about choice, and it's also about the equally powerful need to be highly individualistic within a family context, and it's a lot about acceptance, which is really powerful unspoken theme." She adds, "I love the way Veronica wrote the book, all of the action is paced incredibly well and the book starts with an emotional array: there's woman versus nature, woman versus other, and woman versus self. Beatrice Prior has all three from page one. I've actually been reading the novel to my now seven-year-old niece."

"One of the things that really interested me was the idea of living in a Utopian society, where the lines are very clearly drawn of who you are, and what your code of behavior is, which is a inorganic construct," reveals Goldwyn. "None of us are one thing. We all are multiple things and we all have darkness and light. That's one of the themes that Veronica Roth really takes on in such an interesting way in her books."

"I was really glad to be a part of that Abnegation faction because Andrew is aware of the fact this is an ideal and not something that is self-sustaining. To me, Abnegation is the most lofty choice," shares Goldwyn. "It's almost like being a Buddhist Monk. You live this selfless life with a full awareness that that's not a natural thing. It's a struggle every day. When lines are drawn so cleanly, ultimately they're going to come apart, and that's what happens in these stories."

Goldwyn adds, "However, I was concerned that the filmmakers might interpret Abnegation as this harsh, cold, austere, very restricted, and strict environment that you would want Tris to get away from, so I was really relieved when I saw what Neil and the designers were doing. I also felt strongly that it should be related to a Zen Buddhist approach to the world that has an austere and beautiful aesthetic. Our house, the Prior home, is very simple and meditative, and aspiring to something of our higher selves."

"Our need to belong is the number one human need," says Judd. "All humans just have that ache of loneliness which is why we seek company and comfort in others. All cultures have rights of passage, but The Choosing Ceremony really amplifies that in a way that is so extreme. It's a tribal thing. It's a community thing."

"I can identify with Beatrice's journey and that struggle for self-identification. Our greatest fear is to be thrown out of the tribe, so to be courageous enough to choose to leave the tribe and risk death, both literally and symbolically, is a fascinating human story," reveals Judd. "I also wanted to do Divergent because Natalie Prior's a wonderful role. I love the twist and the reveal. It's so inherently dramatic. Divergent is a fantastic journey. I didn't really know anything about Shai before filming, but I rightly had a feeling that she's someone that I wanted not just to work with, but to have in my life."

Goldwyn adds, "Veronica Roth has really hit on something so classic in terms of rites of passage in life. We come out of our teenage years needing to claim an identity for ourselves. Figuring out who we are creates tremendous anxiety and uncertainty and oftentimes, trauma. But you have to break away from your mother and father. It's a scary rite of passage for every one of us, and it's also absolutely necessary. We can't stay in the womb. Those that do, suffer for it. I read the books as an adult and loved them because Veronica was really tapping into something primal."

"Tris' defection from Abnegation to Dauntless is traumatic on a few levels. Number one, as parents, losing your child is your worst nightmare. But beyond that for Andrew, at this point our society is bursting at the seams. There are tremendous strains on this century-old postapocalyptic social structure," comments Goldwyn. "So both Tris and ultimately our son Caleb's defections are not only terrible for our family, but provides fodder for those who want to destroy the whole society."

Both Prior parents have never revealed to their children that they too switched factions. "From a parental point of view, we talk with our kids about appropriate things at appropriate times at appropriate ages," comments Judd. "For whatever reason, Natalie hasn't found a compelling reason yet to share with both children the fact that she was actually born into a different faction and that during her choosing ceremony chose to defect."

The four actors met for the first time shooting inside the Prior house set. "We have a wonderful family put together with Ashley and Tony playing the parents. Not only do they look like Shailene and Ansel, but they also bonded as a family," shares Fisher.

"Tony is a kind, pure person and he had such deep respect for Ashley, and Ashley had such deep respect for Tony. It was so beautiful, they both had really phenomenal things to say about each other," remembers Woodley. "It was really amazing to witness their deep reverence for each other. Ashley is such a strong woman, who I respect so deeply. I'm in awe of what she's able to accomplish with such ease and such beauty and such raw strong humanity."

The feeling was mutual between mother and daughter. "I absolutely admire Shai. She is carrying herself with such grace and poise. She has an infectious sense of humor and an appreciation for what she's doing that's also contagious," says Judd. "She has a great brain, and she has a beautiful heart. Not to mention the fact that as an actor she is completely the real deal."

"I semi-retired in 2006 and to have the opportunity to be on a movie this big, that has so much potential to have such extraordinary impact with a young woman who is coming of age as a star, and she will culminate as a star in this movie, it's so joyful for me," adds Judd. "It's a bit like visiting with myself when I was 25 years old and number one on the call sheet. It's really, really special."

Winslet agrees, "I keep saying to Shai that she does remind me a lot of myself when I was 21. Titanic does feel years away, and it was 16 years ago. When you're carrying a film, you have to have a determination and a focus to be able to pull something off like she is. You really have to absolutely stay with it. I remember feeling as though I had to be the one leading the troops on. She very much has that spirit too, which is absolutely the way it should be. It's really impressive to see her doing that. But it's completely relentless. It's like preparing for a marathon, both mentally and physically. She's had a lot of physical challenges as well as on this, and she's a good person, and that's going to see her through everything."

Judd and Goldwyn have worked together several times, including Goldwyn directing Judd. "I'm so comfortable with Tony, both as a person and as an artist. We have a good time and we tease each other. We're pals from back when we made Someone Like You together. We've kept in touch and he's such a lovely, lovely human being and it's wonderful to be with him."

"It's been so great being a part of this with Ashley. We're old friends, so we have a shorthand. She has extraordinary beauty and a very powerful spirit to her and a keen intelligence that she brings to everything she does. So Natalie has an unspoken strength and power that I thought really contributed to the family dynamic with the four of us. We really do look like a family," laughs Goldwyn. "There was an instant family chemistry."

His action-oriented scenes also appealed to Goldwyn. "It's been a fun to have this weird trio of Ansel Elgort and Ray Stevenson and myself as the anti-action heroes from Abnegation, running at the end joining Tris storming Dauntless. Ansel and Ray are really extraordinary people. I'd admired Ray's work so much and he's a great guy. Ansel Elgort is really exciting, to see someone who is going to be a big movie star, who's so smart and talented and lovely. He's an old soul in a handsome, 19-year-old body," laughs Goldwyn.

Goldwyn appreciated his character's arc. "I really loved Andrew's self-sacrifice. Near the end, he realizes that the entire world that he grew up in has changed in a day," comments Goldwyn. "It's now a different set of rules. All bets are off. He has to adapt. Tris says that 'Every moment we waste, another Abnegation person dies and another dauntless becomes a murderer.' He realizes that action must be taken. He can no longer lay back and not engage. That was beautiful. He's able to walk that line of being true to himself and his spirit, and throw himself on the sword. That was really a cool choice."

Filmmakers needed to find a formidable actor to play the Abnegation leader and secretive father of Four. "Ray Stevenson plays the powerful - can be vicious and can be kind - Marcus Eaton. He is Theo's nemesis and watching those two together spar off screen and on is fun," shares Fisher.

"I wanted to work with Neil. I really loved his work. You want to work with like-minded driven people," Stevenson shares. "This is a project that will whet your appetite and increasingly excite and draw you into it. This character is quite the onion-he's multi-layered-not what you first think he is. Then you peel another layer off, and then there's yet another layer. There's always going to be this constant reveal with Marcus throughout the series and I'm excited about that. He's perceived in such a strong and vehement way by others, rightly or wrongly."

Marcus has a troubled relationship with his son Tobias, who defects to Dauntless and takes the name Four. "Some people are born to rule, but then they can't run their own family. It's a very interesting point because if you look at males in power, they are essentially father figure to a far larger group of people. Invariably the relationships they have with their own children are far from ideal," comments Stevenson. "Their needs of their father are completely overridden for the greater good. There are a lot of nuances within Marcus' relationships."

Three Dauntless characters will also continue into the next installment of the saga. "The only person who veered away from the book's description a little bit was Jai Courtney as Eric, who works with Four training the transfer initiates," admits Fisher. "We wanted a charming, powerful, and seductive villain. Veronica loves the direction that we went. We also have Maggie Q playing a very exotic tattoo artist. Plus the leader Max is played by Mekhi Phifer, who is a wonderful actor and lends a gravitas to the whole experience," says Fisher.

Australian actor Jai Courtney very quickly proved his on screen metal when he burst onto the scene last year with major roles opposite Tom Cruise and Bruce Willis. "Eric is one of the younger leaders of the Dauntless faction, he's not exactly a nice guy," admits Courtney. "He plays the drill sergeant role in the training process, but he's also tied up with this super objective of taking over things. He's got an ulterior motive."

Burger adds, "Eric introduces the idea that there are new rules in Dauntless. Why there are new rules is a mystery, but there's a new harshness in the training process. It's going to become much more brutal. Four is skeptical. What's brewing that suddenly causes everything to get considerably more harsh and cruel? Clearly there's something in the air. Four is actively trying to figure out what's going on without exposing himself and putting himself at risk until he really knows what is happening."

"Eric has a giant ego and many insecurities," says Woodley. "He sees strength in Tris, he sees confidence in Tris, and he sees natural bravery within Tris. Eric is a strong person, but without necessarily the confidence to back him up, so he takes it out on Tris and pushes her and pushes her and pushes her, because he sees her as a threat."

"He's pretty hard on the new candidates," adds Courtney. "There's no room for coddling. It's tough love. Eric wants these guys to succeed, but they only want the strongest, the fittest, and the toughest. They're the only ones that are going to make it through. Also Eric has an interesting dynamic with Four, because Four finished first in their class, the best of that grade. Eric fancies himself as being tougher and stronger and more Dauntless, so there's an interesting, energy between them, a rivalry."

James elaborates, "Four has been asked three or four times to be a leader, but he has always turned it down. Although Eric is more senior in rank, he has this inferiority complex because Four beat Eric initially."

Eric sports short hair, facial spikes, and a distinctive tattoo. "Developing the look for Eric, I wanted to shoot for something fairly extreme with his esthetic," says Courtney. "We tried stuff that was really close to how he's described in the novel... he's supposed to have long dark greasy hair and a face full of piercings. But it didn't really translate that well. We tried many things. When you're trying to create something in the future that's supposed to give off a certain vibe, you have to find a balance between what seems intimidating or edgy now, and cast that forward in a sense. It was fun to be part of that process."

"I know who Eric is and what I'm trying to do with him. He comes alive when we get all this stuff put on. It is quite a process that takes about an hour and a half every day. But once the ink's on and the piercings are on, you can see him and feel him," comments Courtney. "I was speaking with Neil very early on about what we wanted to achieve with Eric. There was an obvious choice off the page that I wanted to steer clear of... I didn't want him to be this villain in the background who's twisting his moustache and plotting these evil acts. It needed to be about more than that for me. As an actor, no matter how nasty your character is or what they're capable of, you have to find compassion for them and not judge them. The second you do that, you start making the wrong choices."

Tori is the first to tell Tris that she is Divergent and must keep that fact secret. Later Tris encounters her at the Dauntless tattoo parlor. "Tori is not one of the new kids, she's a vet," comments Maggie Q. "She has been in Dauntless a while and becomes this guide for Tris. You see her for the first time at the aptitude test and the thing that's cool about Tori is that she's very Dauntless, but she still has her own look. She has her own specific style. You're looking at someone who is very comfortable in her own skin, juxtaposed against these kids who want to be something. Tori knows who she is, what hurts her, what motivates her, what she hides, what she doesn't, and it's apparent right away. It's also apparent that you don't mess with this person. She may know more than you think she does and she may have something to tell you."

"I knew what Tori was going to bring in this first movie. She's not covered head to toe in tattoos. She's not pierced everywhere. The tattoo on the back means something to her. The hairstyle means something to her. Everything for her is real and that's what I liked about her," adds Maggie Q. "You have to find the humanity in these characters because it is a heightened world."

"I'm at that age where I'm a mentor now, which is awesome," laughs Maggie Q. "But I liked that idea of Tori being almost the unwilling mentor. The person who has knowledge that she doesn't necessarily want to share. The other thing was that there's more than one book. There is a build to this character and that was very interesting to me."

The continuation of the story also intrigued Phifer, whose character is at the top of the Dauntless leadership. "One of the things that resonated with me is that it felt limitless," comments Phifer. "It felt like it could go on. It felt like there wasn't just one story to be told. There are multifaceted issues and characters that could be brought to light. That was very interesting to me. It didn't feel like a one off, it felt like a journey. I love doing character journeys. That's what really attracted me. Plus I have a 13 year-old son who is thrilled that I'm doing Divergent, and I rarely get to feel his excitement on any project."

Cast members were impressed with the array of skills the director displayed on the project. "Neil Burger is a great director, a great visionary. The Dauntless Pit set is really elaborate and confident. The story comes with a great following already, and he's not just living up to it, but beyond what readers expect," comments Phifer. "I'm very impressed with the way the director is able to visualize the world."

Maggie Q agrees, "Neil's responsibility on this film is big. It's a lot in scale, design, character depth, interpersonal relationships-in every aspect-I don't envy the size of his job. We do talk a lot about the characters, and when I first met with him it was really all about that - how they were interconnected. When Shai and I first read, it was really all about whether or not that relationship worked. That connection had to happen. That's what Neil was also concerned about, which made me really happy."

"I've never worked with a director who shoots from such a strong visual point of view. Neil sees this film in a visual way, versus I'm used to doing movies where it's more character driven, from a heart based point of view," comments Woodley. "This movie is going to be so beautiful to watch. Neil's capability to create a world that doesn't exist is unbelievable. I'm so in awe. But as actors, we couldn't be luckier to have a director who's so open to collaboration, who doesn't really seem to have an ego."

"I was here at the beginning of the shooting schedule when all that excitement was being un-bottled, and then again toward the end. Neil is the same. Totally unflappable," adds Judd. "He's working at least three cameras. He's working huge crowds, hundreds of background artists. He's directing this extraordinary young cast. Yet he's really smooth and he smiles all the time."

Elgort agrees, "Neil is a great combination of someone who is a good captain of a really big ship, and someone who is also very personal with the actors."

"Neil is very specific and he gives great notes. But, he's also so laid back. He is ironically the most chilled out guy on set and he's the director," laughs Ben Lloyd-Hughes. "He's permanently in a Zen-beach-state and that's such an amazing trait for a director. He has his vision but he's also so open to collaboration."

Kravitz says, "I love Neil. He continues to surprise me because he's so interesting as a person. He's quiet and focused, then he'll tell the funniest joke that you would never expect him to say, and then he'll keep on working. He's hired an amazing cast of actors that he trusts with their characters."

"Neil is so focused that I'll have a conversation with him and there'll be a car accident next to us, and he'll still be looking at me," shares Madsen. "He is making a giant puzzle with a thousand pieces. He's so particular and precise in everything, the littlest things, which is so cool as an actor, because he's makes sure everybody has something to be conscious of in the scene."

Madsen was also inspired by the author of the book. "Doug was showing Veronica around on set, and all of a sudden he introduced me as I was walking by them. Oh my God, it felt like there was this light around her. She's a character herself; she could literally play a part in her book. Everything is interesting about her, like her knitted coat. She's the coolest person to hang around. When they brought her on set for the first time, she saw her director's chair with her name on it and was thrilled. That's similar to what I'm going through, since I haven't done many movies yet. To sit in my chair that says Al, and that's specifically for you, is exciting. Seeing someone else that excited about those little things too is amazing. She's excited about the movie, like everybody else."

The excitement of the readers also impressed Stevenson. "There is an investment made by these fans which is not to be diminished. We'll be realizing the essence of the novel and hopefully enhancing the world that they've experienced," says Stevenson. "Their individual journey, that personal enchantment is the beauty and the power of literature."

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