About The Production
Chicago is still Chicago
Principal photography began on location in Chicago, Illinois on April 8,
large-scale builds and dozens of locations throughout Chicago were prepped,
while actors and
stunt performers spent the weeks before filming in "boot camp" to become
Meanwhile, thousands of costumes were being constructed in four countries, all
to bring Veronica
Roth's future world of Divergent to the streets of Chicago and eventually the
"In the story, there's been a war around a hundred-fifty years ago, and it
entire country. Chicago built a wall around itself to separate itself from the
outside world. A
hundred years ago, they reformed the society in the city into the five
factions," explains director
Watching Divergent, moviegoers will get to go inside the home compounds of
Abnegation, Dauntless, and Erudite, plus see a glimpse of those who live
factionless. The other
factions-Amity and Candor-are represented through costumes and audiences will
get to see
more of their home bases in the next film.
"In the future, Chicago is still Chicago and I wanted to see characters on
the street with
sun, wind, and shadows from the buildings on their faces with real concrete
under their feet, like
they are put on a street in a hundred-fifty years," explains Burger.
The director chose not to place emphasis on visual effects. "The tough thing
is when you
make a movie that's set in the future is that there's a lot of precedent. How do
I make it
something you haven't seen before? Many movies that we've seen recently that are
set in the
future have a very computer generated feel to them. I decided to actually go in
the opposite way," states Burger.
Though epic in scale, the director wants the audience to experience the story
eyes of the main character Tris. "To me the book is very much about real human
whether it's in the future or not, so I wanted the look of the movie to be
completely real," shares
Burger. "Also, the story is very intimate... this is one person's journey. I
wanted the camera to
be very personal with Tris, but I wanted her to be on this big societal stage.
What better place to
do it than in Chicago, amongst these vast canyons of skyscrapers?"
"In the rough draft of the book, it wasn't actually set in a real place,"
Veronica Roth. "The world of Divergent was a nameless urban environment. When I
revised it, I
realized I wanted a greater sense of place to make the story feel more real. I
looked at what I
already had-big lake, these trains that were on all the time like a mysterious
creature living in
the city-and I realized that I had already set it to Chicago without really
meaning to, probably
because it's the city that I know and love best, but also because there's
something really special
about this place. Chicago became more of a character as the story grew and
developed in my
mind. The greatest character really is the trains, because you have no idea who
is running them
or why they're running or where they're running to or what happens when they
stop. That was
definitely inspired the El Trains here in Chicago."
"Veronica Roth is a very cinematic, visual writer," comments producer Pouya
Shahbazian. "In her dystopian future with Divergent, she was able to take
elements of this city
that people love today and transpose those into a war-torn future where it was
improved, but also kept its nostalgic feel."
Producer Lucy Fisher agrees, "The main thing we wanted to avoid was a certain
futuristic feeling that you can't relate to that feels like a special effect.
That's partly why shooting
in Chicago was such an important thing for us. Chicago is a grounded place, a
place you could
recognize. Veronica had very carefully embedded into the story so many
identifiable elements of
the city: the Hancock Building, the El Trains, the Sears Tower, Lake Michigan,
Navy Pier and the
Ferris Wheel, that it was very important that you actually recognize it. The
Chicago in the movie
is different because it will be a version of the future, but it still is very
recognizable because all the
artifacts that are from the past. We talked about repurposing things that
already existed. Instead
of creating everything new, a lot of things look like they're from today,
because basically they
weren't allowed to evolve."
"In the story, Chicago survived the war, some parts unscathed, so the Chicago
would mostly still be standing, with a few extra flourishes," further describes
Burger. "We shot on
the streets of Chicago with our actors out in the sunlight, and it was a very
cool way to see the
future. I tried to do it like street photography, but the street is in a 150
"Also, Chicago is a walled city," adds Burger. "The wall is either keeping
out or keeping something in. We don't quite know. But what it is doing is
communications with the outside world. There's no commerce with the outside
world. There are
hardly any cars or trucks, and what's cool about that is you see these vast
groups of people just
walking down the middle of the streets. The streets are now pedestrian
Producer Douglas Wick sums up, "What we were looking for was a world that
be distinctly futuristic and absolutely recognizable."
To help him build this world, producers surrounded Burger with a team of
filmmakers: director of photography Alwin H. K├╝chler, BSC, production designer
costume designer Carlo Poggioli, Oscar nominated senior visual effects
supervisor Jim Berney,
Oscar nominated editor Richard Francis-Bruce, A.C.E., editor Nancy Richardson,
Oscar winning executive music producer Hans Zimmer, composer JunkieXL, and
supervisor Randall Poster. Other key crew members included: award-winning stunt
coordinator/second unit director Garrett Warren, fight coordinator JJ Perry,
James McAllister, construction coordinator Anthony Syracuse, special effects
Debono, set decorator Anne Kuljian, and makeup department head Brad Wilder.
Executive producer John J. Kelly comments, "This is a well-bonded group.
There are no
egos. Everyone's really, really talented and very excited about the show. We
work as a team.
It's a great ensemble piece in terms of actors and crew. There's a great
synergy. The crew feels
like a family. Everyone is positive even though we're shooting in pits, in cold
warehouses. It's a
gritty, real movie set in the future. It's not fake. It feels real. It feels
raw. That's what people are
going to really like when they see this."
World creation on the big screen poses a different set of challenges than
on the page. "As a filmmaker, I'm inventing a complete world that you're going
to see, and
Veronica certainly invented an amazing world in her book, but she only had to
speak of what she
wanted to write about. In a movie you see everything that's going on, so as a
need to know the answers to a million and one things. During the prep, I was on
the phone with
Veronica all the time. I had a million and one questions for her to create this
world. Do they have
money? Do they have pets? If there's a car, where are they getting the fuel? Is
it an electric car?
Is it a solar car? Where are they getting the material to make those solar
panels? Maybe they're
recycling them. Why is this wall here? What's coming? She got a lot of questions
"Neil always has a lot of questions, but they're very thoughtful questions. I
wishing that he had been around when I was building the world, because there are
things I didn't consider that he's considering. How does commerce work? How will
mysterious thing be explained through faction folklore? I always find that
talking to him expands
my understanding of the world as much as it expands his," laughs Roth. "I have
to think things
through in a different way than I have before."
"One of the most fun, but nerve-wracking moments on the movie was deep into
preproduction," reveals Fisher. "We had hundreds of people building all over the
city of Chicago,
and Veronica came into the production offices. One of our greatest pleasures was
the design work, as well as the casting, because in both cases we were very
nervous because we
wanted her approval. In both cases Veronica gave us a very interesting point of
asked 'Is this how you imagined it?,' she said 'No, it's so much more. I can't
hundreds of people are executing ideas that I sat around in my P.J.'s making
up.' She was in a
state of wonderment that so many other brains had been able to apply themselves
to her idea,
and geometrically increase its scope."
"When people really love something they work on, you can see it at every
Roth. "Every lovingly crafted prop, beautifully constructed set, original
lighting piece, and
nuanced piece of acting...I've talked to the people who are doing these things and
they are so
passionate and so careful with what they're doing and the decisions that they're
people are teaching me about the world that I made! Why this jacket is made the
way it is
because this faction believes in this. There's something to be said about the
care and thought
and incredibly good craftsmanship that has gone into this."
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