Training the Dauntless
The first week of filming was spent in the sparring and training set that was
380,000 square feet. "One of the amazing things about coming to Cinespace was
on the first day scouting and seeing there were three approximately 600-foot by
industrial warehouses, one of which was being converted into stages around us.
We used one of
them, the South Plant, to film the training fight scenes, when it was completely
empty. It's very
interesting to be in a place that has nothing in it at all. With that scale,
people really do disappear
at the other side of the building. Neil and I were very keen to use it as the
fighting arena and
take advantage of the perspective of such a large space," says Nicholson.
"The boxing arena and the lighting system that director of photography Alwin
set decorator Anne Kuljian came up with to surround and highlight the rings
within that space was
really great and a huge challenge," Nicholson adds. "It was great to have the
squares of light
disappearing off into the distance of that scale."
The space made an impression on the actors on Day One of principal
walked into this giant warehouse and it was the coolest look. It's so minimal
and raw and kind of
dirty and gritty and dark. The Dauntless world became totally alive for me in
that moment," says
Amy Newbold who pays Molly. "These people are living in this completely
Everything was so detailed. We filmed there for a week on those mats that were
set up on
platforms. It was a giant, dirty, super cold warehouse so we were dying, but it
was also nice to
have the extra help of the discomfort factor. Everything's been so consistent.
There's such a
clear vision for this Dauntless world, that's shown up in every set."
Kuchler and the art department used LED and plasma lights as both working
set dressing in the Dauntless sets, which also served as a unifying element.
"The most surprising
thing for me on this film is how many warehouse and underground locations we
have used," says
set decorator Anne Kuljian. "The challenging part is to make these environments
interesting and different, but also to bring them all together, and the LED
lights really helped with
"Alwin is a real artist. The movie looks beautiful because of him. He brings
and intimacy to the look of the film," says Burger. "We didn't want it to be
grim. We didn't want it
to be bleak. We actually wanted it initially to have a sense of optimism and
hope and luminosity,
to have it almost be glowing. Alwin came up with amazing ways to do that. He
nature of lighting in the future, and how do they use lighting. The LED lights
that decorate most
of Dauntless are almost like ribbons of light, like luminous paper. Alwin came
up with incredibly
beautiful ways to use that to light the corridors and the dorm and the dining
hall, just to have
these strips of LED lights around. It also goes to the story point the city
doesn't have as many
people as Chicago does now, and they are all conserving power."
"The LEDs have been a great collaboration between the lighting department and
department, specifically set dressing as we have made quite a few lights
specifically for the tattoo
parlor, the pit, and the dining hall. We're actually making light fixtures that
will be part of the set,"
The inspiration for the LED neon came largely through Alwin and his
Anne, our set decorator," Nicholson adds. " We could order it in any width and
in very long
lengths. It puts out enough light that it'll register on camera and it doesn't
look too traditional.
Most lighting in the future would be LED anyway, and we're either using LEDs by
them or using in a way that was going to be unusual. Traditionally, LED lights
don't give out
enough light, but with the products that Anne found in the UK, we were able to
use them as part
of the lighting on people's faces. The LED lights became another element of
Dauntless faction, as you will only see them in Dauntless."
Before setting foot on the sparring and training set, the Dauntless initiate
actors arrived in
Chicago about three weeks before shooting began for "boot camp." Producers hired
stunt coordinator Garrett Warren to oversee the stunt action in the film. Warren
brought in his
long-time collaborator, fight coordinator JJ Perry to help choreograph the fight
train the actors.
"The two reasons why I took this movie are, number one, Neil Burger. I can't
tell you how
good of a director he is. He's truly a genius," says Warren. "The other reason
is my 14-year-old
daughter, who told me 'Dad, I am Tris. I don't fit in anywhere. I'm Divergent.'
When I heard that,
I knew that was something that I had to take an interest in. I thought I could
put a spin on the
action and make it a little bit bigger and a little bit badder, than just a
"JJ Perry is my fight choreographer and he's a fantastic fight guy," states
"Taekwondo champion, ex-airborne...so when we did the boot camp, he brought that
flavor. Even though this is not a military movie, we still wanted them to have
mentality. We had 300 people that we had to teach to move like they know what
they're doing, JJ
cordoned them off into platoons and had them all doing drills. It was great. One
of things that I
liked the most was the fact that we had Theo James head up the training process
in boot camp.
That way, no one would ever see him as his or her equal. Four would always be
"I wanted all the Dauntless actors-main cast and background-to go through a
camp," says Burger. "There's a fearlessness to Dauntless and a wildness to it
and a freedom to
it. I wanted to make sure that they had the military side down. Garrett and JJ
created this whole
regime where they learned to fight, to shoot, to walk, to hold themselves, and
to run like
Warren adds, "I had worked with Neil before on Limitless, and he asked me to
with another inventive and ingenious fight style. We used a couple of ways to
make this different.
First, stance. Everyone usually has a regular fighting stance with hands up. I
used to be a
professional fighter and one of the things that I used to do was drop my front
hand and keep my
back hand up. That isn't something special but we adjusted it to more of a
futuristic look where
we have the two hands, in a folded capacity, in front. I stole that from George
Foreman. He was
always able to block and cover himself so we derived that Dauntless fighting
style from his.
Secondly, instead of a regular punch, Dauntless use the hammer fist, because it
generates a little
more velocity, a little more force, a little more torque, and it also saves the
boney prominences on
"Neil really is that old school Hollywood director, who wants the actors to
do as much as
humanly possible," comments Warren. "We really did take a painstaking amount of
especially Shailene. We had her training for about a month and a half before the
filming on how to do this interesting fighting style. It wasn't easy. Not just
for her, but for
Before Shailene Woodley was even officially hired, fight coordinator JJ Perry
to evaluate her skills and took her to a Los Angeles gym and the LA S.W.A.T. gun
needed to know how far she needed to progress, because we didn't have a lot of
time. Shai had
never been in a fight before. The way she turned herself over to the training
was impressive. All
the sit-ups and pull-ups are on screen as you watch her transformation from
Beatrice to Tris,"
"As much as we choreograph the fights, we also want it to be very organic,"
"When we film the fight, we might adapt it on the set with Neil. Because we've
choreography into them and made it second nature, they can adapt in the moment."
"The fight training was tough but invaluable," says Ben Lloyd-Hughes. "Boot
an exciting couple of weeks. We were in some pain, but we survived. It was a
bonding. I used to play rugby and it's always good to have a coach pushing you
guys can make you achieve more physically than you would do on your own."
"I came to Chicago thinking I was in shape," laughs Zoe Kravitz. "The fight
hard and it definitely shocked me. I wasn't really mentally or physically
prepared. I saw all these
punching bags when we first walked in. We ran a mile and did fifty pushups, even
started learning our choreographed fight-swipe, block, hit. We had to do a lot
of Muay Thai,
using your elbows and knees. We had to learn it from the ground up. We got to
throw knives. JJ
Perry is the coolest guy, ex- military-this guy is the real deal, so I knew I
had to listen to him.
The training was intense everyday, definitely a wakeup call. JJ made us do it
with our eyes
closed, so by the time we ended up filming it, we did it so fast. I had a fight
with Amy, who plays
Molly, who is a much bigger girl than I am. I'm very short and had to figure out
how I would get a
Kravitz also had to prepare to hang over the chasm in the Dauntless pit when
dangled by Eric. "We made her do pull-ups and chin-ups to try and get in shape
to hang there for
several minutes," says Warren. "She was tough, and she did a great job. At one
point, Zoe was
holding on to the side of the metal bridge, and Neil was adamant, 'I want to see
you hang by
yourself.' And she did. Big props to my girl Zoe. She was definitely hanging and
all that struggle
Amy Newbold, who plays Molly, laughs, "I found that I really like fighting. I
didn't have a
lot of experience but I really dig it. It comes really naturally to me. It was
fun to learn something
that was different from if I went to a normal martial arts gym. All the workouts
were really hard,
but I had a great time. I had fights with both Shailene and Zoe - they are so
fun and so feisty. It
was nice to really take ownership of those fights and make them ours. I loved
it. I am so much
bigger than both of them. I'm six foot one, so I was hyper aware of that the
whole time you're
fighting. I don't want to break anybody. But, we never come anywhere close to
really hurting each
other. A couple of times, in the heat of the moment when you get worked up, a
thrown. I got hit in the nose once. It's awesome with so much adrenaline going,
but it's very
different than real fighting. I have never actually been in a real fight."
Perry had worked with Theo James on Underworld: Awakening and knew the actor
the physical skills to play Four. "I came onto this project already knowing Theo
has the mentality
of a professional stunt man."
Warren agrees, "Theo's great. Theo did all the fights with no stunt double.
embodies the whole Four character. He's a gentleman. He is very quiet spoken and
natured. He is born to be a leader. One of the fights that you see him do is at
the very beginning
of the training sequences, and he's fighting this fellow Dauntless teacher. We
wanted to establish
the fighting style then and there. Theo came to me and wanted to do it all
himself. He came in
every day, and he would stay even after the actors would leave and work on it by
himself, even if
no one else was there. Working on the hitting bag and so forth, and he also went
out and got his
own personal trainer to do Muay Thai with after hours. I give Theo an awful lot
of credit. He's a
real strong character and a real strong guy. He's one of us. He's not just in to
do a little bit. He
wants to learn and live that lifestyle of a stunt performer."
"I wanted Four to be stronger and faster than everyone else," shares James.
some kind of ninja legend, so I wanted to be in a place where I physically
seemed older and
mature. Four needs to seem superior because he's an officer, above these kids
who are coming
in. Although they are similar in age, he's teaching them, so he has to have that
authority. I incorporated some of my own boxing background, and that style of
movement into the
way that he moves, so it felt as natural and real as possible. JJ and Garrett
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