‘Insurgent’: Theo James, Shailene Woodley Say ‘Divergent’ Sequel is ‘Bigger and Bolder’

The stars of “The Divergent Series: Insurgent” strutted down the red carpet at the film’s New York City premiere on Monday, promising that the sequel to the futuristic thriller will expand on the first installment in new and exciting ways.

“It’s bigger and bolder,” said Theo James, who stars as Shailene Woodley’s love interest and ally. “If we were going to do it a second time, make it bigger.”

That means a bigger budget, more action and cast additions such as Octavia Spencer and Naomi Watts, who join returning ensemble members such as James, Woodley, Ansel Elgort and Jai Courtney.

Courtney said that the filmmakers wanted to be respectful of the world that was created in “Divergent” while still finding ways to make the follow-up fresh.

“This is a legitimate, full-blown action film, and the visual effects are incredible,” he said. “We established something really solid with ‘Divergent’ and have been able to successfully build upon that.”

Insurgent” finds Tris (Woodley) and her friends on the run as the world around them begins to crumble and war looms. It’s a physically and emotionally demanding journey for the character, Woodley said.

“Tris does have a lot of external influences trying to redirect her train of thought and her instincts,” said Woodley. “At the end of the day she honors herself regardless of whether that will lead her to a rightful place or not; she trusts herself.”

Tris’ journey of self-discovery is one of the reasons that the books have been embraced by millions of readers and why “Divergent” was able to connect with moviegoers, the filmmakers argued.

“It’s always going to be about a girl trying to find her powers,” said producer Lucy Fisher. “The world tries to punish her for having those powers, but she withstands all that to use them for the benefit of everybody.”

Hollywood has been criticized for not creating many strong roles for women, but “Divergent” boasts an enviable roster of female talent, including Woodley, Watts and Kate Winslet. Not only is the movie centered on a woman, played by Woodley, but her main antagonist, played by Winslet, is female.

“These explorations of young women in science fiction, by its category and very nature, feels fresh and exciting,” said producer Doug Wick.

Cast members said they hoped that the commercial response to “Divergent” and other female-driven blockbusters such as “The Hunger Games” may help shatter glass ceilings across the entertainment industry.

“We have A-list, we have new stars, we have veterans, we have the whole spectrum of female talent,” said Maggie Q, one of the film’s stars. “Everybody brings what they bring in such a complete way that I really hope that more female ensembles will happen because they really don’t happen that often.”

“Insurgent” also represents a reunion of sorts, one that the screaming fans outside the Ziegfeld Theater on Monday night were clearly hungry to see. It brings together Woodley and Elgort, who headlined last summer’s romantic drama “The Fault in Our Stars,” which became a breakout smash while shattering tween hearts.

Elgort said that playing opposite Woodley in “Fault in Our Stars” strengthened their performances in “Insurgent.”

“When you have a rapport with someone it helps,” said Elgort. “Shailene and I are now very comfortable working with each other and we trust each other and we’re open with each other just due to the fact that we worked together.”

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