Shailene Woodley, Theo James Pick Top 'Divergent' Stunts: 'Dance' and 'Jab to the Throat'

Director Neil Burger, Shailene Woodley, Theo James and Marice Claire editor-in-chief Anne Fulenwider
Director Neil Burger, Shailene Woodley, Theo James and Marice Claire editor-in-chief Anne Fulenwider
 Courtesy of Cinema Society/Nicholas Hunt/PatrickMcMullan.com

The night before Divergent hit theaters nationwide, the film's young Hollywood actors were celebrating the release at the Hearst Tower in New York City.

"Oh man, the stunts were fun, the fighting sequences were really neat," Shailene Woodley told The Hollywood Reporter at Thursday night's screening, presented by The Cinema Society and Marie Claire. "I enjoyed those. None of it is real, so the choreography aspect -- it's sort of like dancing. You gotta get the rhythm." Yet despite all the legwork she does in the big-screen feature, she tossed off her Rupert Sanderson pumps in the middle of her press interviews. "Heels -- I mean, they look cool, but how unreal is this?!"

PHOTOS: Shailene Woodley Tosses Heels, Dances With Theo James at 'Divergent' NYC Screening

Woodley's onscreen counterpart Theo James much preferred his initially off-putting character's swift moves. "We came up with this idea that he's efficient and ruthless, so there aren't any triple roundhouse kicks or black flips -- it's more like, someone pisses him off, he jabs them to the throat," he said, also telling reporters of Woodley's action scenes as Tris, "She's strong, but that doesn't affect her femininity. She doesn't have to sacrifice anything -- because sometimes in movies, [women] are forced to. If they're trying to be strong or tough, they have to almost become a male archetype, but she retains her femininity."

Director Neil Burger told THR about one of the film's biggest stunts. "The best thing about directing Shai is that she's completely fearless. She's game for anything -- she climbed that ferris wheel at 2 a.m. in 38-degree weather with no gloves, and hung out there for eight hours, 150 feet off the ground. She just did it. What she always said was, 'I'm not afraid of heights, I'm just afraid of falling.' "

Ansel Elgort, who plays Tris' brother, Caleb, said that "jumping on the train was fun -- I like to rock climb, so I'm already used to jumping on things and grabbing hold." He noted that the film was a learning experience for him as an actor in that "you're in a totally different world, and you just have to keep it normal. 'This is normal life, this is just the circumstances.' I've never been in such a 'world' kind of movie, and it's important that, if you want to stay good and someone people can relate to, just say, 'This is normal. I'm just a human being here.'" Dauntless initiate Amy Newbold also discovered that she "really loved fighting! I'm a very timid person in real life, so getting out the pent-up aggression is great. And I love falling, strangely enough."

Newbold noted that on set, Miles Teller was the "witty, total wise-ass" jokester while Woodley was the wacky goofball. But after a long day's work, the cast happily unwound together with music jams -- to their neighbors' dismay, said Woodley, who wore a black Elie Saab jumpsuit. "I was working so much so I don't know too much about that, but there was definitely a lot of partying happening, and I think the cops did get called a few times. It's not really fair to the people next door to you who are like, 'It's 4 a.m.! Shut the f--- up!'"

The screening was also attended by Divergent author Veronica Roth and producer Pouya Shahbazian, as well as Woodley and Elgort's Fault in Our Stars co-star Nat Wolff, Dana Delany, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Girls' Zosia Mamet, Revenge's Margarita Levieva, designer Olivier Theyskens and model Lindsay Ellingson, among others.

Burger advised other young-adult film directors hoping to launch the next blockbuster franchise "to shoot it like it's just any other kind of movie. We shot it like it was an independent film -- we did what we wanted to do and needed to do. You just have to make the coolest movie you can."

And with that ambition comes the demand for the next Summit big-screen heroine -- an ask Woodley isn't intimidated by. "Regardless of what happens externally, I'm so confident and centered internally," she told reporters. "It's like a tornado, right? Everything's like crazy out here, but in the center of the tornado, you can just chill there and look up and say, 'Wow, what a world!'"

So what is she afraid of? Woodley told reporters that her fear landscape would be the inside of a submarine ("You're stuck in a box thousands of leagues under the sea, and that just sounds miserable") or space ("[It] is so dark -- I like being near trees, man,"). She joked that her ultimate fear landscape would be "flying pigs in a submarine in space with flubber … no Gravity sequel and no Into the Abyss!"

After the screening, the cast headed a couple blocks east to the Wayfarer, where they celebrated with cocktails, champagne, and bite-size servings of dishes like big-eye tuna with avocado and soy-lime dressing. While James stayed in his blue-striped suit to dance alongside Elgort and Wolff, Woodley changed into a Denim & Supply Ralph Lauren camo-printed tee, jeans and sneakers, and left the Midtown spot just before two in the morning.

Email: Ashley.Lee@THR.com
Twitter: @cashleelee

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