'Divergent' Director Neil Burger on Franchise's Planned TV Project: "It's Sad"

Theo James Shailene Woodley Neil Burger - Divergent Madrid Premiere
"If they hadn't [split the last book into two films], they would’ve been in much better shape, but at the time I'm sure they were excited and they saw some potential there."

Another Divergent alum is displeased by the news that Lionsgate is planning the final Divergent film as a TV project.

The fourth pic was initially dated for theatrical release on June 9, 2017, but after the franchise's third installment — Allegiant, starring Shailene Woodley, Kate Winslet, Theo James, Ansel Elgort, Octavia Spencer, Naomi Watts, Miles Teller and Jeff Daniels — earned just $66 million domestically, the studio began to rethink its strategy for the fourth film based on Veronica Roth's book series. The format, and its participating cast, has yet to be announced.

“I think it’s sad,” Neil Burger, who helmed the first movie, told The Hollywood Reporter during last week’s New York Film Festival. “I was just talking to the people at Lionsgate about something else recently, and it’s just that they got themselves into a difficult bind through various circumstances. … I don’t think they feel like they should’ve split [the last book] into two [films]. If they hadn’t, they would’ve been in much better shape, but at the time I’m sure they were excited and they saw some potential there.

“It’s just too bad because I love all those actors, and they were very loyal to it,” added the Divergent director, who has discussed the situation with a few of the franchise’s actors. “They’re still really trying to figure out what they’re gonna do with it.”

Woodley has said that she "didn't sign up to be in a television show,” but would definitely return as Tris in the fourth film if it gets a theatrical release. "I signed up to tell the whole story of Tris, and I would love to be able to do that. Nothing would make me happier," the actress said last month. Likewise, Teller has said of the news, “Things do change anytime they're messing with something that was not the original intention. We all signed on for it in hopes that it'd be released in theaters, and we all had every intention of finishing [the franchise]."

Burger, who did not return to direct the franchise’s follow-up films and is currently helming a remake of the French film The Untouchables with Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart, said that the toughest part about working on a YA franchise is “the expectations of the fans who come with it — that’s a real advantage in a way, because you have a built-in audience, and it’s always hard to find an audience these days, but of course, they have big expectations. … And any kind of adaptation — and you’ve seen it with all of these franchises — the books are built in one way and the movie has certain obligations in a different way. They’re often difficult to meet at the same time.”

Still, Burger believes the Lionsgate TV project, dubbed Ascendant, can fulfill its potential as a spinoff series: “People show up if the project is good.”