Us, along with the other fansites on the Divergent set visit in May were lucky enough to sit down with not one, but three of the cast members all at once. If memory serves me correctly, this was our first interview of the day and we got to chat with Miles Teller (Peter), Ben Lloyd-Hughes (Will), and Christian Madsen, which was really quite awesome — they’re a humorous bunch!
How did you all feel when you first found out that you got the part?
Miles: Well you won a contest or something, right?
Christian: I was very excited, because I’d never acted before.
Ben: I actually found out in the room. Doug and Lucy, the producers, they actually told me after my final meeting, kind of in the room. Just like some kind of X-Factor stuff, that I had it. It blew me away. You can’t really handle news like that straight away. It’s just like, “Okay.” I kind of acted cool, and then went into my car in LA and sat there for a long time, like, “What just happened?” With news like that – with such an amazing, exciting project like the book – you don’t really believe it until you’re in costume, on set. You kind of think oh, that maybe there’s some mistake or maybe they wanted someone else or something could have gone wrong.
Miles: And I think we all auditioned for… I know I auditioned for Four originally, I think that was kind of the first part that they were seeing, and I auditioned for that over a year ago. From there, after that, I remember it was like a year later and I didn’t hear anything, and I remember meeting with some of the producers and them saying, “Well, you know, we were thinking maybe you for Eric. Would you mind taking a look at that?” I said, well, I think Eric needs to be physically intimidating to Four, a little bit, and that’s kind of how the hierarchy works. Eric’s this very commanding figure, and not that I’m not, but I’m not. And then from there, they said, “Actually, if you take a look at Peter, we think that could be really interesting.” Previously, I’ve played a lot of lighthearted characters – I play a lot of the comedic relief sometimes – I’ve done some drama, but I’ve never played anything… I mean, Shailene and I just worked together where we were boyfriend and girlfriend in a movie, so it’s interesting to now shift the dynamic and play somebody who’s not liked all the time. It’s nice playing a character when you don’t necessarily worry about people liking you all the time; I think that’s kind of hard to maintain after a while. It’s been fun playing the evil dude – misunderstood character.
Ben: I think we all read for Four originally. I think a lot of actors around the world [felt that they could be Four.]
Miles: The great Theo James.
Now did you know Shailene was attached before you auditioned?
And you had already worked with her?
Miles: Yeah, I worked with Shailene last summer. I don’t know when it got announced. She wasn’t attached to Divergent when we were filming Spectacular Now, but when she was attached, I was like, “Yeah, she’s perfect for it. She’s an incredible actress.” And, um, yeah. It’ll be nice to beat her up. Literally.
What were your reactions when your costars were announced? Like Kate Winslet – what do you guys think about being in a film with her?
Miles: I think she’s one of the greatest actresses of all time. And, personally, she’s one of my favorites, so I was really excited. It just adds… I think when you do something that is based off of a young adult novel, you can… Not that it loses any kind of serious acting credibility, but you wonder how it’s going to be directed. For me, I had a little hesitation with it. I’m 26; it’s not something necessarily I was looking for. I was looking to do – in my career – do a franchise based off a book, but once Neil was attached – his resume speaks for itself – and once you get Shailene and Kate and Jai and Christian Madsen… You just go along.
Ben: Yeah, I think Kate… Kate’s amazing, and the whole part of her being part of it, it gives it a different edge than a lot of other films of this nature. I think she packs some punch… Such a kind of credible punch with some of the stuff she’s done. Would you say so, Christian Madsen?
Christian: Yeah, I think that’s what separates us from a lot of the other YA stuff, is that the actors that they picked for this all have really good, strong credits and stuff. Bringing on someone like Kate Winslet, with someone like Neil behind it, it just… I don’t know, it just makes it this film feeling, rather than, we’re making a movie about… You know, it’s different.
Ben: And all tall. Everyone’s very tall. They’ve cast fantastic and tall actors. Every actor is very tall.
You three are all active on Twitter. Coming into this, what has been your experience with fan base?
Miles: There are many of them, in all different countries.
Have you gotten positive feedback, have you gotten a lot of like, “Don’t mess this up?”
Miles: It’s a mixed bag. I don’t know, I think if you really search the internet, I think you’re going to find people that think you were terrible to be cast in it, and I think you’ll find people that are excited to see you play it. At the end of the day, you just have to feel comfortable with the reason why you signed on to do this movie and the reason why they cast you. Yeah, you guys can get pretty intense. Because you do, I mean, the books are so personal, and it really speaks to each one of you individually. That’s the power of this story, especially with Tris’s character and how she doesn’t fit in anywhere. I think once you actually put a face to a character that you’ve already associated so much with personally, you’re going to disappoint some people, but that’s life.
Ben: I’m not on Twitter. Is there someone being me?
Oh, no, sorry. You’re on Instagram, right?
Miles: But you have a computer, right?
Ben: I do have a computer. I’m on World of Warcraft, if anyone plays. No, just kidding.That would be funny, though, like you can find me online…
Miles: I’m a level 7 dwarf…
All right, we’ll be like, anyone that’s playing you is an imposter.
Ben: Yes. But someone from Summit actually said, “Oh, you’re on Twitter, right?” I was like, “No.” And they told me that there was someone pretending to be me on Twitter, so if there is, let the world know, it’s not me. Or it could be Madsen.
While filming, does it feel like a YA book? Can you describe how the sets feel?
Miles: I mean, this is pretty incredible. The biggest film I’ve worked on, budget-wise, maybe $25 million? And this is substantially larger, and you feel that. I don’t think any of us feel […] at this scale. I mean, Shailene, nobody really has… I guess Jai’s done some big action movies, but it’s rare that you get to work on sets like this.
Miles: Zoe’s done a lot. A lot of time, it’s just you and a studio with green screen. But it’s nice, I mean, you guys are getting to see what we’re working with. It’s pretty epic. I mean, these are huge; people built these. Pretty incredible. But, no, it’s been an experience. It does move slow, I mean, because you’re filming over sixty days, so sometimes it’s a little slow. But we were like running and jumping on a train the other day. We’re doing a lot of our own stunts, which is cool. I’ve never done anything like that. You know that scene from the book where they do that thing and they have to jump and stuff? I’m not giving anything away.
What scene have you guys enjoyed to film the most so far?
Miles: The kissing scene between Peter and Al.
Ben: You rehearsed that a lot. The Ferris wheel. When we were in the amusement park on the pier. I think those were great. It was night shoots, actually, so actually, that was tough. But that was a really cool location.
Miles: Night shoots is like 6 pm to 6 am, 7 pm to 7 am.
Ben: Yeah, so the hours were tough. I didn’t feel my happiest, but the scenes were cool and there were lots of extras and flares and whatnot.
Christian: Yeah, the stuff on Navy Pier was really cool. I can’t really pinpoint one. It’s all been kind of cool. I mean, as much as, like, this is a job and you want to be serious about it and whatever… Just like, walking out right now, we saw the train, and it’s like, “All right, don’t get too excited.”
Ben: Is this is our first day of green screen? This is my first day of green screen.
Miles: I liked when we were walking through the dormitories, when he was leading us into where we slept and where the showers were, because then you could kind of get a sense of if I was actually in this program, I’d be sleeping this close to somebody, this is actually where I’d be showering… And you’d realize how open everything is. And now it’s cool to just see it, because when, you know, the toilets are right next to each other and there’s no doors or anything, it’s like, you would literally… If I was sleeping right here in the bathroom, I would smell s**t all day.
You’re saying it’s very futuristic.
Ben: I tell you what was great. The canteen.
Miles: And there’s no toilet paper, you have to use your hands. I’m just kidding.
Ben: The canteen was great. Even though the factory we were filming in was awful and kind of moldy…
Miles: We’ve been filming in [the greatest locations.]
By canteen, you mean the dining hall? Just, As Americans, we’d say the dining hall…
Ben: The dining hall, yes. Sorry, the dining hall! Where we all eat. We did some scenes there, and I really enjoyed those scenes. There was one where we get picked up – Zoe, Shai, and I all got picked up – and we crowd-surfed. That was a fun day. That was a long day.
Miles: You really enjoyed that day.
Ben: I did.
Miles: Zoe and Shai are all happy and cheering and stuff, and Will’s just all like, “Whooo!!”
Ben: I know, I know. So, look out for that.
Miles: And the food. We had to eat a lot of the food. You know, the hamburgers…
Miles: You’ve never had a hamburger before? We had some of the chocolate cake… That’s the thing, in a scene – you know, as an actor – when there’s food in front of you, they don’t tell you necessarily to eat a lot. You kind of figure it out. But whatever you do, you have to keep doing as soon as they like it – as soon as it’s been established. So, we ate so many hamburgers and so many pieces of chocolate cake.
Ben: There was something about passing the bread. What was it? Passing the rolls, yeah.
Miles: I just wanted Will to pass Peter a piece of bread so he could eat a burger.
Ben: And I thought it wasn’t right for my character to pass Peter the bread.
Miles: So in the middle of the scene, he would not be doing it, and I’d say, “Will, can you pass the bread?”
Miles: Right on action. Hey!
How did you prepare for your roles?
Miles: I started working out – because I hadn’t really been – and I just knew, for some of this fighting stuff, that you’re gonna have to be in shape. And they kind of told us that we’d be going into some kind of boot camp before this, so we worked with… The stunt guys on this movie are no joke. They’re pretty badass guys, and we did, we did some kind of like warrior training stuff for about two weeks. Yeah, I did a little bit of that. Worked on being mean to people, picking on kids, stealing their candy…
Ben: I read the book and I worked on my American accent… I guess there wasn’t actually much time before. I didn’t come on very late, but for me it was more about, I knew we had two weeks before the film, so for me, it was more about get back to London and sort my life out before I came to Chicago for a long time. Yeah, once you’ve read the book, the scripts kept changing, so I knew the script was always going to be adding on. And that’s kind of been the case; there have been lots of script changes.
Miles: I haven’t even gotten the script.
Ben: You’re just feeling it?
Miles: Just feeling it, yeah.
Anything to add, Christian?
Christian: Yeah, I read the book and I think I figured out what I wanted to do…
Miles: You read a lot about teen suicide.
Christian: I read a lot about teen suicide. I read certain other books and kind of related to it, kind of what the feeling of Dauntless would be. I found a lot of it through the workouts we did with these Marines, right? [Air Force?] We spent a couple weeks just training, and that physically helped us all get into it.
Do you relate to your characters on any level?
Miles: Your spirit animal is stronger than… Or, what is it? Your spirit body is stronger than your physical mind.
Christian: Oh, yeah, we’re doing like a hundred sit ups.
Miles: Your spirit… Like, you’re animals.
Christian: You’re nothing.
Miles: We’re like, we’re actors, man! Come on!
Christian: Yeah, they did like some behind the scenes stuff where they brought a camera in and filmed us doing a lot of the workouts. I remember I was mid-push up, and I couldn’t do it, and they just brought the camera right in.
Miles: Turns out, though, Christian and I are the best at throwing knives. Yeah, we’re naturally good at throwing knives. Amy is really good, too. What’s funny, though, is when we filmed the scene – we had been training throwing knives for about two weeks – and when we filmed the scene, we had some shots to where they actually wanted us to throw it and it to land in. But it’s hard. Even the best guys in the world, I think, do it about 40%. So, they say, “Action!” We all throw six knives each, and not a single one stuck, and it’s just the most embarrassing thing because there’s like fifty knives like “Ching! Cling! Cling!” Just, “Cut!” And there’s none stuck in. We were better in rehearsal.