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Theo James: Dauntlessly Divergent

March 18, 2013

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By: Lynn Barker

Tall, dark and handsome Theo James might seem to have dropped into Hollywood out of nowhere but if you or your parents watch “Downton Abbey” on PBS TV, you probably can’t forget hot Mr. Pamuk who hooked up with Lady Mary…and died or if you are into the Underworld vampire vs. werewolves films, Theo was in one. If you are a fan of the “Divergent” novel, who cares?

Starting with this Friday when the film debuts, Theo will be known as Four, the sullen, handsome Dauntless Faction trainer who helps heroine Tris survive and excel as a warrior while falling in love with her.

Theo James at our interviewTheo James at our interviewCourtesy of Lynn Barker

At our Beverly Hills interview, Theo was fun, flirty, funny and yes, hot! Check it out.

Kidzworld: What about Shailene Woodley surprised you when you first met her then worked with her?

  • Theo: It was very refreshing to meet her. You meet on the (chemistry read) test and you don’t know each other and it’s always slightly awkward if you are doing a kind of intimate scene with someone you’ve never set your eyes upon but she’s very open to really collaborating and making the scene as good as possible.
  • And, I found when we were filming, you may be in the midst of a great stunt sequence or it’s a green screen and sometimes it’s easy to get lost in that. What she is great at and what we managed to do is really ground the work, bring it back to the fact that the reason you’re there is you’re trying to tell a story about two people or several people. I think she’s so great at that. She’s very emotionally intuitive in being able to bring a truth to something even in the craziest of circumstances.

Four and Tris meet for the first timeFour and Tris meet for the first timeCourtesy of Summit Entertainment

Kidzworld: In the movie teens choose what they want to be. So what moment in your life did you choose to be an actor?

  • Theo: I think it was always in my sphere. There was a point at university where I was doing a really bad version of Patrick Marber’s “Closer” and was on stage and there was a particular joke (that was well-received) and I remember thinking, “This is not only gratifying but there is something really exciting about this” and I thought if I could at least try to do this is a professional context, it could be fulfilling and exciting way to try and earn a living.

Kidzworld: Have you seen the finished Divergent movie and what did you think?

  • Theo: I was very pleased when Shai and I saw the movie on Sunday. There’s always some trepidation when you see a film because you give it over, you finish with your job and we were really pleased at what came about. There’s no dumbing down, there’s no simplification and there are some really strong themes in it about questions of determinism, choice, identity; things that people can really relate to but also, things that are a bit deeper than the surface level.

Four (Theo James) watching as Tris (Shailene Woodley) trainsFour (Theo James) watching as Tris (Shailene Woodley) trainsCourtesy of Summit Entertainment

Kidzworld: What was the scene you most wanted to get right?

 

Kidzworld: Shailene told us you actually climbed a real Ferris wheel in Chicago for a scene. Was that fun or scary?

  • Theo: It wasn’t too bad because we were strapped in so you felt kind of invincible. Although, when I was up there I was like “I’m going to test you guys and jump off” and they said “Well you can do that but you’ll still break your arm”.  “Okay, maybe not”. But, in a good way, because we actually did it, if you were feeling those feelings, you could draw on them and try and make it as real as possible.

Kidzworld: When you initiate into Dauntless you have to choose your name. What name would you choose for yourself?

  • Theo: One, I think. Then, I’d be the ultimate legend. That or Captain Semi-Greek or something.

Theo James as Four during Dauntless trainingTheo James as Four during Dauntless trainingCourtesy of Summit Entertainment

Kidzworld: The “Divergent” author Veronica was saying earlier than when she saw you in a casting session she was immediately like “Yes, definitely!” Did you get that vibe right away or when did you find out that she was definitely on your side?

  • Theo: I didn’t really know that. I’d heard that she was happy with the test but I’m, in a way, a constant pessimist so you don’t believe it until someone slaps you in the face with it. When I got to know her more, it became apparent but she was really great. She would be on set and be involved but she was happy to just let (director) Neil (Burger) and us kind of run with it because she knew, essentially, that it’s a very different medium bringing this book to film, so she let us do our thing.

Theo James goes over the script with director Neil BurgerTheo James goes over the script with director Neil BurgerCourtesy of Summit Entertainment

Kidzworld: In the movie, people perceive Tris differently before and after she joins Dauntless so how have people perceived you differently before and after you took this role?

  • Theo: Good question. Well, maybe there is more awareness of me. Before I did this people thought I was cleaning the toilet or something then happened to be at the audition but no, I don’t think I’ve experienced it too much at the moment. The press tour we just did was interesting because we saw some of the fandom but I don’t think perceptions of me have changed massively (at this point).

Kidzworld: What about the character allowed you to play his strength, not just physical but underlying? You could see it in your eyes.

  • Theo: Yeah, I think I had an immediate affinity with the character. I think we share certain qualities and you try to use the things that you share with a character in everything you do to make it as real as possible. I loved this person that you don’t really know what (Four) is thinking. He’s the type of person that, when he walks into a room, he doesn’t need to be the loudest voice but you still feel his presence; also someone who doesn’t speak too much but you know that he’s thinking all the time. He’s a really perceptive person but he doesn’t have to speak too much.
  • Then, on top of that, there’s this sort of dangerous stillness that I felt he had when reading the book and the script. Those things I wanted to draw on. I love masculine characters who don’t have to be shouting in someone’s face and wielding their masculinity in a way that is jamming it down someone’s throat. I hope that came across.

Tris and Four really connectTris and Four really connectCourtesy of Summit Entertainment

Kidzworld: The film obviously has a dark view of the future. Do you think there is a hopeful message in the movie?

  • Theo: I’m not 100 percent sure in a way. I think “no” in many respects. The concept of a faction system is a hard one to swallow because we all know that people are motivated by varying, different things. Everyone is multi-faceted. A young generation (may relate to) growing up in a world where resources are depleting and the population is going to be nine, ten, eleven billion in 2050, the fact that all these things play into their subconscious which means (young people) are interested in questioning their future; how their children and grandchildren will exist. I think that is an interesting concept.
  • In Divergent, you have these Factionless people who are shuffled to the side and aren’t respected in a good way. The hopeful message is that they break free of those bonds and find equality.

Four is determined to stop the Erudite warFour is determined to stop the Erudite warCourtesy of Summit Entertainment

Kidzworld: I was fascinated by the interaction you had with Jai Courtney who plays Eric (other Dauntless trainer). Could you talk about how you saw that relationship?  

  • Theo: I feel like Jai represents (the character) in a really good way, not only physically but, the way he plays Eric is quite formidable. I wanted them to be almost equal; two characters who were strong enough, in very different ways, to be bumping heads. They would be not exactly friends but they would be functioning together.
  • Four, although he is Divergent and he ends up rebelling, at the beginning, he should be someone who believes in the system. Four and Eric represent two diverging paths. Jai’s character gets wooed by power and is part of this big military coup whereas Four represents the old-school way of being hopeful or believing in a system that has a good quality. I like the idea of these two characters working for the same team but also wanting to occasionally kill each other.

Director Neil Burger talks to Theo and Jai on setDirector Neil Burger talks to Theo and Jai on setCourtesy of Summit Entertainment

Kidzworld: Tris and Four have a complicated relationship. What do you think draws them together?

  • Theo: I think she is kind of fascinated by him but also doesn’t understand his motivations. He seems to be very cold and then momentarily hot and, inevitably, that is something that lots of relationships gravitate towards (laughs) but also, he sees in her something unique and dynamic in a world where he sees lots of people coming through this system. I think it’s an interesting relationship because it’s not based on lots of swooning. It’s essentially two people who respect each other and he sees that she is completely selfless but also strong and she sees his rippling abs (laughter).

Divergent is in theaters March 21st!

Divergent Poster featuring Theo JamesDivergent Poster featuring Theo James

Divergent Final Trailer