We know "Divergent" — the futuristic sci-fi flick starring Shailene Woodley ("The Descendants") and directed by Neil Burger ("Limitless") — will begin filming entirely on location in Chicago and at Cinespace Chicago Film Studios on the West Side in April. We've also been told by Gov. Pat Quinn that filming for "Divergent," scheduled to hit theaters March 21, 2014, will bring in $30 million in local spending and 1,000 jobs.
What we don't know is, well, just about everything else — at least not officially.
It remains to be seen where exactly in the city "Divergent" will film. If it stays true to Northwestern alum and Chicago resident Veronica Roth's 2011 novel — which revolves around teenager Beatrice "Tris" Prior (Woodley) and is set in a Chicago where the population has been split into five factions — we could see cameras rolling at plenty of city landmarks. The book features Willis Tower (the meeting point for all the factions), "The Bean" in Millennium Park (which readers are told "used to be a park"), the John Hancock Center (the abandoned building that Tris ziplines off of), Navy Pier's Ferris Wheel (which Tris climbs while playing a game of capture the flag), and Michigan Avenue (which is said to be busy south of the bridge but "bare" north of it).
Illinois Film Office managing director Betsy Steinberg said she was unaware of specific filming locations or how much of the movie will be filmed on location compared to a soundstage. "Those decisions are under wraps," Steinberg said over the phone Friday. "Big movies these days don't share much info." Steinberg did, however, say Lionsgate, the studio behind "Divergent" and the "Twilight" and "The Hunger Games" franchises, scouted Chicago in the fall and initially considered filming its soundstage scenes out of state. "At first they thought about just shooting exteriors here but fell in love with the city and (were enticed) by the tax break," Steinberg said.
(A spokeswoman for The Greater North Michigan Avenue Association said she had not been told if the movie will film on Michigan Avenue, and a spokesman for Willis Tower said there would be no comment on projects in production. Attempts to reach a spokesperson for Navy Pier were unsuccessful.)
The 24-year-old Roth wrote on her blog she was thrilled that the studio chose to film in Chicago rather than try to replicate the city elsewhere.
"I am beyond happy that this worked out," Roth wrote Jan. 15. "I love Chicago. I've lived here for most of my life, and the city was obviously a huge inspiration for the books. I can't really express how cool it is that the city represented in the movie will be the actual city that I love."
As for the cast of the film, Variety reported Thursday that Kate Winslet ("Titanic") is in talks to join in an unspecified role and Alex Pettyfer ("I Am Number Four"), Jeremy Irvine ("War Horse") and Lucas Till ("X-Men: First Class") had auditioned for the lead male role of Tobias "Four" Eaton.
"The thing about Four is that he has to be a man," Woodley recently told MTV. "No feminine actors, please. You cannot walk in that room with pretty little boots and pretend like you're a man. … This character needs to be extremely masculine, and his eyes need to scream vulnerability and sensitivity. That's really hard to find in a dude, especially a dude who can act."
Chicago-based Atmosphere Casting will cast extras and has created a Facebook page for "Divergent" that can be found at facebook.com/divergentextrascasting. So far, the only postings have been for a slender, 5-foot-8 stand-in for Woodley and two Caucasian males for costume tests. Atmosphere also posted that "the majority of the extras in this film will be between 18-24, thin, athletic, mixed ethnicity but mostly Caucasian."
The third book in Roth's "Divergent" series (the second was 2012's "Insurgent") is expected to hit stores in the fall. Does Lionsgate want to film the entire franchise in Chicago, should be there be sequels as expected?
"That's what we hope," Steinberg said. "We wish they would put it in writing."
On the record: "I married someone from Illinois. There's something about that sensibility that I'm drawn to (both myself and) in the characters I play. There's a friendliness and an eccentricity to Midwesterners — they're more likely to just be themselves. I know that's an idealized version, but there is something about the Midwest that I love." — "Bridesmaids" actress and Plainfield native Melissa McCarthy, who is married to actor and Carbondale native Ben Falcone, in the latest issue of Michigan Avenue magazine.
About this week: Former Fall Out Boy rocker Pete Wentz will celebrate Angels & Kings' two-year anniversary in the Hard Rock Hotel with a party Saturday at the Loop bar, which he co-owns. … "MoneyGrabber" band Fitz and the Tantrums will perform Saturday at the Museum of Contemporary Art's artEdge benefit.
Sightings: The Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant and the Bulls' Taj Gibson dined, separately, Jan. 21 at Gibsons Bar and Steakhouse in the Gold Coast. The Detroit Pistons' Charlie Villanueva had dinner at Gibsons with teammates following Wednesday's loss to the Bulls. The Blackhawks' Patrick Kane was there Tuesday. … R&B singer and actress Brandy visited music students at The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Chicago Jan. 19. … "Just Another Day in Paradise" singer Phil Vassar had dinner Jan. 17 at the newly opened Bub City in River North. I saw the White Sox's Gordon Beckham Friday at Bub City. … Comedian Joe Rogan played pool Thursday at Marie's Golden Cue and dined Friday at Lou Malnati's in River North and the Boarding House. Also at Boarding House Friday was White Sox legend Frank Thomas and White Sox World Series MVP Jermaine Dye. … Christopher "Big Black" Boykin from MTV's "Rob and Big" hung out Wednesday at Paris Club's upstairs club, Studio Paris. … Mark Ballas ("Dancing with the Stars") hosted a Silk Pure Almond-sponsored indoor cycling class Jan. 22 at Flywheel in the Gold Coast. … Cubs legend Ernie Banks and current Cub Alfonso Soriano dined, separately, Jan. 17 at Joe's Stone Crab. "Fox NFL Sunday" host Curt Menefee dined at Joe's Friday.