Screenwriter Evan Daugherty has had quite the year. His script for “Snow White and the Huntsman” (which sold in a massive Hollywood bidding war) was realized as a blockbuster film starring Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth, and his second script, “Killing Season”–starring John Travolta and Robert De Niro–is in production and set to release next year.
Thanks to Daugherty’s whirlwind success, the offers have been rolling in–one of which happens to be the adaptation of Veronica Roth’s beloved dystopian YA novel “Divergent.” The sequel to the runaway best-seller “Insurgent” has also been a top seller since its release in April 2012. In development by the studio behind the Twilight and Hunger Games movies, the project, set to release in May 2014, is on the heels of some major buzz as Shailene Woodley has reportedly neared a deal to play protaganist Tris, and actors are lining up to play her love interest, Four. But, lucky for YA fans, Daugherty was able to give us the early scoop on his vision for the script.
Bookish: How did you decide on a YA novel adaptation for your next project?
Evan Daugherty: I was looking at a lot of things – a lot of comic books–and reading a lot of books, and in the process of that…I read five of these YA books. I read “Pure” by Julianna Baggott, “Legend” [by Marie Lu], “Delirium” [by Lauren Oliver] and “This Dark Endeavor” [by Kenneth Oppel]–it’s kind of a cool, young adult version of the “Frankenstein” story.
Bookish: So you obviously read some popular stuff being shopped around–why did you choose to adapt “Divergent?”
ED: It’s a mutual thing of feeling out whether your take on a piece of material meshes with what the studio wants to do. The things that drew me to “Divergent” were the specifics of Tris’ character. She starts off in that incredibly sheltered, selfless, peaceful world and then basically she decides to join the equivalent of the Navy Seals. That’s a big character arc, it’s fun to track that. And “Divergent” differentiates itself by being in the vein of some movies that I really like, sort of the military training movie–like “Top Gun” or a guilty pleasure of mine which is “GI Jane.”
Bookish: What has been the biggest adaptation challenge for you?
ED: Tracking Tris from where she starts to where she ends. It’s tricky because the book is a very packed read with a lot of big ideas. So, distilling that into a cool, faithful two-hour movie is challenging. Not only do you have to establish five factions, but you have to acknowledge that there’s a sixth entity, which is the divergent, and you also have the factionless. So there’s a world that really has to be built out for the big screen…the movie is going to do it a little more efficiently.
Bookish: And of course, there needs to be emphasis on the all-important romance between Tris and Four.
ED: I respond to the fact that it is an action-heavy YA book, and I know–having talked to Veronica about it–she’s very proud of that fact. I get hung up on the toughness of the movie but of equal importance is the love story between Tris and Four. It’s inherently and inextricably linked to Tris’ character journey. There will be plenty of sexual tension and chemistry, but it’s important that all of that stuff doesn’t just feel like it’s thrown in, but that it all helps Tris grow as a character.
Bookish: How have you worked through translating the simulation scenes to the big screen?
ED: The simulations provide some of the bigger challenges. For cinematic references, Chris Nolan did such a cool job in “Inception” with that world of dreams that looked real but weren’t quite real. You want the simulations to be visually rich, and you also want them to have stakes to them. You want them to be scary and you want them to feel real.
Bookish: Have you envisioned any actors in the roles you’re writing?
ED: Despite all the cast rumors that I’ve seen, I haven’t really let that seep into my brain too much–probably because I read the book so many times before I started seeing that discussion happen [on fan sites].
–By Katie Calautti