Christian Madsen and Ben Lloyd-Hughes, two of the featured actors in “Divergent” — the latest hopeful in the young adult movie franchise sweepstakes — sit in the green room of a Denver TV station.
“So, I hear you have Peyton back.” Madsen, the son of actor Michael Madsen, begins. The previous day, news broke that No. 18 was medically cleared to play the upcoming season. Phew.
Having dispensed with that local obsession deftly, the conversation turns to a different mania: the one surrounding the big-screen adaptation of Veronica Roth's best-selling novel, “Divergent,” which stars Shailene Woodley as Beatrice “Tris” Prior.
In a future and fortressed Chicago, inhabitants have been divided into five factions intended to represent human nature: Abnegation, Erudite, Candor, Amity and Dauntless. Tris is born Abnegation, but in a ritual selection ceremony opts for Dauntless. (It turns out her nature is even more complex than that. Hence the title.) Madsen and Lloyd-Hughes are Al and Will, two others who leave the faction of their birth for the leather-garbed risk-takers.
Roth followed her original tale of dystopian order and rebellion with two more best-sellers “Insurgent” and “Allegiant,” which are slated for the multiplex in 2015 and 2016. Like the youth-focused series that have come before — “Harry Potter,” “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games” — the books have fueled an avid fan base.
“I always had the notion of 'Who really cares?” says Lloyd-Hughes in his slightly muted British accent. “Last night we sort of got a taste.”
At the preview screening, a wave of shouts and cheers met the two as they walked the red carpet and signed autographs.
Madsen adds, “We kept saying to ourselves, 'Do they know it's only us?' But they went mad.”
He mentions a young woman they met.
“She had a tattoo. She'd gotten the birds that Tris gets,” he says.
“She was telling Chris how she so completely related to Tris,” says Lloyd-Hughes picking up the thread. “She feels so affiliated with her, and that's why she got the tattoo.”
Out of wonder and perhaps necessity, each has started to ponder what that abandon is exactly.
“I think it's escapism,” Lloyd Hughes offers.
“The books I used to love as a kid, I used to read football books — and by that I mean soccer books — stories about boys in school who started to play football and then became the captain. I'd read them cover to cover. I just got lost in them. I think I have the same escapism and hysteria when I'm at a football match because I can just get so carried away with screaming and shouting and the obsession.”
He believes it's the same for “Divergent” fans.
“And hopefully that is what anyone who loves 'Divergent' is doing: reading these books and escaping into a world.”