‘Divergent’: Does trilogy have a future in Chicago?

Written By By ADRIENNE SAMUELS GIBBS Staff Reporter Posted: 03/18/2014, 09:22pm

Fans had glimpses of the “Divergent” stars when the movie was filmed in Chicago last year, but once the cameras roll on the sequel, they’ll have to head South for the best Theo James and Shailene Woodley sightings.

Not much production of “Insurgent,” the second film in the trilogy, will be local. “We’ll shoot a little bit in Chicago, but ‘Insurgent’ will largely be filmed in Atlanta,” said Erik Feig, co-president of Lionsgate Motion Pictures Group, whose studio Summit Entertainment makes the movies based on Veronica Roth’s trilogy.

Feig cited the incentives granted by the state of Georgia that are much more financially attractive to filmmakers than those provided by Illinois. Principal photography on “Insurgent,” also set in Chicago, is slated to begin in May.

It’s a move that doesn’t sit too well with “Divergent” director Neil Burger, who fought hard to keep Chicago front and center in the screen adaptation of a book whose main scenes feature a post-apocalyptic Willis Tower, Navy Pier and downtown L tracks.

“The studios want to shoot with wherever has the best rebates,” says Burger, executive producer of “Insurgent.” The directing reins will pass to Robert Schwentke for the second movie, but Burger has creative input.

“I think they’ll do a couple weeks in Chicago, and I think they’ll try to do the interiors in Atlanta,” he said. “The incentives are better there.”

The city often loses movies to other locations, says Betsy Steinberg, managing director at the Illinois Film Office. “We always fight the good fight,” she says. “As far as I know, it all has to do with Georgia giving them more money on the tax credits. It’s all about the bottom line.”

Steinberg says the studio tried to skip Chicago for “Divergent” as well, a claim Burger confirms. “I wanted to shoot in Chicago from the beginning and that was really important to me and I really fought hard for it,” the director says. “I wanted the movie to feel different than other movies set in the future. Chicago has such a monumental skyline that has such production value. It was my vision for the movie, to use the landmarks.”

Feig, the studio exec, indicated that if Illinois went further and matched the tax incentive programs of states like Georgia that have aggressively wooed Hollywood filmmakers, that could affect Summit’s plans for “Allegiant,” the third film in Roth’s trilogy.

“If it was possible, we would love to come back to Chicago,” he said. “Our experience of filming ‘Divergent’ there was terrific.”

Contributing: Bill Zwecker

Email: agibbs@suntimes.com

Twitter: @adriennewrites

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