by Michael Clawson of Terminal Volume
Screaming teen girls, many clutching thick books with dog-eared pages and worn covers, were on the fast track to lost voices and sore throats last night at the Tempe red carpet premiere of Divergent, the latest young adult novel turned film.
“It’s just that I love these books so much,” Hailey Sumtner, 17, said from the packed pavilion, screams bursting behind. “And to see the stars is a chance I couldn’t miss.”
Actors Miles Teller and Jai Courtney, who play antagonists in the Neil Burger-directed movie, made appearances, along with several local celebrities, to mark the film’s premiere in the Phoenix area. The dystopian science fiction movie, based on the hit Veronica Roth book, opens nationwide March 21.
Signing autographs, posing for photographs and working the red carpet, Teller and Courtney brought some Hollywood glamour to the Valley, the likes of which are only rarely seen in a state that shares a border with Hollywood’s home of California. Other than the annual Celebrity Fight Night and the Phoenix Film Festival, the last red-carpet event was in 2009 when X-Men Origins: Wolverine was chosen to host the worldwide premiere, an event that brought out several big names, including Hugh Jackman.
Talking with reporters, Teller, who most recently starred in the comedy That Awkward Moment, spoke about working with Shailene Woodley again after their 2013 film The Spectacular Now. In Divergent, Woodley plays a talented young warrior in a ruined world ruled by competing class-like factions. Teller plays a competitor in the physical and, at times, violent movie.
“Shailene and I are just so comfortable that it was easy to do the fight scenes. We just knew each other so well that it was natural to get in there and do it … where Spectacular Now was more about the relationship, Divergent is more physical,” Teller said. A young girl on the receiving line asked Teller if he thought of Woodley like a sister. “Yeah, but with moments of sexual tension,” Teller added.
Courtney, who previously had a large role alongside Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher and he played John McClane’s son in A Good Day to Die Hard, said much of the first film is introducing audiences to the world of Divergent and its large cast of characters and that some of the plot might deviate slightly from the books.
“You’re never going to be able to please everyone,” Courtney said. “Fans have certain expectations. I certainly hope they like it, and I think they will love it, but these books have huge followings so of course some people will complain about something that isn’t exactly like it was in the book.”
Courtney said he hadn’t even heard of the book when he was offered his role, one that involved him being especially cruel to Woodley’s character. “Mostly I was a fan of Burger’s work, so I got online and read up about everything. After some digging I knew I wanted to do it. It was all very new to me … young adult novels.”
Also at the event were the Arizona Cardinals cheerleaders, several Cardinals players, a silver-medalist womens hockey player, Harkins Theatres owner Dan Harkins and Marvin Young, Valley resident and a prominent face at local press screenings. Young is more widely known by his stage name, Young MC, whose early rap hits, including “Bust a Move,” are considered vital pieces in hip-hop’s history.
“I was excited when I heard this was happening. It’s a big deal that we’re here tonight celebrating this movie,” Young -- whose own movie, Justice is Served is likely to be released within a year -- said from the red carpet. “I’ve read the first book already. I hope the movie lives up to the book.”
Judging by the screams of fans after the packed screening, that’s likely to be the case. Stay tuned here for a review of Divergent and full interviews with Teller and Courtney on the movie’s official release date, March 21.