Development began in 2011 following Summit's acquisition of the film rights to the Divergent novel in partnership with production company Red Wagon Entertainment. The studios announced production on the sequel following the first film's strong performance in Thursday late-night screenings, where it grossed $4.9 million. They acquired film rights to the Allegiant novel in December 2013, deciding in April 2014 to split the third novel into a two-part film adaptation.
In March 2011, Summit Entertainment picked up the rights for Divergent with Douglas Wick and Lucy Fisher's production company Red Wagon Entertainment, while Lionsgate distributes the franchise. Neil Burger was announced as the director on August 23, 2012. Evan Daugherty, who co-wrote the screenplay with Vanessa Taylor, said, "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." Daugherty further added, "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." Author Veronica Roth said about the script of the film: "Reading a script is a really interesting experience. I'd never read a script before. I was really impressed by how closely it stuck to the general plot line of the book."
Initially, the budget of the film was $40 million but later Lionsgate increased it to $80 million (which finally changed to $85 million) due to the success of The Hunger Games. Analyst Ben Mogil said, "Divergent is more similar to Hunger Games in that the company owns the underlying economics (i.e. production) and the budget (at $80[million]) is more manageable."
In December 2013, Summit Entertainment announced that a film adaptation of Insurgent, the second novel in the Divergent trilogy, would be released as The Divergent Series: Insurgent on March 20, 2015, as a sequel to the film adaptation of Divergent with Brian Duffield originally chosen to write the script for the film. On December 16, 2013, it was announced that Neil Burger, director of Divergent, would not return to direct Insurgent as he was still working on the first film. On February 13, 2014, it was announced that Robert Schwentke was offered the director position for the film and that Akiva Goldsman had been hired to re-write Duffield's script.
Also in December 2013, Summit Entertainment announced that the film adaptation of Allegiant, the third and final novel in the Divergent trilogy, would be released in March 2016, serving as the finale of the series, which at the time was planned as a trilogy, but on April 11, 2014 the studio decided to split the novel into a two-part film, much the like the Harry Potter, Twilight, and Hunger Games franchises did with the finales of their series. Lionsgate Motion Picture Group co-chairmen Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger said in a statement that, "Veronica Roth brings her captivating story to a masterful conclusion in 'Allegiant,' a rich, action-packed book with material that is ideally suited to two strong and fulfilling movies. The storytelling arc and world of the characters lend themselves perfectly to two films, a storytelling strategy that has worked very well for us on the two Twilight Breaking Dawn films and about which we're tremendously enthusiastic for the two upcoming Mockingjay films of The Hunger Games franchise". Noah Oppenheim was announced as the screenwriter for the first part of the Allegiant adaptation on July 9, 2014. On December 5, 2014, it was announced that Robert Schwentke will return to direct Part 1. On September 10, 2015, it was announced that the two films would be re-titled, with Part 1 being renamed as The Divergent Series: Allegiant and Part 2 as The Divergent Series: Ascendant.
Casting the main roles
On October 22, 2012, it was announced that Shailene Woodley had landed the lead role of Beatrice "Tris" Prior. Lucas Till, Jack Reynor, Jeremy Irvine, Alex Pettyfer, Brenton Thwaites, Alexander Ludwig and Luke Bracey were all considered for the role of Tobias "Four" Eaton. On March 15, 2013, it was announced that Theo James had been cast as Four.
Though James was 10 years older than the character when cast, Roth praised his casting "I was sure within seconds: this was 'Four', no question. Theo is able to capture 'Four's' authority and strength, as well as his depth and sensitivity." She also mentions the chemistry between him and Shailene: "He is a perfect match for Shailene's incredibly strong presence as Tris. I'm thrilled!" The producers said about his casting: "We took our time to find the right actor to fill the role of Four, and Theo is definitely the perfect fit. Veronica has crafted a truly iconic character in Four and we cannot wait to begin production and bring him and this story to life for millions of fans around the world."
Filming for the franchise began on April 16, 2013.
Lucy Fisher, Douglas Wick, and Pouya Shabazian have been producers for all four films in the series. Veronica Roth and Neil Burger have acted as executive producers on the first two films. Summit Entertainment and Lionsgate collaborated on all four films. On April 11, 2014, the studio decided to split the final book, Allegiant, into two parts, much like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Parts 1 and 2, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Parts 1 and 2, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Parts 1 and 2.
Neil Burger directed the first film, Divergent, and was originally going to direct the sequel, The Divergent Series: Insurgent, but in December 2013 it was announced that Burger would not return, due to him still working on post-production work for the first film. Speaking on the subject the director stated, "There was no breathing room. They were like, 'We're holding to a March 2015 release date, and we have to start no later than May 2014.' It was a recipe for failure, at least with me on board. I wouldn't be able to do either thing right. I reluctantly let it go". In February 2014, it was confirmed that Robert Schwentke would direct the sequel instead. On December 5, 2014, it was announced that Schwentke would return for The Divergent Series: Allegiant.
Snow White and the Huntsman screenwriter Evan Daugherty and Hope Springs screenwriter Vanessa Taylor co-wrote the screenplay for Divergent. During the time that Neil Burger was originally going to direct the sequel, Brian Duffield was recruited to write the screenplay for The Divergent Series: Insurgent, but after Burger dropped out of the film and Robert Schwentke took over as director, he brought in Akiva Goldsman and Mark Bomback to rewrite Duffield's script.
The screenplay for the two-part finale, The Divergent Series: Allegiant and Ascendant, was written by Noah Oppenheim, Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, and Stephen Chbosky.
On March 11, 2013, it was announced that the roles of Tori, Christina, and Caleb had gone to Maggie Q, Zoë Kravitz, and Ansel Elgort, respectively. Ray Stevenson, Jai Courtney and Aaron Eckhart were announced to be in talks to join the cast on March 15, 2013, Stevenson and Courtney joined the cast as Marcus Eaton and Eric, respectively. That same day, Miles Teller was cast as Peter. The studio’s announcement included a bit of casting news: Mekhi Phifer will play Dauntless leader Max. Kate Winslet was announced to be in talks on January 24, 2013. Later it was confirmed that she would portray Jeanine Matthews. Talking about playing the negative character for the first time, Winslet said, "I'm no idiot. The idea went through my head that I have never played a baddie before, I was almost kind of surprised." Since Winslet joined the filming late, she used that distance from her co-stars to appear aloof on the first day of her shoot. "I wanted to break it and say, 'It's OK, I'm really fun. I promise.' But I thought, just for today, I'd let them think that I am a complete bitch." On March 25, 2013, Ben Lamb was cast as Edward, Ben Lloyd-Hughes as Will, and Christian Madsen as Al. In April 2013, Ashley Judd and Tony Goldwyn joined the cast as Natalie and Andrew Prior, Beatrice's parents.
In 2014, the cast for the second film was announced. On May 12, 2014, it was announced that Octavia Spencer joined the cast as Amity representative Johanna Reyes. Late May 2014, Suki Waterhouse and Jonny Weston were cast as Marlene and Edgar respectively. Early June 2014, Stephanie Leigh Schlund announced that she was cast in the film as a member of the Amity, and Naomi Watts and Daniel Dae Kim joined the cast as Evelyn Johnson and Jack Kang. On June 9, 2014, Rosa Salazar joined the cast as Lynn. On June 10, 2014, Australian actor Keiynan Lonsdale joined the cast as Uriah. On June 11, 2014, Emjay Anthony joined the cast as Hector.
On April 28, 2015, it was reported that Golden Globe nominee Jeff Daniels joined the cast for Allegiant as David, the leader of the Bureau of Genetic Welfare. On May 1, 2015, it was announced that Bill Skarsgård had joined the cast as Matthew.
Principal photography of Divergent began on April 16, 2013 and concluded on July 16, 2013. Almost all of the filming took place in Chicago with reshoots taking place from January 24–26, 2014 in Los Angeles.
Principal photography for The Divergent Series: Insurgent began on May 27, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia and concluded on September 6, 2014. Filming took place at United States Penitentiary, Atlanta. A set was constructed for the Amity Compound at Serenbe Community South of Atlanta. In downtown Atlanta, a zip-line scene was filmed for which a set was constructed on the roof of Peachtree Center. For two days, production was moved to Chicago with scenes being filmed in Wells Street, Franklin Street, and Adams Street. Production was then moved back to Atlanta for reshoots.
Principal photography for The Divergent Series: Allegiant began in Atlanta on May 18, 2015, with filming concluding on August 23, 2015.
Junkie XL scored the first film in the film series, Divergent, while Joseph Trapanese scored the second and third entries, Insurgent and Allegiant
In a world where people are divided into distinct factions based on human virtues, Tris Prior is warned she is Divergent and will never fit into any one group. When she discovers a conspiracy by a faction leader to destroy all Divergents, Tris must learn to trust in the mysterious Four and together they must find out what makes being Divergent so dangerous before it's too late.
As she searches for allies and answers in the wake of the uprising, Tris and Four are on the run. Hunted by Jeanine Matthews, leader of the Erudite faction, Tris and Four race against time as they try to figure out what Abnegation sacrificed their lives to protect, and why the Erudite leaders will do anything to stop them. Haunted by her past choices but desperate to protect the ones she loves, Tris faces one impossible challenge after another as she unlocks the truth about the past and ultimately the future of her world.
On December 16, 2013, Summit Entertainment announced that the film adaptation of Allegiant would be released on March 18, 2016. On April 11, 2014, Lionsgate announced that the film adaptation would be split into two films with the first part titled, The Divergent Series: Allegiant – Part 1. The film was then re-titled as The Divergent Series: Allegiant.
Tris must escape with Four and go beyond the wall enclosing Chicago. For the first time ever, they will leave the only city and family they have ever known in order to find a peaceful solution for their embroiled city. Once outside, old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless with the revelation of shocking new truths. Tris must quickly decide who she can trust as a ruthless battle ignites beyond the walls of Chicago which threatens all of humanity. In order to survive, Tris will be forced to make impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice and love.
A third sequel to the film was initially planned, with a March 2017 release, based on the latter half of the Allegiant book. The timing was changed to a June 2017 release, with Lee Toland Krieger then attached as the movie's director.
In July 2016, after the poor performance of the third film at the box office, the producers considered creating the fourth as a television film, which would add new characters to the story who could continue in a spinoff television series, moving beyond the books. In September 2016, Shailene Woodley stated on Today that the film versus television decision was not finalized, and that it was "a limbo waiting game". In the same interview Woodley spoke despairingly of the chances of her returning to the project in a television format, although noting she would be open to returning to it as a theatrical film. In February 2017, with the producers having confirmed that it would be a television project, it was announced that Woodley had backed out of her starring role. In August 2017, Starz and Lionsgate Television are developing the tv series.
Though the first two films were commercially successful, the series as a whole has not been well received by critics. Each successive film release has been rated lower than the previous release on review aggregator websites. Negative reviews of the third novel Allegiant and the studios' decision to split it into two films have been blamed for the third film's lackluster performance at the box office.