With Divergent- the latest big screen adaptation of a young adult fiction series- set to open to a staggering $65 million this weekend, some might be surprised that the film's director has walked away from the sequel. Neil Burger (Limitless, The Illusionist) had all ready begun preproduction of the Divergent sequel, Insurgent, when he made the sudden decision to exit the film.
Divergent star Shailene Woodley was startled by the news. "It was weird," she told The Hollywood Reporter. "He was the leader of this entire pack, and he created this world, he dreamt it up, he made all of the executive decisions. It was strange to think that somebody else is going to come over and take it on."
So the question is: Why? For someone who had been so involved with creating the cinematic world that this film lives in, which is sure to capture the imagination of teens with disposable income around the world, what made him walk away?
"There's always going to be overlap, but it was getting really complicated," says Burger. At one point he had found himself knee-deep in setting up additional photography on Divergent, working on that film's postproduction work, while also in preproduction on Insurgent. "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 onboard. I wouldn't be able to do either thing right. I reluctantly let it go."
Sounds like the director feels that the studio set him up to fail by creating unattainable deadlines. It wouldn't be the first time, nor will it be the last, that a studio has put release dates ahead of making sure a project is well-made. Another that comes to mind off the top of my head is when Bryan Singer told Twentieth Century Fox that he'd be happy to come film a third X-Men film, if they could wait for him to wrap Superman Returns. The studio declined, insisting on releasing the film within a certain timeframe. They tapped Brett Ratner, gave him only a couple of months to prep a massive blockbuster, and forced the ill-conceived X-Men: The Last Stand on the world.
What do you think this means for the Divergent franchise? The studio has placed Robert Schwentke in the director's chair for the sequel. Schwente's most recent film, R.I.P.D., was one of the biggest bombs of 2013.