This Is the Way the World Ends: Talking Apocalypse with the Stars of ‘Divergent’

Shailene Woodley. (Courtesy Patrick McMullan)

Shailene Woodley. (Courtesy Patrick McMullan)

With the possible exception of Richard III, no one has been more likely to link winter and discontent than a Manhattanite this year. New Yorkers have likened the past season to every hellscape from Dante’s final circle to Hoth in Star Wars. It was apt that on the first–still frigid–day of Spring we attended the Cinema Society/Marie Claire screening of the bleak, dystopian film Divergent.

Considered the successor franchise to The Hunger Games, the film is set in a futuristic Chicago where society is divided into factions – the selfless, the brave, the intelligent, the honest and the peaceful. And then, of course, there are the outsider Divergents, a strong female protagonist (Shailene Woodley) and a power-hungry leader (Kate Winslet) hatching an evil plot.

When we pointed out to Ansel Elgort, a male lead in the film, that the notion of factions does not sound terrifying so much as it sounds exactly like the Hogwarts house selection from Harry Potter, he earnestly and sternly informed us, “It is not like Hogwarts! It’s not like the sorting hat is like, ‘Gryffindor!’ It’s not like, ‘school is fun, and I’m going to go to different houses and we’ll eat together!’ No. It’s like I’m going here and that’s where I’m going to stay for the rest of my life. And if I don’t like it I’m done. You’ll never see your family. You’re in that faction, that’s it. It’s a cutthroat place.”

Which is, indeed, a bleak vision of the future. But it is worth noting that, for Chicago, the weather in the film seemed terrific.

Meanwhile snow boots and overcoats piled up on the booths at the after party at the new Midtown West restaurant The Wayfarer, where we asked the stars how they thought the world might end.

Some said the world would end in fire, some said in ice, and Ansel Elgort replied, “Humans. On the path we’re on, we’ll destroy it. We’ll totally destroy this Earth.  There’s no doubt about it. Syria, bombs, global warming. It’ll be a place we can’t live anymore, and when we’ve sucked it dry of everything it can do for us we’ll go someplace else. We’ll be like Wall-E.” He mournfully noted that after vacating Earth for other planets, “Hopefully we can come back and find a little plant and re-grow everything.”

Fashion designer Christian Siriano thought of a dystopia as a world with, “no food, no water, no fashion, no sun. We’d all shrivel up.” (We took a moment to appreciate, deeply, the fact that fashion held a place in front of the sun on Mr. Siriano’s list.)

But as for whether or not an apocalypse would come to pass, he replied, “I don’t think the world will end. I think it will always go on in some form.”

When we noted that one of the most depressing things about futuristic dystopias seems to be that everyone wears only neutrals he nodded vigorously. “I feel like the future could be very colorful! Lots of tribes in Africa use color symbolism to differentiate, and I think it would be an interesting thing to say, ‘this is the future and everyone in this world wears red, and everyone in this world wears neon.’”

Mr. Siriano, as it happens, is designing costumes for a Disney animated film.

Shailene Woodley was even more upbeat. “I know what I want when my world ends! I want to be bald and chilling in a field with my best friend and jamming on a guitar.”