Tris Prior had spent her entire life believing her hometown was the last remaining outpost of civilization, only to learn in last year’s The Divergent Series: Insurgent that there’s a whole wide world outside the walls of dystopian Chicago.
Allegiant, the third film adaptation of Veronica Roth’s hit novels, finds Factionless leader Evelyn (Naomi Watts) desperate to maintain her newfound power, having instated a ban on anyone approaching the barrier wall. So, Tris (Shailene Woodley) makes a break for it with her beau Four (Theo James), her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort), and her allies Christina (Zöe Kravitz), Tori (Maggie Q), and Peter (Miles Teller).
The filmmakers went back and forth about the best way to illustrate their escape, and they considered a massive battle scene at the wall’s gate before deciding that going up and over the wall had the most visual and emotional impact. “Tris has been waiting a long time, as has everyone, to see what’s beyond the wall,” Woodley says. “So not only does the wall represent a physical challenge, but it also represents the catalyst for removing an obstacle that’s been in front of her for her entire life.”
Production designer Alec Hammond and stunt coordinator Chris O’Hara spearheaded the sequence, which required the construction of three colossal walls in the sweltering Atlanta summer. “So yeah, lots of sunscreen, big-brimmed hats, and just trying to stay not sunburned,” O’Hara says.
Here, Woodley, Hammond, and O’Hara walk us through how they pulled off the series’ craziest stunt yet.
PREPPING FOR THE CLIMB
Much of the action happened on a 60-foot wall built at the edge of an old Atlanta granite quarry, but the actors also ran up a slightly less steep 40-foot wall, with skateboard grip-tape on their shoes for traction. “I don’t really mind heights,” Woodley says. “I’m afraid of falling — which, who isn’t? — but I feed off the adrenaline.”
Since day one of Divergent, Woodley has done as many stunts the producers will allow, but O’Hara, who hadn’t worked on the previous movies, didn’t know what to expect. “She surprised me,” he says. “There’s a hero moment where she goes to save the day, and she’s basically rocketing down to the ground from 25 feet up the wall, and she lands it. And it’s all Shailene.”
While most of Tris’ companions are pros at running, jumping, and climbing, her Erudite brother Caleb isn’t exactly an experienced athlete. As a result, Elgort had to practice wiping out on the concrete. “We didn’t use the padded wall portion very often, but we painted foam to actually look like concrete, just to give him a little bit of relief from when he took the hit,” Hammond says.
Getting to the top of the wall is only half the battle. Evelyn has restored the electrified fence, which means that if Tris & Co. want to get through, they have to take out the fence’s generator and trigger a massive electrical short, shown here in digital concept art. “We wanted the explosion to not look like a big gas bomb,” Hammond says. “So it wasn’t just orange flames.”