Veronica Roth's Divergent book series has been a perpetual New York Times best-seller since 2011 with the trilogy surging to over 34 million copies being sold worldwide. The next logical step – from a business perspective – was then to turn the novels into cinematic adaptions. The first in the dystopian sci-fi adventure series hit the big screen with the release of Divergent in 2014, which was directed by Neil Burger and released almost back-to-back with the second installment, Insurgent, following close behind in 2015.
German-born Robert Schwentke took the directors chair for both Insurgent and the upcoming Allegiant (which opens in theaters in March). However, it's now being reported that he has stepped down for the fourth and final chapter, titled The Divergent Series: Ascendant.
According to Deadline, there have been no outside factors influencing Schwentke’s decision; he just needed a break after working on and releasing the previous two Divergent entries over consecutive years. It is believed that he maintains a good working relationship with Lionsgate, who he also teamed up with to helm the action-comedy Red in 2010.
At the time of writing this, there's no further word on which director will fill Schwentke’s spot but, undoubtedly, Lionsgate is now scrambling to secure a director to keep Ascendant on schedule for its June 2017 release. What is still confirmed is that franchise veterans Shailene Woodley, Miles Teller, Theo James and Naomi Watts will be making a return. Furthermore, Golden Globe-nominated actor Jeff Daniels has joined the ensemble cast for the third and fourth films, along with fellow recent additions Nadia Hilker and Bill Skarsgård.
As the news spreads and speculation increases, we have to wonder whether Neil Burger, who directed Divergent, but decided not to take on the second film due to his busy schedule, could make a return? A statement released by Summit Entertainment (via Deadline) explained the situation at the time:
“Neil Burger is a rock star and he is doing a fantastic job on Divergent. We can’t wait for you to see the film. But as amazing as Neil is he still cannot be in two places at once and thus needs to finish post production on Divergent while we gear up to start production on Insurgent. So, although Neil will continue on as part of our Divergent family as an executive producer, we sadly have to find another director for the next chapter in Veronica Roth’s fantastic series.”
Burger’s position on the upcoming Ascendant movie remains unclear but fans seem keen to get him back on board – with some even starting a #BringNeilBack petition, which currently stands at 363 signatures (and counting). The site has also been swamped with messages of support for the director to finish the series, with many viewing it as the 'perfect' conclusion.
The Divergent Series: Allegiant will hit theaters on March 18, 2016, while The Divergent Series: Ascendant remains schedule to arrive on June 9, 2017, until further notice.