The Divergent film series train has already been derailed. The franchise, which was originally thought to be on the same fast track to success as its predecessors in YA fic-to-film fandemonium (Twilight, The Hunger Games), has yet to come to a full halt, but now at least one central cast member may be hopping off before the series makes the jump from film to television. The cast member in question is Miles Teller, who played sometimes-villain, sometimes-ally Peter in the first three film installments.
Teller, currently promoting his work in Todd Phillips’ War Dogs, has declared that he’s unsure if he’ll return to the franchise for its fourth installment now that it’s being done on the small screen. He echoed the surprise of his The Spectacular Now co-star Shailene Woodley by saying that he too was not informed of Lionsgate’s decision to forego a theatrical feature for Ascendant before it showed up in the trades.
“It caught us all by surprise,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “At this point, it’s a different set of circumstances … We’ll see. I honestly haven’t talked to anybody.”
Ascendant was originally created to capitalize on the growing trend of turning hot teen properties into a full series adaptations - plus one (see also Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay). In the case of Divergent, though, the decision seemed especially unwise, given the second film’s merely moderate box office results and the fact that Veronica Roth’s trilogy closer, Allegiant, was widely disfavored among fans. That said, though, Breaking Dawn and Mockingjay were also not above criticism from readers.
In response to Allegiant’s lackluster ticket sales ($66 million domestic, and $179 million worldwide intake on a rumored $110 million budget), Lionsgate decided to withdraw the title from its original wide release date slated for 2017 and will be exploring the TV movie path, including building a show from the series.
Per Deadline, in a quarterly earnings call, Television Group Chairman Kevin Beggs admitted that the box office numbers on Allegiant couldn’t justify them going forth with Ascendant in ordinary fashion, but he “got excited about the possibility of what the series could look like -- resolving the novel in a season across 10 to 13 episodes and then expanding from there into multiple seasons.” Lionsgate will begin presenting the Divergent TV project to 12 interested networks next week.
Despite this executive enthusiasm, though, Teller isn’t sure what he’ll do. He told THR, “Things do change anytime they’re messing with something that was not the original intention. We all signed on for it in hopes that it’d be released in theaters, and we all had every intention of finishing.” However, he was quick to add that his displeasure has nothing to do with the experience of making the movies or working with his co-stars:
“I’m not kidding when I say that you won’t find a single actor who worked in that franchise who would have anything bad to say about that experience. It’s all good. I have nothing but love for everybody I’ve worked with on that franchise.”
Miles Teller himself has had some choice unkind words about the series before, so this reads a bit like goodbye lip service. (As a reminder, a few months after the first film hit theaters, he told W Magazine that the movie made him feel "dead inside" and that he'd only really taken the gig "for business reasons.") Still, it remains to be seen what comes of the final Divergent film and the television spinoff series as development continues.
We’ll keep you updated on Divergent: Ascendant as more information becomes available.