Brace yourselves for the ear-piercing squeals: Theo James, the British heartthrob and current star of the CBS cop drama “Golden Boy,” will star in Summit Entertainment’s highly anticipated adaptation of the young adult bestseller “Divergent,” the studio announced Friday.
The 28-year-old actor will play 18-year-old Tobias Eaton, or Four, as he is called throughout much of the dystopian novel set in a post-apocalyptic Chicago. He will star opposite Shailene Woodley (“The Descendants”), who landed the starring role of Beatrice Prior, or Tris, the protagonist of the film.
Miles Teller, star of the recent “21 & Over,” is in negotiations to play one of the villains of the film, Peter; Irish actor Ray Stevenson (“Dexter”) is in talks to portray Tris’ father, Andrew Prior, while an offer is out to Aaron Eckhart for the role of Marcus, Andrew’s colleague, all according to people familiar with the discussions.
The film, based on the first of three novels by Veronica Roth, chronicles a society divided into factions, a la “The Hunger Games.” But whereas the Suzanne Collins’ trilogy was divided geographically, Roth’s world is splintered via specific virtues: Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful) and Erudite (the intelligent).
At 16, each child is tested for a dominant virtue via a serum and is forced to live with that faction, often leaving his or her family. Beatrice discovers she is Divergent, meaning proficient in two factions, and must choose between staying with her family, Abnegation, or going with the Dauntless. She soon discovers a plot to destroy all Divergents.
Four, one of the leaders of the Dauntless faction, serves as Beatrice’s ally and later love interest when the society begins to unravel.
Neil Burger (“Limitless”) is set to direct the feature with production scheduled to begin in Chicago in April. Vanessa Taylor (“Game of Thrones”) wrote the script based on an original draft by Evan Daugherty (“Snow White and the Huntsman”).
“I couldn’t be happier that Theo James will be playing the role of Four,” said Burger in a statement. “It’s rare that you find someone who can do it all: he’s tough and charismatic; a fighter and a lover. And he and Shailene Woodley (who plays Tris) have a remarkable chemistry — sparks truly fly between them.”
The search for the male lead has been going on since late last year, with many young actors testing for the role. Though Summit had been initially looking for a younger actor to fill the role, it seems the studio decided to expand the age range of the search.
“We took our time to find the right actor to fill the role of Four, and Theo is definitely the perfect fit,” said Erik Feig, Lionsgate Motion Picture Group’s president of production. “Veronica has crafted a truly iconic character in Four, and we cannot wait to begin production and bring him and this story to life for millions of fans around the world.”
“Golden Boy” marks James’ first starring role in the U.S., but he previously headlined the BBC series “Bedlam.” Fans of PBS’ “Downton Abbey” may remember James for his small but crucial role in the first season, when he played Kemal Pamuk, the Turkish diplomat who had a deadly fling with Lady Mary.
Other cast members recently announced include Kate Winslet, Maggie Q as the tattoo parlor owner Tori, Zoe Kravitz as Beatrice’s friend Christina and Ansel Elgort, who plays Caleb, Tris’ brother. Australian actor Jai Courtney, who portrayed Bruce Willis’ son in the most recent “Die Hard,” will play Dauntless leader Eric.
Summit Entertainment, a division of Lionsgate, will release the film on March 21, 2014.