Written by Jordan Clifford, editorial intern
When I scrolled through my Twitter feed last night, I noticed one common theme: Divergent. With the L.A. premiere in full swing, movie-goers were choosing their factions (take the aptitude test – I’m Candor), and I must admit, there was a serious case of #twitterenvy happening. But not to fret—the sure-to-be-a-hit film smashes into theaters tomorrow, and I’ve already got my tickets in hand. But before nestling into a cozy seat to stare at Shailene Woodley’s rock-hard bod (Don’t believe me? Watch the trailer), I had to know how she got it. So I caught up with the dystopian’s fight coordinator, J.J. Perry, to hear all about how he whipped the cast into shape.
One thing’s for sure: Perry certainly didn’t hold anything back as he put these actors through a rigorous pre-training boot camp to assess how fight-ready they were. Theo James, who plays Four, came the most prepared. "When he showed up in Chicago, he was the kid in great shape," said Perry. "He was ready to rock." When they got down to business, Perry put each cast member through the paces—we’re talking tons of cardio, some light stretching and then instructional time on proper striking, explains Perry. If you haven’t read the books, let me clue you in: there’s a lot of physicality, and plenty of fighting, so there’s no way faking it would be an option. “We didn’t have a lot of time to teach them everything, so we were very specific about how we trained them—a combination of hammer-fist striking, punch striking, elbow striking, knee work and low kicks, along with some work on throws and falls.” Phew.
As for Shailene Woodley, she got a little extra pre-training in before the four-week boot camp. “I had her come to 87 Eleven Action Design, it’s a facility in Inglewood, [California]” said Perry. “I put some focus mitts on her—a type of boxing glove—and had her go through some basic [fight moves to see what she could do. She was extremely flexible, but she wasn’t really an athlete.”
How to fix that? Homework, of course. Perry had Woodley work on her upper body strength, practicing basic exercises like sit-ups, push-ups and pull-ups; and tossing in core- and leg-work for good measure. "I told her to just train everything," said Perry. By the time boot camp rolled around, she was ready for action. “Shailene’s biggest attribute was her willingness to work and her willingness to embrace the process.” Clearly, it paid off.
Just in case you’re inspired to hit the gym after the flick (I already know I will be), we stole some moves from Perry so you can score your own action-ready, totally Dauntless physique.
What you’ll need: a bench or chair
- Sit with arms placed behind you, palms facing down and figures pointing away from you.
- Scooch forward so butt is no longer on the bench, with feet firmly planted and knees at a 90-degree angle.
- Dip butt toward floor (without touching!), using triceps to raise and lower your body.
- Repeat 3 sets of 10 reps.
- Start standing, feet hip-width apart, arms at sides. Lower into a squat, bending your knees and placing hands (palms to the floor) out in front of you.
- Jump both legs out behind you into push-up position. Perform a push-up.
- Jump feet back to squatting position. Return to starting position. To make it harder, add a jump in and clap hands overhead.
- Repeat 3 sets of 10 reps.
What you'll need. Your body.
- Start in a kneeling position, with right knee on ground and left foot firmly planted (your leg will be bent at a 90-degree angle). Raise arms to a boxing position (like you are going strike a punch).
- Engaging core core and left leg, stand up as you kick right leg out in front of you. Bring right knee back to ground and return to starting position. Perform 12 reps, switch legs.
Photo 1: Perry (right) with actor Ben Lloyd Hughes, who plays Dauntless initiate Will; courtesy of JAAP BUITENDIJK
Photo 2: Shailene Woodley is Tris; courtesy of divergentthemovie.com
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