If you read “Insurgent” in printed form before seeing The Divergent Series: Insurgent this weekend, you’ll find there’s a moment of hey wait, what? in the very last scene. Between the novel and the movie, the endings don’t match up.
This is, of course, nothing new. There isn’t a piece of film-based media that’s a perfect 1:1 representation of the book it was adapted from (unless you count Reading Rainbow). But the change at the end of Insurgent is a little different, because A) it’s more than just a slight tweak, B) it involves the death of a lead character (gasp), and C) we can tell you just how and why it was changed. There will be SPOILERS, however. Obviously.
In the film, Kate Winslet plays Jeanine Matthews, a megalomaniacal faction leader and Insurgent’s (also, Divergent’s) number one antagonist. At least, until somebody snuffs her out. In the novel, it’s a messy thing. Tori (Maggie Q) wants Jeanine dead as revenge for her brother’s death. Tris (Shailene Woodley) wants her alive because only Jeanine has access to a computer full of important plot details. A prolonged and bloody fight scene ensues, ending when Tris lets her guard down and Tori pulls a knife, jamming it into Jeanine’s midsection.
The movie’s climax comes and goes without any stabbings; the denouement wraps up neatly. At least until a stinger-ish final scene just before the end credits. Jeanine, sealed away in a high-rise prison cell, is approached from behind by Naomi Watts’ character, Evelyn. Jeanine gazes out the window, sullenly wondering what humanity will uncover outside of Insurgent’s walled-off dystopian Chicago. Evelyn growls a one-liner, “You won’t get to find out,” then in the span of like half a second she draws a gun, aims it at the back of Jeanine’s head, pulls the trigger and the movie cuts to black.
According to Douglas Wick and Lucy Fisher (the husband and wife producing partners who spearheaded a cinematic Divergent Series), Insurgent needed a shiny new ending for more than a few reasons: proper pacing, sequel setup, and because everyone working on the movie was basically obsessed with Kate Winslet. And to find out why, as Fisher explains, you have to go all the way back to the end of Divergent.
“Jeanine was not in the final scene in the first book either, but we decided to put her in because you kinda want your main antagonist to be in the climax of the movie. So we did that with Veronica [Roth, author of “Divergent”]’s blessings, and moved her… she just sort of disappears, beginning in the third act- and put her to the end.” As for Insurgent? “The same thing with Evelyn. It just made more sense dramatically, to have it be the person that you’re watching, as the other side of the fulcrum, come in. It just seemed more satisfying.”
At that point Wick jumps in, adding that establishing Evelyn’s presence in the next sequel (which will be more villainous) was also a factor. “Whenever you’re doing an adaptation you have so much story. So you’re distilling, and in a funny way the final distillation was between those two characters. You know, to some extent Naomi was replacing Jeanine… so it distills. Those two final forces were embodying those two actors.”
But from the way Wick and Fisher tell it, it sounds like the real reason was just to get more time with Winslet. As soon as I mention the words “Kate Winslet,” it unleashes an avalanche of kind words from the producers. “We adored her,” “she’s just so much fun,” “she’s so talented,” “she’s got the commercial,” “she’s got the art stuff,” “she’s such an Uzi.” They’ve apparently known the actress for a long time.
The cast and crew all felt the same Winslet puppy love, to the extent that her character’s point-blank execution was almost-kinda-sorta being considered for a rewrite. “Everyone was so sad that she wasn’t going to be on the next movie,” reveals Wick. “So we all joked about various ways that she would live into the next movie. So when she was having a great day, she’d come and say ‘Okay, Naomi comes in, she’ll just bang me over the head. Then I’ll star in the next movie.’ And at some point, people became a little serious about it.” Except for that one common sense argument against throwing Winslet an Allegiant cameo: “It didn’t exactly make sense for the story.”
The silver lining, according to Wick: “Now we get to do much more with Naomi’s talents, her character, and of course we’ll have a new character to create.” That new character sounds like David, a key villain in Allegiant who’s yet to be cast.
So remember: if next year you happen to notice a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Kate Winslet cameo in The Divergent Series: Allegiant- Part 1 — a flashback, an old recording, maybe a coma fantasy ‐ you’ll know exactly where it came from.