While the citizens of the Dauntless faction in “Divergent” love a good death-defying leap, they’re equally passionate about something a little more benign: tattoos.
And these aren’t just any tattoos. The design process for the film’s ink began with production designer Andy Nicholson (a recent Oscar nominee for “Gravity”), who worked with director Neil Burger to create a “bible of the future” that set forth rules about visuals not explained in Veronica Roth’s book series.
In particular, they wanted the tattoos to be rudimentary enough that an isolated, relatively young society could believably create them.
Lead initiate Tris (Shailene Woodley) has three birds representing her mother, father and brother, and the makeup team was able to apply them consistently each day using her moles as references points. (In the film, tattoos are applied via a tube that injects ink through a patch. In reality, they were printed on cellophane paper backed with acrylic adhesive and applied almost like temporary tattoos.)
For Four’s elaborate back tattoo, makeup department head Brad Wilder had to stick on around 40 numbered, printed pieces that connected like a puzzle on actor Theo James’ back. It took three people three hours to apply them while James stood. When they’d run out of conversation topics, the actor would put his headphones on and listen to Bon Iver.
Luckily, James didn’t have to endure that routine every day. For much of “Divergent,” only a bit of the tattoos peek out from beneath his shirt.