Theo James

Press Association via AP Images

Theo James is taking on a Dauntless role.

The English actor has been cast opposite Shailene Woodley in the highly anticipated big-screen adaptation of Veronica Roth's dystopian best seller Divergent, the first in a planned trilogy.

The news was announced by Summit Entertainment, which owns the rights to the popular YA novels that seemingly combine elements of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games in telling the tale of a post-apocalyptic Chicago and the five factions that rule over the remnants of humanity.

The 28-year-old James will play the mysterious "Four," aka Tobias Eaton, the love interest of the story's heroine, Tris Prior (Woodley).

Divergent is a fantasy adventure in which people are divided into five groups based on their personalities: Abnegation (the Selfless), Erudite (the Intelligent), Candor (the Honest), Amity (The Peaceful) and Dauntless(the Brave).

As a leader of the Dauntless, Four instructs Tris on conquering her fears as she seeks to join his faction after she's warned she's "Divergent" and will never fit into any one group. When she unearths a secret plan to destroy all Divergents, she must find out what makes being Divergent so dangerous before it's too late.

"Theo is not only an incredibly talented actor, he is also who we envisioned as Four when reading Veronica's novel, which has taken the world by storm," said Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger, cochairmen of Lionsgate, which owns Summit. "As we continue to develop the film, the studio remains committed to providing fans with a movie adaptation that stays as true to the book as possible, and we are confident that we have done so with our selection of Shailene and Theo in the leading roles."

Before he landed the lead on CBS' crime drama Golden Boy, James starred in the British supernatural TV series Bedlam and appeared in the flicks Underworld: Awakening and Woody' Allen's You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. But he's perhaps best known Stateside for his role as Kemal Pamuk, who has an unfortunate encounter with Lady Mary Crawley on PBS' hit series Downton Abbey.

Woodley, of course, is most famous for her Oscar-nominated role as George Clooney's daughter in The Descendants, and she plays Mary Jane Watson in next summer's The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Among the other big names reportedly cast in the film, which is being helmed by Neil Berger (Limitless), are Maggie Q and Zoë Kravitz.

Divergent is set to start lensing this April in Chicago and hit theaters on March 21, 2014.

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