Hailee Steinfeld, left, and Asa Butterfield star in "Ender's Game." (Richard Foreman / Summit Entertainment)Link
Director Gavin Hood and actors Suraj Partha and Asa Butterfield on the set of "Ender's Game." (Richard Foreman / Summit Entertainment)Link
Ben Kingsley, Harrison Ford and Asa Butterfield star in "Ender's Game." (Richard Foreman / Summit Entertainment)Link
Harrison Ford stars in "Ender's Game." (Summit Entertainment)Link
Asa Butterfield stars in "Ender's Game." (Summit Entertainment)Link
Harrison Ford and Asa Butterfield star in "Ender's Game." (Summit Entertainment)Link
Aramis Knight and Asa Butterfield in "Ender's Game." (Summit Entertainment)Link
Hailee Steinfeld and Asa Butterfield star in "Ender's Game." (Summit Entertainment)Link
Ben Kingsley stars in "Ender's Game." (Richard Foreman / Summit Entertainment)Link
Harrison Ford and Asa Butterfield star in "Ender's Game." (Richard Foreman / Summit Entertainment)Link
Hailee Steinfeld and Asa Butterfield star in "Ender's Game." (Richard Foreman / Summit Entertainment)Link
Asa Butterfield and Hailee Steinfeld attend a promotional event for "Ender's Game" in San Diego during Comic-Con International on July 17. (Michael Buckner / Getty Images)Link
Hailee Steinfeld and Asa Butterfield attend a promotional event for "Ender's Game" in San Diego during Comic-Con International on July 17. (Chris Pizzello / Associated Press)Link
Asa Butterfield and Hailee Steinfeld speak onstage during Comic-Con International in San Diego on July 18. (Joe Scarnici / Getty Images)Link
Director Gavin Hood onstage during Comic-Con International in San Diego on July 18. (Joe Scarnici / Getty Images)Link
A movie poster for "Ender's Game." (Summit Entertainment)Link
The long-awaited movie adaptation of “Ender’s Game” is out this week, bringing the popular sci-fi tale to the big screen for the first time.
The movie, based on Orson Scott Card’s 1985 novel, follows Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), a young, extremely intelligent boy who is recruited to attend Battle School and groomed to become a commander in a war against aliens. Card’s book won the Nebula and Hugo awards for best novel, and has become extremely popular, especially among children who read it in school.
However, the film has found itself the object of boycotts and criticism due to Card’s outspoken arguments against gay marriage. “Ender’s Game” director Gavin Hood has repeatedly emphasized his focus on the book’s themes of compassion and tolerance. Hero Complex caught up with Hood to discuss the controversy. In Part 2 of the interview, Hood also addresses Ender’s relationships with his Battle School classmates, especially Petra (Hailee Steinfeld), and the possibility of a movie sequel.
In Part 1, Hood talked about adapting the 324-page novel into a roughly two-hour film, discussing his decision to compress the story’s timeline, change Ender’s age, alter his relationship with Bean and leave out the political activities of Valentine and Peter, Ender’s siblings back home.
Hero Complex: What’s it like to have put so much into making this film only to see it become embroiled in the controversy surrounding Orson Scott Card’s views on gay rights?
Gavin Hood: This is obviously a tricky thing. I mean, Orson, I think that the themes and ideas that Orson expressed in the book are about compassion and tolerance and leading by understanding, even your enemy. And those are the themes that resonated with me. So there’s a lot that Orson says in the book that I think is beautiful and universal and very interesting. It’s well-known now that he and I disagree on the issue of gay marriage. And my opinion is the opposite to his, and that has been awkward, but his opinion on gay marriage is not something that he dealt with in the book, and in fact, I think that the ideas of tolerance and compassion in the book are, ironically, antithesis of the position he has taken on gay marriage. But he has other arguments that are — for those who wish to understand Orson’s opinion, I’d refer them to what he’s written about it, and my position and my opinion on the matter is the opposite. And that’s distressing, but there it is. For me, the book remains an extraordinary book that was incredibly prescient at predicting not only the Internet, but drone warfare and so on, and so I’m focused on delivering what I think is an extraordinary book to the screen.
HC: It was refreshing to watch the relationship develop between Ender and Petra; it could have easily been a romance for Hollywood purposes, but you decided against that?
GH: Thank you. Firstly, it’s an environment where it would be almost impossible for that to happen without the authorities stepping on them. But I think that’s what’s beautiful about the book — the relationships with people are based on a genuine respect for one another. He has respect for Alai. He has respect for Petra. He has respect for Bean. They’re different relationships but they’re about respecting an individual’s integrity and honesty and approach to leadership. And he does not respect Bonzo’s approach to leadership. And Petra respects [Ender’s] approach to leadership, and he respects her warmth in the way she leads him when she teaches him how to shoot. Now obviously there’s an element of romance. You’ve got a boy and a girl in this crazy Battle School, and there’s a beauty to that moment. There’s a sensitivity to it. They’re not without attraction. But their attraction is not based on something cutesy and superficial. I like the fact that these are intelligent kids genuinely interacting.
And I don’t know — for all I know, Ender has a relationship with Petra or he has a relationship with Alai. I don’t know frankly whether Ender is gay or straight. Do you? It’s not what the issue is. The issue is about mutual respect. And that’s one of the themes that I loved about the book. The characters in the book, their esteem or the way we think of them, is based on the way they behave to one another. And Ender’s journey is to moderate his own behavior. He’s repulsed by the part of him that is too much like Peter. His challenge is to try and grow into the best part of himself that he can be, and to consciously understand that that’s required, that it doesn’t come easily, that you’re not naturally a goody two-shoes. He’s not naturally a good kid. In fact, he does stuff at the beginning that’s pretty alienating. That’s the part of the book that I really like; we’re not setting up, “Here’s a good kid who gets bullied and then he gets his revenge.” No, here’s a good kid who gets bullied, but isn’t entirely a good kid because he goes too far when he kicks Stilson. And then he knows it. He’s like, “Oh my God, I’m just like Peter. And how do I stop that? How do I control the parts of my personality that I realize even I don’t like. Can I get that part of me under control and rise to my better self?” And people like Petra help bring out his better self. And Alai, I think, helps bring out his better self, you know, by saying, “Come on, Ender, why do you do this?”
HC: What was it like directing such a young cast? I’d imagine many of your actors were going through similar emotions as their characters?
GH: I think that’s why the young actors enjoyed doing the work. They felt it was a story for them, as opposed to here we are acting in a grown-ups’ movie. I mean, even though I do hope the movie is appreciated by grown-ups, obviously, what I like as a parent is to go to a movie that I can appreciate and yet have a conversation with my children about some of the ideas. Like, “What do you think about this notion of games becoming more like war, and war becoming more game-like? Are games and reality starting to blur a little as video games become more and more realistic, and wars are being fought more and more using drones? What does this mean in terms of how we relate to warfare? Are we numbing our sensibility towards it?” Because in the movie, we tried deliberately to make it look like a big, beautiful game in order to pull the rug out from the audience at the end, the way it is out from Ender’s feet. And you want to have fun, like, “Wow, we won, awesome!” And Ender has this wow, big ego moment, and then realizes he’s been duped, but he’s angry at himself as much as he is at Graff, for allowing his ego and his need to win to get caught up in the game, this big fun game that turns out to be not a game.
HC: Would you consider making a sequel?
GH: It’s a great question, but I think it’s such a difficult one to answer, because the sequel “Speaker for the Dead” takes place 30 years after, so we’re in an interesting place. I think we have to hope that audiences respond to the film… And Orson is apparently writing something that’s more of a direct follow called [“Fleet School“]. Obviously, from the studio’s point of view, they’d almost certainly want to move the characters from this film into the next journey. So it may be that “Speaker for the Dead” is not the sequel now. But to be perfectly honest, I don’t think we can count our sequels before they hatch. We’ve got a complicated film here. I hope that it does two things. I hope that it gives the audiences the visual excitement that they want from a big movie, but it does have the challenge of asking questions that films of this kind don’t usually ask. And we’ll have to see whether audiences embrace that. Most big popcorn movies are bad guy does something to good guy, good guy gets revenge on bad guy, sets the world right and moves on. And “Ender’s Game” is just not that simple, so it’s an exciting challenge. It’s a little terrifying, and let’s see how audiences respond. I hope they respond well so we can keep doing films that are not just goodies versus baddies.
Read Part 1 of this interview here: ‘Ender’s Game’ director Gavin Hood on why he changed Ender’s age.
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