‘Ender’s Game’ director talks sequel, Orson Scott Card controversy

Nov. 01, 2013 | 2:08 p.m.

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Hailee Steinfeld, left, and Asa Butterfield star in "Ender's Game." (Richard Foreman / Summit Entertainment)

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Director Gavin Hood and actors Suraj Partha and Asa Butterfield on the set of "Ender's Game." (Richard Foreman / Summit Entertainment)

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Ben Kingsley, Harrison Ford and Asa Butterfield star in "Ender's Game." (Richard Foreman / Summit Entertainment)

endersgame Enders Game director talks sequel, Orson Scott Card controversy

Harrison Ford and Asa Butterfield star in "Ender's Game." (Richard Foreman / Summit Entertainment)

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Hailee Steinfeld and Asa Butterfield star in "Ender's Game." (Richard Foreman / Summit Entertainment)

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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)

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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)

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Asa Butterfield and Hailee Steinfeld speak onstage during Comic-Con International in San Diego on July 18. (Joe Scarnici / Getty Images)

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Director Gavin Hood onstage during Comic-Con International in San Diego on July 18. (Joe Scarnici / Getty Images)

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.

Orson Scott Card (Starscape)

Orson Scott Card (Starscape)

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.

Spoilers below.

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?”

Hailee Steinfeld and Asa Butterfield star in "Ender's Game." (Summit Entertainment)

Hailee Steinfeld and Asa Butterfield star in “Ender’s Game.” (Summit Entertainment)

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.

— Noelene Clark | @NoeleneClark | Google+


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37 Responses to ‘Ender’s Game’ director talks sequel, Orson Scott Card controversy

  1. ben says:

    Spoilers! No crud! I guess all of us that read it 25 yrs ago (and how many times since?) kinda know what's coming, but to just throw it out there…

    I guess if you don't want spoilers you don't read stuff like this before going to the movie.

    Anyways, nice interview. Card's stance troubles me, too, but I've read almost everything he's written. He's very good at developing characters, and seems to have empathy for all. That's why his stance is so puzzling.

    • Laura says:

      yeah some of us are…ya know…YOUNGER than 25 years because we were born in 1999 or whatever, so yeah, some spoilers. Not EVERYONE is as old as you are!

  2. Marjorie says:

    I lived in Greensboro,NC and got sick and tired of his attitude in the right wing newspaper( GASP! There really is bias news print?!?) Rhino Times .

  3. mattymaxxx says:

    Card is against a lot more than gay marriage. He believes gay people should be thrown in jail. Google "The Hypocrites of Homosexuality". This guy is a bigot in the highest level.

  4. cook says:

    Ender,s shadow is also outstanding.

  5. anon says:

    His homophobia aside, its hard to talk about a sequel. Considering they royally screwed up the movies ending by trying to incoherently mix together parts of enders exile into movie's ending creating one hell of a plot hole in the process. They also ignored a number of key side stories in the movie that act as the driving plot for the next book. Making a accurate bridge into the next book near impossible.

    Also did not get why a number of things in the movie had been changed without any valid reasoning. Such as Mazers run (Instead of being outside the rings of Saturn, it was changed to some independence day ripoff)

  6. lisa says:

    I hate that you have to give up your morals and integrity to be politicaly correct or people will call you every name in the book. I am all for tolerance. What is truly hypocritical is to ask for tolerance but don't give it if it's contrary to YOUR opinion or ideal.

    • Matthew Remington Moseman says:

      Thank you! I was starting to get a little mad but your comment gave me hope that there are open-minded people. I’m not going to say my own stance on gay marriage, but I will say that I believe men and women were made by God for each other. Some people may not hate that belief but I’m okay with that. And just because I don’t agree with someone’s beliefs or idea. (A lot of Card’s) but I don’t let that influence how much I like his work. I believe a lot of his work has todo with tolerance and other great features. I admire him for not being afraid to ruin his reputation just because the majority, (or minority) doesn’t share his beliefs. And I hope people learn.

  7. Dick says:

    What does one persons' belief/view affect any of the people that are reading his books or watching his movies? It is not like he is the president or he can pass laws to throw gay people in jail. people need to chill out and just enjoy the books and movie or hate it.

    • Jay says:

      I personally don't think he is really a religious homophobe. If you read the books he has written and what he has said about religion in them, you might think he is an atheist in the closet.

  8. Liz says:

    If there is going to be a sequel, it should be Ender in Exile, not Speaker for the Dead.

  9. Teresa says:

    Ender in Exile. It goes between Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead.

  10. Zl says:

    If he had read at least the first three books, he would have known the answer to several of those questions about Enders character. The fact he didn’t makes me not want to see this…

  11. Mel says:

    I find it ironic that the gay marriage proponents are the ones being intolerant. The left charactarizes everyone who opposes gay marriage as vile and evil (now that's not intolerant, is it?). Opposition to gay marriage is a political position, not a "hate" position. Card is opposed to gay marriage, not opposed to gay people. His views are definitely NOT antithetical to the themes of tolerance and inclusion in Ender's Game. Card understands that there are good people who have different positions on different issues. Unfortunately, those who disagree with him on gay marriage aren't as tolerant. If I went to movies based on the political views of the screewriters, producers, actors, etc., I'd never be able to see another movie again. The left's version of tolerance is acceptance of everyone who holds the same positions that they do.

    • Sigh says:

      Well that sounds a bit defensive to me. The only political argument to be made goes something like 'gay people filing their taxes together and raising children will directly damage our society and economy!' Which is a somewhat laughable premise and not really what conservatives believe. What I usually hear from conservatives is that homosexuality is a sin, which is a religious argument. Not that there's anything wrong with holding that position, it's just strange. Most people who don't have a problem with homosexuality come to that position not by tolerance but by understanding. Orson Scott Card produced a character that could understand and love even his greatest enemy, an insectoid alien race! I think it Ironic that card thinks the gay couple next door getting married is somehow a threat or offense to society.

    • mark says:

      You honestly see no difference between dating you won’t buy someone’s products because of their views and saying someone can’t be with their long time partner when they die because of their sexual orientation? They are not equivalent, or even really similar.

  12. PrisRenRod says:

    Can’t we just enjoy a movie and the principles behind it without politicizing it based on the creators’ views? I think “we” take things too far. We give entertainment way to much power. I loved the movie and so did my son. I read the HC article to him after we saw the movie. And yes, both inspired a good conversation. Hope there is a sequel with equally complex issues that make us think about what we would do.

  13. Nanani says:

    I wouldn't boycott this film because of Orson's views on homosexuality, but because of Hood's.

  14. Christine says:

    I don’t understand why the director would say any of that. Did he not research the books or characters he’s directing?

    There is no romantic component in Ender’s Game one way or another. Petra’s relationship with Ender was that of a big sister. Ender and Alai both fall in love with and marry women in the sequels.

  15. Eric says:

    The logical sequel would be Shadow of the Hegemon, with some added details from Ender's Game & Shadow (10 minutes each on Locke & Demosthenes, Bean & Achilles, which could even be accomplished via flashbacks). Speaker is great, but it's 30/3000 years later… hugely different.

  16. Daniel says:

    So holding the traditional view of marriage will get one black-listed and denounced as a bigot? So very tolerant.

  17. Lefty says:

    Regardless of his jacked up, extreme, right wing views, he can still write a great book… Bigot or not, I've never read anything in his books that suggested such…

  18. A. H. says:

    The book was beautiful, and the film-makers were able to portray Ender's character faithfully, which I think is important. There is something so humane about this entire venture, and you still feel that in that movie: "I will bear the shame of this genocide forever." Ender is very special to me, and for a production involving so much mass-marketing and CGI the film is exceptional in its ability to convey the same messages that the book does. And judging from this interview, Gavin Hood was the perfect director.

  19. Jeff says:

    i dont like how everyone puts the morale of the movie aside and give him criticisms on his perosnal views. And whats all this fuss about whether or not ender is bi or straight?

  20. tami says:

    i hope if there is a sequel they keep the whole cast, especially Asa Butterfield. i've been supporting him since The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and i want to see more of him on the big screen. he dominated in this film and his emotions were on point, definitely like Ender was in the book ;)

  21. MikeQ says:

    I just finished Ender's Game for the first time, wanting to read it before seeing the movie. Where in this book is there any indication that Ender has any gay tendencies, or even any romantic tendencies? Stop with the leaning this way or that and selling your personal agenda via an adaptation of a great book. It just isn't there, and no amount of injection will make the book change — just ruin the film.
    As far a OSC's politics go, has anyone ever gone to see a movie with a Hollywood personality that has disturbing political views? How about a famous band member that has various and sundry trysts under their belt in everyday life? Doesn't ruin the film, or the music, so why should an author's personal position affect a film? Just let it go.

  22. Andrew Wiggin says:

    I wanted to walk out of this movie 10 times before I finally threw my soda cup and did at the point where Ender discovers the structure from the "Giant's Drink" game on EROS!?!?!? It was on the hive queens planet in the book. Also, he only discovered the cocoon, not some badly formulated Bugger, which I caught only because I had to come back in to wait for someone. Valentine didn't even travel with Ender, gumming up the works for ever making "Speaker For The Dead", thank God. I yelled "F@# YOU Gavin Hood" while throwing up a middle finger when I saw his name in the credits. He messed up almost all the characters and the integrity of the story. What about Ender's friendship with Alai? Why was Bonzo so small? Why was Bean hispanic, and not the tiniest one there? Why was he on the flight to battle school with Ender? What about the kid Ender killed on that flight that he didn't know about until near the end? How about the death of Stilson and Bonzo too (which he was also immediately unaware of)? What about explaining Thirds and the Ansible? Why was Anderson a black woman? Would black people be mad if Huckleberry Finn was remade and the black guy was white or asian? What is with the tattoo on Rackham's face? Why was Ender not isolated as much as in the book? The only good thing was the last strike against the Bugger planet. I knew I should've gone to film school. Where are the people that did that were fans of the Enderverse? Hood is not. He just read the one book and clearly didn't get it. It could've been done properly in a 3 hour epic, as well as Peter Jackson did with the Lord of the Rings. Tolkien's books were far more in depth than Card's books. If only I had looked up Hood on imdb before I decided to go see this, I would've seen that he directed X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and I would've stayed at home. I will make it my life's work to go to film school and eventually make the Ender series, and I will dedicate each film (in the credits) to the worst director/screenwriter in the history of film: Gavin Hood.

  23. Laura says:

    You know, it's sort of ironic how people are judging Card on his preferences. I mean, yeah, I disagree with him COMPLETELY 100% but that doesn't mean he can't write a book. People are refusing to read the book or watch the movie all because his beliefs? What does a belief have to do with a book or movie guys?

  24. abdul g rachman says:

    I really dont have any idea of this film being before. But my comment is we need the more children sequel alike harry potter. Im really contributing following those sequel.. That was really awesome. Nowadays most of the children in the world needed the figure of such a good actor like daniel radcliffe that i can see in asa butterfield… He has a good and strong character inside it.. And i found a new figure of child actor that can be my next idol… And i support to make this film as sequel film. That’s all hopefully lionsgate can decide the wise decision

  25. Him says:

    Card should have picked his side on the debate about gays and not have elabarated about his dislike towards them. Almost every one who is aganist gay marrage is immediately barraged with accusations of hate which are not often true. But in the case of Card it is. I think he dislikes the gay community because he is very close to his religion (Mormonism). They do not hate gays and are accepting of attraction of two people of the same sex but not of sexual relationships between them. He most likely anticipates that will happen if gay marrage is aloud. Also a reason he is so close to his religion is that his great great grand father played a very importin role in the Latter Day Saint movement. Card is most likely just trying to defend his religion in a way most of us are unaware he is even part of. Would any of you do any diffrent in his position? The American goverment is basicly making a sin to him openly legal it’s like being slapped by a sibling and getting mad and they tell your dad that you hit them and him believing them.

  26. vadertime says:

    Dear Lionsgate, please greenlight the sequel. I must have the answers to the questions of reestablishing the sentient insect race against which we committed mass genocide. Order and balance must be brought back to the universe. Please make the sequel. Live long and prosper.

  27. Matt says:

    honestly who cares what his opinions are on a subject that has nothing to do with his novels…

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