For your enjoyment, here are Gavin Hood, Bob Orci, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld, and Harrison Ford, responding to press questions concerning the Ender’s Game movie. We hope to update this post later on with a transcript of the interview, so stay tuned for more.
Note: Updated with transcript after the jump!
Thanks to Beyond the Trailer for hosting such a great interview. Here’s the rest of their SDCC 2013 playlist, if you’re interested.
Q: It’s an honor to have the first question for this. Harrison, I did want to ask you. There is the obvious question of this is kind of a big return to sci-fi for you, doing a movie out in space. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen you do that. And it does sort of seem like this character could be maybe an older, seasoned version of Han Solo, a guy that’s now been put in charge of a younger generation of the next bad asses in space. What was it about this particular role that made you say, “Okay, it’s time for me to go back up in the stars”?
Harrison Ford: I’ll get back to your reference to Han and Graff being alike. They are, I would think, nothing alike. Graff is a very complex character that is charged with an awesome responsibility, who recruits and trains young Ender Wiggin. And really in this construction of the story, he faces a lot of moral issues that are involved in using young people for warfare. The complex moral issues are part of Graff’s story. Ender doesn’t face so much the issues of morality until the end of the film when he knows what’s happened to him. But Graff is aware of his moral responsibilities all through his part of the story. I think the book deals with a lot of very complex issues of social responsibility and the moral issues that one faces when one is part of a military establishment. I was just delighted to be involved in a film of such high ambition and such talented people. I think Graff is a much more complex character than Han Solo—which doesn’t mean that I regret Han Solo. Thank you.
Q: Question for Asa and Hailee. These are characters I’ve admired since I read the book. What did you love about them and how cool is it to play these characters?
Asa Butterfield: I read the book. I am a huge fan of science fiction so I had a great time reading it. Yes the film is a science fiction epic, but to me there’s a lot more to it than that in the novel and Ender’s character. One of the reasons it was so intriguing to me is because of the complexity of it. Me and Gavin talked a lot prior to shooting about where we wanted to take it. We talked a lot about Ender’s character and the constant internal struggle that he is facing throughout the film. His development is apparent and it was really intriguing for me. We had a good time experimenting with it.
Hailee Steinfeld: Something that I loved about the project as a whole was the fact that it had such a huge fan base. For me, sort of creating a back story for Petra was also interesting, because you’re introduced to her a little further into the story. One of the most exciting things is experiencing the excitement that everybody around us has. It’s been such a good experience and we are so excited to share it with you guys.
Q: I was just wondering if you guys had a chance to check out the fan experience set up exclusively for this event and can you just walk us through different rooms? How does it resemble the movie?
Gavin Hood: It was fantastic to work with an incredible production design department on building those sets. I am really thrilled and grateful to our studio for saving some of the sets and bringing the show to you guys. I think that it’s important, you think of these movies as big CG events and they’re really not. Wherever possible, and certainly on this movie, wherever we could we built sets that the actors could move in and be in a space that felt as real as possible. Because you do need a lot of visual effects in a movie like this. But wherever possible to have tangible, traditional, beautifully built sets really helps the actors feel that they’re in the real environment. I’m just very thrilled with the level of design work that Ben Procter and Sean Haworth, our designers, and Peter Lando, the set decorator, and so on brought to us. They did a great job. If you go into the Ender’s Experience, you can see the kind of detail, even in the bunk beds, the cupboards—look at those helmets. Hours were spent figuring out how that glass in the helmet would reflect lights, because you have to embrace the reflected light. How would they create patterns? And then how would the lighting department create lights that would look good reflected in those helmets? So a lot of work by the folks behind the scenes. It’s nice to be able to give a shout out to them. They did great work.
Q: Hi Gavin, lovely to see you again. You received a nod for an Academy Award for a very intimate movie, but you’ve also done huge epic sci-fi thrillers. Could you talk about what appealed about this movie in particular? Which genre do you like to head toward?
Gavin Hood: Wow, that’s a deep question. I suppose a lot of times artists sort of fixate on certain themes. A lot of people have said, “Well you made Tsotsi”—which I think is the film you’re referring to—“which is a very small $3-million movie, and here comes Ender’s Game.” I don’t want to belittle the themes that I’ve focused on, but they really are very similar. You have in both cases protagonists who are troubled kids struggling for an identity in a morally complex universe, the way Harrison described it. These are fabulously, morally complex characters. This is not a story about good versus evil in a simplistic way where the character is wronged and has to right the wrong through revenge. This is a case where the character is at war with his own nature. And that was the case in Tsotsi and ti happens to be the case in Ender Wiggin. It’s just that this time we get to play with a lot more cool toys, make some really cool, big visual effects. But at its heart, I think why I love this story, is it’s still a character-driven piece. What you get here with a film like this, and the fun for me as a director, is that I get to have the best of two worlds. I get to play with big visuals, huge wonderful visual effects, big epic-looking stuff, but still also have this wonderful character-driven story that requires great performances and complex, nuanced performances.
Q: Hello everyone. This question is for Harrison and anyone else on the panel who would like to answer. The anti-gay views of Orson Scott Card have been getting a lot of attention since the promotion of this film began. Were you aware of Card’s work with anti-gay organizations before you began working on this film, and does it at all change how you feel about working on Ender’s Game?
Harrison Ford: I think none of Mr. Card’s concerns regarding the issue of gay marriage are a part of the thematics of this film. He has written something, I think, that is of value to us all to consider moral responsibilities. I think his views outside of those that we deal with in this film are not an issue for me to deal with. So I have really no opinion on that issue. I am aware of his statements admitting that the question of gay marriage is a battle that he lost, and he admits that he lost it. I think we all know that we’ve all won, that humanity has won. I think it’s the end of the story.
Q: Hi. This question is for Bob and Gavin. When making this film, how far ahead are you looking for home entertainment releases, bonus features, commentaries? Are you thinking about these things while you’re making the film itself?
Gavin Hood: I think producers have to the think about these. I was just buried in the film. I was hoping to survive this one, not think about the next one. Bob, go ahead.
Bob Orci: You know, Comic-Con is about sharing the sort of behind-the-scenes and the experience of how we come to this stuff, so we are very conscious of trying to get as much material, just to show how much fun we are having and sometimes we’re not having so much fun, just trying to catalog what’s happening. I think it’s a value. In a way, I wish there had been more of this kind of stuff when I was growing up. The idea that you can, in a way, put yourself through film school merely by checking out the bonus features of a DVD is fantastic. And we all have cameras, I’m sure. We are very conscious from the beginning. Hopefully it will be something fun to check out.
Q: Hello everyone. As you’ve mentioned, this a very ambitious project with very complex characters. In what ways did you research and process your work in order to identify with the characters you played on screen, and what part of them did you take with you while you were working on this project?
Asa Butterfield: For me, having a novel to refer to is always helpful. I’ve done a few films that have been adapted, and as an actor the amount of resources and things you can gain just from reading the story, as well as the script, is so massive that it’s something you just can’t put down.
Hailee Steinfeld: I would say, again, having a novel to go to is so helpful. It’s an extra two-hundred-and-something pages of ideas and clues and just so many things you can pick up on, whether it’s written about your character or the other characters. There is so much there and so much to play with. For me, this was actually sort of my first film that I had to do a lot of physical training, which was a lot of fun for us. We went to Space Camp. We learned how to march; we learned how to salute; and we learned different cadences. It was just, from day one, such a great experience.
Q: Harrison, you’ve had such a great success doing sci-fi, you know, the action genre. But a lot of the benefit of these movies is that they allow us to talk about social and moral issues that if you just did a straight drama we kind of wouldn’t accept as an audience. I was wondering if you could take a step back and look at Ender’s Game. What do you think we are discussing, what kind of conversations can we have from this movie, although obviously it’s a piece of entertainment?
Harrison Ford: The novel was very prescient in recognizing something that we now have as a reality in our lives, which is the ability to wage war at a distance, and to do the business of war somewhat emotionally disconnected from it. So the morality of a military commander and the military command structure, the morality of a society which raises a military and wages war, are the moral concerns of this film, and they are something which we’re are wrestling with daily in our lives. The issue of interplanetary warfare is the science fiction aspect of it, but what gives it such emotional tone and reality is that these are the concerns of our everyday lives now. Drone warfare and the capacity that we have technologically is one part of the moral package. The other is the use of young people in the business of war, which has always historically been the case. The youngest and fittest of our cultures have always been the ones who were first in line for warfare—and the question of using even younger people. In the book, Ender Wiggin starts out at seven years of age. In this case, I think wisely, it has been changed to be a young person closer matching Asa’s age, 13. It was a wise choice. But the character that I play is responsible for manipulating young people in service of some perceived need of humanity as a whole. And no matter how you try and wrestle with the questions of warfare and the military, the more you realize how complex these issues are and how much attention they deserve. It’s really important for us to visit these questions, not only in the daily news and then dismiss them, but in our emotional and civic lives.
Q: Good afternoon. Mr. Ford, I was wondering if you could talk about your experience as an actor working on this film with Sir Ben Kingsley.
Harrison Ford: It was great. Despite his moniker, the Sir-ness of him, there’s a real guy there, a yeoman actor and very meaty kind of guy, who I vastly enjoyed getting to know. I had not known him before. The pleasure of working with him as an actor was a real treat. As was, by the way, the pleasure of working with these young people who are enormously talented, dedicated, and who devoted themselves to the telling of this story, and who also possess surprising craft understanding and skill. Surprising, to me, for their ages, forgive me for saying. Enormously talented young people. I give credit to them and I give credit to Gavin, because casting is so important in these things. It was a delight to be involved.
Q: My question is for all three of you. What was your favorite trait about your characters and are there any major moments in the film that you would have personally done different than your character?
Asa Butterfield: For me, one of the things that I’ve really enjoyed playing with Ender is how he’s constantly struggling between his brother and his sister, and it’s almost like he’s got two sides to him. I’ve always wanted to play darker character and in this film and in the novel, Ender has his moments where he isn’t a glorified hero. As with every human being, we have a dark side, which I had a lot of fun playing with throughout the film.
Hailee Steinfeld: I would say my character is very strong and independent, because she has to be. She is put into a world where she doesn’t know who to trust and who not to trust and, you know, in most cases there is nobody to look to. I love that, in a way, because my character is one of very few girls in the Battle School and the only girl in the army that she’s in, she’s constantly working to maintain the respect from the guys around her. I think that when she meets Ender, there’s this really truthful connection between the two of them that comes from sort of finding their way, finding their place.