Orson Scott Card Visits Ender’s Game Movie Set

Scene Descriptions and More

So last week OSC made a visit to the EG set, where he recorded “a voiceover of a pilot making an announcement to his passengers.” OSC recalls in great detail what he saw on set, watching first hand a scene between Harrison Ford (Graff) and Asa Butterfield (Ender), praising both their work as actors and their intelligence and giving us an image of the methods stunt coordinator Garret Warren used for the battle rooms’ null gravity. Read the review here.

The scene of Ford and Butterfield that OSC spectated doesn’t come from the book. It is a scene director Gavin Hood has conjured from his take of the novel.

The scene does not come from the book – very few of the scenes in this movie do – so it was amusing when others asked me how it felt to have my book brought to life. My book was already alive in the mind of every reader. This is writer-director Gavin Hood’s movie, so they were his words, and it was his scene.

OSC describes the scene and the interaction of the two actors as they establish their direction.

[W]hat I was concentrating on was how Ford and Butterfield worked with the lines, with the director, with the camera and with each other.

If you don’t understand what you’re seeing, it could look as if they were doing nothing at all. Their line readings were flat (by stage standards) and barely audible (boom mikes picked up sounds that were barely audible 10 feet away). They had almost no facial expressions.

And they were superb. Film acting, especially in closeup, is not about facial expressions. It’s about what’s going on behind the actors’ eyes. And it’s about timing.

The scene got more and more minimal as the takes went on. What had been an arm grab and a shrug became a mere touch on the shoulder and a single glance at the hand.

And the less they did, the better the scene became. What mattered was the timing – when Ford put his hand on Butterfield’s shoulder, how long it took Butterfield to glance at the hand, how long before he looked away and when the hand was withdrawn.

On the set, however, it was wonderful to see how Ford and Butterfield responded to each other’s timing. It was such a delicate dance – and they worked perfectly together.

Twice, I saw Ford give a tiny suggestion to Butterfield. The suggestion in both cases was excellent; and in both cases, Butterfield understood completely and executed perfectly.

The scene may or may not work as planned; for all I know, it might not end up in the movie. But if it’s there, the audience will experience it as reality – we won’t stop and think of all the many different ways it could have played.

OSC goes on to credit Ford and his brilliance on set. As well as Butterfield, who he states to be “not a child actor, but an actor who happens to be young.”

OSC continues with the explanation of the system Garret Warren used to create the illusion of null gravity.

There is a mechanism used for training gymnasts – a wheel they wear around their waists that allows them to rotate in space while suspended from wires. Warren used this on Avatar, which allows a great deal of apparent freedom of movement in space – once the computer artists have erased the wheel rig, you can’t tell that there’s any way a wire could have been attached.

Warren also went as far as to work with those who have been involved with the acrobatics of Cirque De Soleil.

For the most difficult stunts, Warren brought in dancers from Cirque de Soleil. Being gymnasts by training, they tend to be small – they can bring off the illusion of children’s bodies.

And they have the strength and training to do constant movements and poses that defy gravity, without ever looking as if they’re working hard.

In the rest of the review OSC talks about Warrens work and the endurance of the actors in this mechanism used for the battle school.

“The movie Ender’s Game is going to look great” says OSC. Given that the author appears to agree with the movie director’s vision of the film then we should have no major worries about the production. There may be things we might not agree to, things we don’t particularly like that could make the final cut but hey what movie doesn’t? We shouldn’t speculate so much and assume the image we create is what the movie will be like. If you’re not convinced upon the merit of some of these decisions, that’s alright! We still have a long time ’till the premiere. Maybe throughout those months we’ll get more pieces to place in this puzzle.