Our Visit to the ‘Ender’s Game’ Set (Part 5): Sir Ben Kingsley, Set Design, and Stunts


Today we have three final interview to share with you from our visit to the ‘Ender’s Game’ movie set last May. The first interview is from Sir Ben Kingsley. While we waited for Sir Ben to finish up a scene we his in a small, dark, cave-like nook on the Eros set. We had to stand quietly during filming for a decent amount of time and we jokingly called it our ‘Time out room’. Read our interview with Sir Ben Kingsley below.

Q: Your tattoo must have hurt really bad.

Sir Ben Kingsley: That’s right! Yeah, agony!

Q: How long does it take to put it on?

Kingsley: It takes an hour and a half. I sit very still.

Q: What was it about this story and the role that really attracted you to the part?

Kingsley: I was completely ignorant of the novels and the stories, so I came to it very fresh which is probably a good thing. I had no preconceptions of what it was going to be about and whom I was to portray. I like the combination of the warrior from the past and the warrior of the future. This is very ancient markings, thousands of years old, and set it’s projected in the future. So I like that continuity.

Q: Do you feel more of an affinity for science fiction directors now that you’ve portrayed the original one?

Kingsley: Which science fiction director was that? Georges Méliès? Well spotted, sir! Yes I do, yes. It take a tremendously uncluttered, inventive mind to see through the present and into the future. Very often, bad science fiction is completely locked into the present. They have no perception, who could, of the future. It takes a great imagination to transcend the limits of what we know. We tend to think within the limits of what we know. I think Gavin, the wonderful writer, has transcended our narrow limits. We have no idea what the future holds for us! We’re guessing, but it’s good to be curious and it’s good to speculate on what might happen.

Q: What has it been like working with Asa again?

Kingsley: We have a very good working relationship, very good. He’s pure and simple. He’s uncluttered. He’s highly intelligent. There’s no wasted time on the set with Asa. It’s a great relationship.

Q: Do you think he’s changed as an actor since ‘Hugo’? Has he grown?

Kingsley: Yes, he’s six inches taller, but the essentials are exactly the same and they probably will be for life.

Q: Have you given him any advice?

Kingsley: That’s by osmosis. We never give each other advice. The wonder thing about a film is that it’s collaborative and if you’re alert to what is around you, you will learn and you will probably teach, but it’s not a conscious process.

Q: What about this production has impressed you the most?

Kingsley: Collaboration. There are so many people out there getting one perfect shot and sequence- different departments, different heads of departments, and to see it all being coordinated is a great sight.

Q: It’s fun to see you shift directly from promoting ‘The Dictator’, straight into this role. Do you purposefully choose these kinds of roles to kind of switch it up?

Kingsley: Change is one of the most exciting things of our life. Every day is different. Every role is different. Every director is different. Every script is different. So, if you’re blessed it’s going to be a bonus in the palm of your life. I’m not just tempted to play the same role over and over again, and I’m very good at it, but I’ve been very fortunate.

Q: In the book, there’s a fight scene between Ender and Mazer. Is there a similar scene in the movie, and if so what was it like having little Asa beat you up?

Kingsley: I beat him up!


IMG_0261The second interview we have to share with you are from the production designers, Sean Haworth and Ben Procter. This was our favorite favorite part of the set visit, because for the half hour it took to complete this interview, we got to lounge in those launchie bunks you see in the picture to the left. We were also fortunate enough to visit several other sets. At battle school, we visited an infirmary which held Bonzo’s brain scan, and walked down a silver battle school corridor and across a floor that curved up. We also toured Ender’s room at Command School. It was a very tiny room with only and bed and table with books, aviators, and sink. Our favorite set was the staging area for the final command scene. We climbed up a narrow staircase to reach Colonel Graff’s view above Ender’s simulator. This was the only set with a lot of green screen, but the vastness of this set was pretty amazing. Read our interview with the set designers below for more information.

Q: What’s your relationship to ‘Ender’s Game’, the book? Did you read it when you were a kid?

Ben Procter: I did read it when I was a kid. I can’t remember exactly how old I was, but I feel like I read the short story version of it when I was twelve and maybe [read] the book when I was fourteen. Something like that. I loved it. Lynn [Hendee] has been trying to get this movie made since a long time ago.

Lynn Hendee: I couldn’t until you came aboard!

Procter: I’ve always been wanting to do this movie since I was a kid and I’ve been tracking this project, various phases of it. I emailed Orson- actually, I don’t think I’ve ever told this story…

Hendee: No!

Procter: I tried to cold email Orson once, six years ago or something like that. ‘Can I work on this?’

Hendee: Did he answer you?

Procter: No! It was probably some nympho emailing the company or God-knows-what. I’ve been trying to get on this a long time and I finally succeeded. Here we are.

Q: What sparks your imagination in this more than any other story?

Procter: It’s just a generally good story. It has great characters, a great twist, and real themes. So often what we do is […] ‘expensive-summer-type-movies’. What we do is more spectacle and less substance. This is a chance for all of us, we usually do those kinds of movies, to do something that we can sink our teeth into and believe. Not to poo-poo all those other movies, they’re fun and on their own terms, [but] this is something that I think has meat and potatoes cool crap in it that I think kids will like and everyone will like, but with the dessert comes the meal.

Q: How did you guys go about designing the battle school for the film? Where did you start?

Proctor: Gavin had some very specific ideas about the layout of the battle school from the start. I was on a little bit earlier than Sean, and from my first meeting with Gavin he knew he wanted the battle room to be a sphere, he knew he wanted it to be the centerpiece of the station, he didn’t want there to be more than one. So all these changes, or decisions with respect to the book, were made already in Gavin’s mind. Gavin is a very visual guy. We all integrate that gratitude for research he’s done. He came into the process with full-blown packages of references and research of ideas of the color palette of the movie, and pictures of termite mounds that he had himself photoshopped! A lot of these ideas are his; that was one of them. He wanted it to be a little bit of a more compact installation than what is in the book. If you think about the number of kids that are involved in this number of armies, or the number of armies that is actually manageable to digest in the context of a movie, the station doesn’t need to be that big. You don’t need multiple battle rooms. There’s just no need for that much overhead.

Q: How hard is to design the interior of a space station? Do you consciously have to avoid saying, ‘Oh, it looks like the enterprise,’ or the Death Star? Do you follow ahead without even thinking, ‘Damn is looks too much like this here. We have to change that.’

Procter: Right, right, right. We definitely keep those things in mind. It’s well-traveled territory. It’s the corridors and pipes and airlocks and nice heavy doors. If you look at screen grabs from a whole bunch of different sci-fi movies, movies from 1980 on, or let’s just say from ‘Alien’ on, there’s a commonality of look to a lot of this stuff. We’re not trying to re-invent the wheel. Part of the fun for me is thinking of stuff that looks fresh on a certain level, but also looks familiar on a certain level. It looks like a spaceship should, so that when you now see kids in that environment doing kid things, it’s a different experience than you’ve seen it before because you’re used to that being a grown up context… other than Wesley Crusher I guess. We’re trying to split the difference between having a slickness that conveys sophistication of the technology that’s appropriate to how far in the future it is, but in the same time it’s grounded enough that it relates to the book. It’s gritty enough that it feels real. We don’t want it to be so slick that it’s a design exercise of, ‘How cool can we make it?’ It should be more like, ‘Oh, I’m a kid getting sent off to what looks like, maybe, what NASA would make in seventy years.’

Q: You guys have to play with light a lot, because there are piece on Earth, and pieces on the ship, and pieces on Eros. Are there any kinds of themes with light that you play with? What kind of challenges does that present to you?

Haworth: Gavin had some very strong ideas in the beginning of what the color play would be, especially with the lighting. We try to create opportunities more than anything. In the end, once the photography starts, he’s going to have his own ideas to mood, and what he’s going to convey with the lighting. We always have the original intent of what the mood should be life, but at some point they’re going to take that and run with it. We’re going to try to make as many opportunities for him, as far as what’s integrated and what’s practical, what’s source light. We essentially present all these options. Some of them, they’ll take it to heart. They’ll execute. Others, they’ll feel wildly more dramatic if we warmer lighting versus a colder lighting. It’s an evolution in a sense. We just kind of get it rolling.

Procter: Battle school has moments that have warm lighting, because maybe it’s the introduction of the launchies through the airlock into the place for the first time and there are yellow chase lights on the wall, because that’s the lauchie color, it’s a functional asset. There’s no perfect orthodox of battle school is blue and Eros is warm. Although, what I would say is that is what Gavin’s idea is. Earth’s technology is blues and neutrals and there are colors that are primary that are used to differentiate the armies, but other than that there’s isn’t kind of a rainbow use of color. Our display graphics, which will be done post [production], many of which are representatives, as back of transparencies on the set that you see. We try to be very disciplined about the palettes of those things. Overall, there’s a sort of reserved grey/neutral tone to human stuff. That goes right down to the spacecraft. The human spacecraft have blue thrusters and blue weaponry and the formics on the other hand have this warmth, this amber tonality that Gavin has always wanted for their thrusters and their projectiles and their weapons so you know who’s who. You have an overall color script of the movie as Ender progresses toward Eros. You start to see these warm tones in the entrances of this other world. He has a sensitivity to it, he actually appreciates its beauty unlike most of the guys he’s working for. It’s generally a progression from cool to warm. Of course he destroys that thing which is appealing and beautiful.

Q: Is there a particular set that is your favorite?

Haworth: The staging area turned out pretty great. There’s two gates right? So Gate B.

Proctor: So the gate where they jump out into the battle room, which unfortunately is not still standing, but it was pretty spectacular. That was probably the most well-executed set on a purely craft level. We had the time on that one, because of the way the schedule was laid out. It kind of went under the radar, but it went really, really well.

Haworth: Mechanically, it kind of complex as well. […] spinning and back walls that implied the spinning of the space station.

Hendee: It wasn’t easy making that bathroom set either, with all the water.

Q: Can you talk about the formic side of things?

Procter: The formic thing… Gavin always wanted it to beautiful and elegant. Some of the things that he was looking at early on were references had flowing lines and definitely organic, probably a little more structures and slightly more human looking. There was a version of the script that had an alien cable car in it, which you can imagine is a piece of mechanics that we struggled with the idea of how the hell are we going to make that look alien enough. That went away for its own reasons. I think we kind of both came out of the show, both with reference packages that features 3-D fractal references that turned out to be a big jumping off point- these self-repeating fractal forms that feel like you can explore them endlessly. There’s a lot of cool stuff on there now, on YouTube, where you can see fractals that change to math. You see the form morph and change and it’s stunning. So we pulled a lot of reference from those things. A few different artists, including our lead sculpture who’s in charge of the team that’s making this stuff, he actually did studies of his own. We had a lot of different artists collaborating on the look.

Haworth: Jimmy, our lead sculpture, he does over the years collect a lot of bone structures and seashells. That also had an influence on the aesthetics. The fractals are a great jumping point. There’s a huge amount of complexity in it. It was stream lined to a point. We wanted to convey a certain beauty to it that wasn’t necessarily human, that way you could easily recognize them as an intelligence behind [them]. Ender who discovers his enemy essentially, through his environment. We had to convey a certain sense of beauty and elegance, get him to try to understand who he’s destroying.

Procter: The script that we have doesn’t have a lot of formics running around doing stuff. We have the Queen at the end, but we don’t have real depictions of the invasion, or formics running through the streets, slaughtering children or whatever might be implied by the book. What we see of the formics is their craft. It’s the way their ships look, it’s the way their caves look. It had to have a special level of artistry to it. It’s an interesting concept that we came up with, clearly the queen controls the workers and they’re literally an extension of her mind. They’re her body, as it were. All of this stuff is created by one creative mind. A formic city has tall spires, that are in fact not skyscrapers, but are heat-controlling vents and solar collectors. Most of their society is underground. All of those things were conceived by her mind and executed by her mind. It’s as if she did it all by herself with these millions of hands. So there’s a continuity of a creative look there. The idea also is that the resonances stuff that they make, that they regurgitated using some special disgusting glands that we didn’t fully develop […]

Haworth: We did a cut away of one of the formics, it’s anatomy essentially and it did have a few secretion methods.

Procter: One of the things we did on the show, was to get a 3-D printing company to collaborate with us. We both featured their 3-D printer as a prop in Ender’s room.

Q: I noticed!

Procter: I was thinking, he’s a hobbyist and tinkerer, what would that kid have in his room? Maybe 3-D printing would be a part of that. We also printed come cool stuff for his room that we actually printed with the 3-D printer or a higher-end version of it. The main analogy of it is, the way the formics build stuff by hand or mouth is like 3-D printing. They kind of swarm over something, licking and creating it layer by layer. That’s where the striation comes from. It’s kind of cool, licking a space craft into existence.

Q: In reference to the Queen egg room, cathedral, it goes back to the idea of hallowed ground or religious ground. Can you talk about that space?

Procter: That was always something that we called a cathedral out of habit from the book and out of an analogy of some cathedral from the Mind Game. There were versions of everything where we were thinking that it had a religious meaning for them. At one point there was some sort of depictive sculpture in it, which would explain their belief system to you in some way. Once we realized that it was a complicated thing to try to introduce alien religion and have it come properly and that the core of their society really is the Queen and her ability to reproduce and create new workers. It switched identities and became more of her nursery, which gave us more opportunities which we didn’t have before, like to have dead kids essentially. When we came and bombed Eros, the Mind Game became something different. It became a multi-body memory that the Queen had about what it was like to be bombed, scared, and to run into the cathedral and to have it collapse on top of her. That’s the little story that really happened on Eros. That’s what Ender is seeing translated into human terms in the dream. It became a nursery and changed its elements.

Q: I really like how the battle school floors curve up. Do the Eros floors curve down like in the book?

Procter: We have fundamentally changed Eros. Eros was the specific asteroid in the book. It has dimension, its own interior space and Gavin just felt that it was not conducive. The central problem was that you needed to be exposed to what formic society is like. What does one of their worlds look like, what does one of their societies really look like. Again, it’s Gavin’s take that it really should be awe-inspiring to us. It’s not just, ‘Oh my God, there’s so many of them and they’re creepy and they live underground.’ It should be something that has height and scale and beauty. If we don’t really get to go to the formic planet ever, how do we go to one of their spaces? That was one of the answers. Eros is not an asteroid with little chewed holes in it. It’s a proper planetoid with an atmosphere that would look a little like the formic home planet. It gives Ender a preview of what their society really feels like. It’s just different. We’re on a planetoid. It’s not small. It doesn’t need formic generated gravity. It’s just different.

Hendee: Also, we’re already sending craft to Eros, so we don’t want to be dealing in the near future portraying something that we may already have seen.

Procter: I’m not sure where this planetoid is, but we’ll figure it out. I’m not sure that we’ll call it Eros in the movie. I don’t think anyone calls it that.

Hendee: No it’s intentionally blank right now.

Q: Having read the book when you were young, when you have to breakdown the sets, do you find harder than any other work you’ve done?

Procter: That’s funny! It is sad.

Haworth: We’re used to it. You can’t grow attached to it too much.

Procter: The good news is that the gate, if all goes well, will be at Comic-Con booth in 2013. So hopefully everyone will get to experience that directly.

Q: For the outer battle school design, is there a specific landing deck for the ships to come in. Do they drop into a hole? How does that work?

Procter: They actually kind of attach to the surface. We’re super geeks and Gavin is not. We’re always like, ‘It wouldn’t be like that! Have you seen 2001? There’s a reason is goes into the center, because then it’s really easy to match orbit. You don’t try to hit the outside that’s moving because the minute you connect and you suddenly have one G that’s moving that ship away and it’s going to rip it off!’ It kind of doesn’t matter. At a certain point, directors have their creative prerogative it make it how they want. So it does latch onto the wheel and kind of flow around in this elegant new way of making it attach. So it doesn’t go into a hole, it actually docks. We invented this robotic mechanism a teeny bit like the shuttle with prongs that come out and attach it into place and it now starts to flow and spin around.

Haworth: It’s a little more like the I.S.S., except the I.S.S. was spinning to create gravity for the docking.

Hendee: She appreciates it. She’s a physics major!

Procter: Well-built arms, because they’ve got to go from holding nothing to hold a ship under one G instantly.

Hendee: I think some people were very intrigued with the idea that you scavenged some NASA parts.

Proctor: Yeah!

Haworth: That was the best part! It was a fun day! They were clearing out space for us and there was a locked-up unit that was just going to be designated for us to store things in, and they were going to be moving all these, I don’t know if they were all rejected parts, but they were cast aside. Either they hadn’t passed x-ray inspection or… they were basically being moved on palettes out of the way for us. We heard about it and we went down there and we saw all these beautiful boxes of bolts and connections and hoses and basically just stopped them and we started ripping everything off of them. They were like, ‘Oh, it’s junk!’ We were like, ‘Oh no! It’s good!’ We spent a whole day rifling through old boxes and containers and cases and opening crates.

Q: And they were intending to just dump it?

Haworth: They were either going to be recycled or… I think they have a certain lifespan, these components. We had seen a lot of hardware, plates and brackets.

Q: Did they let you have it or did you have to pay for it?

Haworth: We put it aside and one of the tech guys came down and made a packet of stuff we could have, just to be recycled, and there was a whole part that we’re basically just borrowing. There’s a couple of other things that are basically just being rented to us that we have to return.

Procter: We actually have to account for almost all of it. They want it all back. […] It’s the kind of thing where ordinarily you would have to go to airplane graveyards and scavenge and pay for it. This is stuff that nobody has access to. The bolts that hold those doors together are apparently like $80 titanium bolts or something.

Haworth: There were also a lot of components that were were also able to just take in casts and replicate. Some of those pieces were just made in fiberglass. We only had one and we needed a dozen, so we cast and resonated them in glass.

Procter: It will probably be fun for NASA people to spot this stuff! We still don’t know what any of it does! ‘Why is there a clip from [that ship]?’ What does this do? I don’t know, but it’s kind of cool.

Q: This morning we saw a PREVIS of the battle room. It looked really well-lit. Do you guys plan on keeping it lit in there, or dark? If there is light, did you guys build lights into the battle room that can be controlled? Or is that just ambient light from the outside planet or whatever is out there?

Haworth: Is was kind of generic. There was kind of two moods.

Procter: There was three.

Haworth: There was direct sunlight…

Procter: There’s romantic moonlit for the learning to shoot scene, there’s broad daylight for the introductory learning to fly scene, and there’s moody dark for something else in the final battle. Is there still a style in the battle room? […]

Haworth: I don’t know, but in reality, it would take about forty minutes to orbit the Earth. It would actually change quite rapidly during a battle, but it was important to Gavin and Don [McAlpine] to try to simulate sunlight as much as possible so they went to great pains setting up lights with as long as a throw as they could to really create this harsh shadow, bright light for the launchie scene. […]

Procter: Some of the lighting is quite harsh. It’s very similar to the PREVIS in the sense that it’s brightly lit. It is sunlight coming in, which Gavin’s satellite engineer friend pointed out would bake these poor kids instantly because it’s a greenhouse! Probably at the end of the day, the glass from the outside will look like it has a metallic finish to suggest that it has a reflective coating and also we built some heat radiators into the magna ring that runs along the outside to theoretically pipe heat out and send it into space. […] It’s been a cool movie to work on. Every department head and every person on this movie more-or-less is passionate about it in some specific way. It’s not a normal situation.

Haworth: Almost everyone came into this knowing the book, super enthusiastic. It’s rare that we have this kind of dedication from the crew.

Proctor: I mean, every plasterer, every painter, came in giddy. You almost had the pick of the litter where everybody wanted to work on this.

Hendee: It’s true!

Haworth: Pretty much everyone you talk to here are fans.


18_1Lastly, our interview with stunt coordinator, Garrett Warren, was actually our first interview on the morning of the set visit. Warren confided that he’s a regular reader of all the Ender fansites, which we found very surprising. During his interview he talked about how he got all the children actors into shape and teased a little bit of information of Ender and Bonzo’s “shower scene.” Read our interview with Garret Warren below.

Q: What’s your personal relationship to the story of ‘Ender’s Game’? Did you read it?

Garrett Warren: I actually read it because my daughter read it. I have a thirteen-year-old daughter. She read it though when she was eleven, in school. The only reason I read it was because I thought it had a really cool cover when I saw it! You know I read ‘Twilight’. She read ‘Twilight’ for school, and she read ‘The Hunger Games’. I do fancy the idea that I’d like to know what she’s reading. Of course I grew up reading ‘Lord of the Flies’ so forth. So when I read it, which was only about two and a half years ago, I was dumbfounded that I didn’t find it earlier. There’s just way too many good book out there and I liked it enough. So, as far as my personal experience, I read it because of my children. However, I look an awful lot out of it and I liked it an awful lot. I have to admit, the book is far ahead of its time if you ask me. It has some really important lessons to be learned as far as growing up in the future, which I believe we are doing right now. I believe that our children and growing up incredibly fast and I think that exponentially by the time they would be growing up in this book, it may just be that fast. My kids are doing things in school that I never did at that age, I mean they have iPads for books! I love the whole idea about the philosophy of war. I think that was something that I learned at a later age when I was a fighter. I was a professional fighter and I read the book by Sun Tzu, ‘The Art of War’, which is required reading by an awful lot of business people in the world. I believe it’s a really good book as far as teaching about how to relate to other people, whether it be family members, or even business contacts in this world. ‘Ender’s Game’ deals with a lot of those same principles. It’s incredibly valuable to children as well as adults. I like it that much.

Q: In working with kids, what are some of the limitations in working with them? Obviously there’s a cap on the amount you can work with them per day and things like that, but what are some of the limitation? What are also some of the joys of working with children in this capacity?

Warren: When we first walked into this show, we pretty much go by same limitations we always have with kids. No kid should be on a wire for more than five minutes at a time. No more than thirty minutes of training a day. However, it broke all the rules. The kids did not want to get out of the wires; they had an awful lot of fun. They would find time while they were doing shots to run over to where we were with our wires and jump in for rehearsals. As far as our limitations, we really didn’t have an awful lot of limitations. I’m very fortunate in saying this because by the end of their training period they were all very proficient at flying in these wires and they did it all themselves. I can’t tell you how excited I am for the world to see these kids actually doing their own movement and their own choreography and their own stunts, and their own actions. It’s beautiful. The joy of it was the fact that the kids had no ceiling what-so-ever. They were constantly doing things that would surprise me. In fact, one of our kids surprised all of our circus performers! He was better than a lot of our circus performers! That was Moises [Arias], as well as Aramis [Knight] I have to admit. Aramis grew to become amazing on a wire. Aramis was the showboat in the wire! Moises was the guy who would make you look at him and go, ‘Oh my gosh, he’s weightless.’ He was able to animate his body so perfectly and show no pendulum, or no break in his core stability that you would think that he’s weightless. Aramis was the kind of guy that wanted to flip and fly, and bounce off walls. Moises just wanted to fool the world, and he did. It was beautiful the way he flew weightless. Everyone else was great. I can tell you that there was nobody that did bad on the wire. However, it took some people longer than others to get there. Let me tell you, we had Cirque Soleil performs as their stunt doubles, but the stunt people we had as their doubles… their job, really, was only to be their teachers, because they [the performers] really didn’t do the stunts for the movie. They were only there to basically make sure their harnesses were attached properly and between shots they would go up and go, ‘That was great, just animate you hand a little more like this.’ That was all they would do. All the kids did it themselves. It was really good.

Q: When they got such a mix of physical training, there was the Cirque Soleil, but there was also the military element, what kind of physical training did everyone have to go through?

Warren: I’ll be honest with you, if P90x was to be the next step, this would be worse. This is the greatest team I’ve seen in my life and been part of as my experience as a filmmaker. They got to go to NASA space camp, they got to do fight training with me, which was basically close quarter combat, CQB which was to teach them how to dismantle arsons with their hands. One of the things that I like about it an awful lot is that there is a line in the movie that deals with the fact that these kids are learning hand to hand combat, even though they still are fighting bugs. I think it’s a really good part of the movie that I hope everyone watches for. It teaches everyone a real lesson as to disciple, why you still do things, even thought it might not be pertinent to what you’re training for. I think it’s a very important thing. The other training was wires. They were in wires for anywhere from thirty to three hours. They were doing push-ups, calisthenics, core stability exercises with straps. It was some of the best training that I’ve seen in my life. The apparatus that we have is an apparatus that hasn’t been used in this way, in the movie industry before. It’s incredibly difficult. You have to have stomach muscles and lower back muscles in order to use this piece of equipment that we developed for this movie. All the kids when they first got in here, they were just dying. ‘Oh my gosh, this is hurting so hard! It’s hurting my back!’ By the end of six or seven days they were all great, no complaints, they were all 100% ready to do whatever the stunt doubles told them to do. It was awesome.

Q: Any gun training?

Warren: Yeah, they did have a limited amount of gun training. The guns that they use in the future are different than the guns that they use now. They were taught to use them the way they would in a military sense, and that was by our technical advisor. It was really good.

Q: Did you go to space camp?

Warren: I didn’t! […] I was like, ‘You need someone to spot them don’t you? Someone has to be there to help right?’ […] People told me snippets of what they did. They had weightless machines. They had stuff where they had to learn how to… Ever gone to those business camps where five of you had to figure out how to build a ramp or whatever? It was really interesting, they got to learn exactly what they had do to be an astronaut, what they had to go through, and all the training and so forth. I was very impressed with what they had to learn. I think more importantly than anything, was the fact that these are possibly the greatest kids I’ve ever worked with in my life in the film industry. I’m not just saying that to hopefully by in your blog! I honestly believe that these are the greatest kids I’ve ever worked with. My hat’s off to Gavin for the casting, my hat’s off to the producers for finding these kids because these kids are the next greats in Hollywood. I’m telling you whether it be the Al Pacino’s or Robert de Niro’s or the Natalie Portman’s, they are it. It’s not just watching a kid run and jump. These kids delivered dialogue. There’s a fight scene in there that I’m incredibly impressed with and proud of and it’s going on my reel.

Q: Is it the shower scene?

Warren: Aw! You know the whole shower scene! How do you know about the shower scene? I have to admit, aside from the fact that it was a group attack, and I’m not going to give you guys anything to spoil it, because I really want you guys to see it in its entirety the way it’s done, it’s good. It’s a scene, it’s filmed solo, Gavin did such a great job and Asa and Moises did such a great job that it goes down in history that it’s a fight scene that many will copy for years to come. Aside from the fact that they were kids, put that aside, this was a really good sequence. Your chops will be salivating from beginning to ending watching this scene the way it’s drawn out. The way it transpires, the way they act, the way it’s shot, beautiful shots so well… cinematography. My hats off to Don McAlpine for that.

Q: What kind of fighting did you involve?

Warren: We did involve a lot of MMA, as well as craw mcgraw. We tried to turn it into a military based idea. However, it had to be something that kids would be doing in the future. Aside from that, one of the things that Gavin was adamant about for this movie was aikido. He believed that it was such a great art form for the children to learn. I agree with him, it’s learning how to make water brush off of you instead of smacking it, take someone’s weight and use it against them. It’s one of the most intelligent ways of fighting instead of just trying to pounce them. Ultimately we did believe that they still have to have this vicious nature, as we still have to be able to see someone finish someone off, however getting there has to be one of the most intelligent ways of fighting you could have in your mind. It’s constantly seeing someone figure out where their weaknesses were and utilize that against them. My hats off to Gavin for wanting to use that for fight scenes.

Q: Did the book inspire any sort of action sequences? Or did you come up with it all yourself?

Warren: I wish I could say that I came up with it all myself, however, it’s all inspired by the book. Everything we’ve done was inspired by the book and then Gavin takes it and makes it what he believes is going to look great theatrically. Everything that you’ll see in the movie is based on ideas in the book, but we’ve made it work for the kids as far as what they can do personally.

Q: Where the kids old enough where you didn’t have to do anything different in your choreography? Or did you have to take into consideration that they’re kids?

Warren: We always take into consideration that they’re kids. You can’t go onto a set and not understand that they are children. First of all you have to watch what you say. It’s not like you can walk onto a set and say swear words. You can’t just automatically blurt something out. That alone is making you realize that it’s a delicate balance, yet you still want them to feel like they’re military personnel. We did take into consideration that they’re children, but the fight is awesome. I would like to say it’s brutal, but it’s incredibly intelligent so it’s more than just brutal… yet, with human nature. How can I tell you that in a really good way? If a genius were to fight, and yet have a dark side inside of them that they’re battling and having to come to grips with, this is it.

Q: Gavin said that a lot of it was going to be decided in the editing room, but how clear is it at the end of the battle that it this kid is not getting up again?

Warren: I’m not supposed to be giving you that piece of information! […] I can tell you we did a nonstop cut of the whole scene. If Stanley Kubrick was there he would have cried. It was so beautiful. It was just a long nonstop shot. From beginning Moises and Asa did it, everyone did it. However, will it make it to the final cut that way? I don’t know.

Q: So you filmed it where it could go either way?

Warren: Correct.

Q: For the shower scene, did you guys actually film with water and steam? Or was that something that’s going to be added post-production?

Warren: Everything was real. It was all water and steam and that was a pain in the rear end!

Q: To set up for the scene, in the book Ender has to take personal combat classes. Did you have to film any of that for the background?

Warren: As far as did we film him taking personal combat, I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say that either.

Q: How long did the kids train in total? How far in advance did they have to go?

Warren: We had them for about three weeks. […] Even though I only had them for three weeks before the movie started, when the movie started we still weren’t into flying and fighting. While the movie was filming for about a month, I still was training with the kids. The kids really had about a month of training before they did anything. It was really beneficial, you’ll see it on the screen. The stuff that you see, not only in the battle room, but also in their military training is awesome. It’s really well done and my hat’s off to Conor, Suraj, Hailee… if I could name all these kids I would because they are my favorite people to work with now.

Q: Working with kids this age, did you ever catch them making references to video games? And do you take any cues from there?

Warren: Yes, they do play all those video games, they would come in and talk about it. Did they take cues from it? No, not really. It’s the same reason I play video games an awful lot as well, my wife will tell you she hates it. I like the first person war games more than anything. However that being said, I do not take an awful lot of clues from video games because I actually am the stunt coordinator for a lot of the video games that you see out there. We tried to base everything so fervently on reality, what’s right here and what’s tangible versus what you might have seen on a simulation. Even when he’s doing his simulation stuff for the movie, at one point he has to do his whole simulation stuff with the Mind Game. The same thing with a video game, we set up the prop stuff for real. Any time I’ve done a video game out there, ‘Metal Gear’ or anything else, we actually set up a whole scene for real. I can tell you this much, yes, I do take cues from video games, but those video games I’ve already done and I’ve based on a reality-based scenario already. […]

Q: In terms, the time is takes to train and the number of takes you have to do, what took more time: the hand to hand combat or the scenes where they were flying?

Warren: Hard question, because each scene is different. There was one hand to hand combat situation where Ender is dealing with… I’m not supposed to talk about. At one point Ender is being trained, and he’s dealing with another launchie. They all learned it very well, but when it came time to do it for film, Gavin wanted more. It took an awful lot of takes where they felt comfortable to slam each other. At first I wouldn’t allow it, because they are kids and we need to be careful about how their bodies move, but eventually we slowly got them there. When you’re fighting someone, and you’re hitting someone, taking them down to the ground, you have to slowly get there or else someone could get hurt. A lot of the fight scenes we had in here were very real, so we didn’t want anyone to get hurt, and no one did. No one even got a sprained finger, thank God. However, it took a long time to get there. As far as how long it takes to do a take, they say zero-G is the hardest because kids have to put harnesses on, and those webbing straps cut into your wait, and no apparatus is the same. We have like six or seven different apparatuses that we’ve developed, in fact we’re probably going to try to go to the academy and see if we can get some sort of a nod or some sort of an award for technical achievement because of the pieces we have developed just for this movie to try to simulate weightlessness. […] I’ve learned not to hold my breath in any business that I’m a part of, however, we have designed something amazing. It’s the closest thing to weightlessness you’ll ever get to experience on this world. We’ve developed a thing called a lollipop, which is wire hung arm. It’s basically a little teetering thing that we can fly anywhere we want around the whole room, a football stadium wide. They are able to manipulate it themselves. […] Their able to touch something and float away. They’re able to spin around and they have no wires associated with their bodies. And then we put air pucks underneath it so that it was like an air hockey game. We were able to move this big, huge crane arm that has them on this ring around the floor.

Q: With the lollipops, and the pucks and all that, what does that team look like and how do you work with them on building those?

Warren: That team was me. My lead rigger… if we were a husband and wife team, I’m the creative side and he’s the guy who balances the budget. He knows exactly the breaking strengths of all my cables. He knows exactly the angles down to the degree. I know exactly where it should be and I’m the only constantly online looking for equipment. I looked everywhere from circus acts to airplane facilities to find out what they have going on. I’m constantly going, ‘There’s a hubless drive motor that we could use?’ and he’s going, ‘What? That’s a bicycle wheel!’ […]

Q: In the book there’s a scene where Bean brings in a wire, he’s trying to bring somewhere new, is that scene in the film?

Warren: You won’t be disappointed about that!

Q: What do you think are the greatest pitfalls of science fiction and fantasy films being made today?

Warren: CGI. I hate saying that because of all my friends […] but I’ll be honest with you, nothing beats touching a real robot. […] Although we have some CG in the movie, the kids and everything they do is real.

Q: So a lot of interaction with the creatures?

Warren: Yes. The biggest pitfall of science fiction these days is that it’s so easy to not have to spend the time and money to for real, because you can just look at a tennis ball and do it. […] Here we get to see stuff, and touch stuff, and actually get to be a part of it. I’m a big fan of that. The pitfalls of science fiction now days is that sometimes there are shortcuts that you can take that save time and money. Fortunately we’re not doing it here.

Q: Earlier, did you also say MMA?

Warren: […] We did take an awful lot of clues from MMA fighters. When you get someone on the ground, you don’t let up, but also craw mcgraw is all about that too. You don’t just hit someone once, you hit them until they don’t stop moving, and then you run.


The ‘Ender’s Game’ film will be released in U.S. theaters on November 1, 2013.