Ender’s Game: Q&A session with director Gavin Hood

New sci-fi film Ender’s Game is an adaptation of the best-selling Orson Scott Card novel of the same name and follows an unusually gifted child who is sent to an advanced military school in space to prepare for a future invasion. Director Gavin Hood recently sat down to answer some questions about his new sci-fi film. Here’s what he had to say:

Q What is it that is so alluring to audiences about science fiction movies?

“Science fiction is wonderful at generating discussion about themes and ideas that are important in the contemporary world,” he says. “It allows conversations that might become inflammatory in a political context to take place in an imaginary space.”

Q Ender’s Game is a science fiction movie set in the future but what important questions does the movie ask that is relevant to us today?

“Is the way we win as important as winning itself?” says Hood. “Where’s the line between good and evil, and don’t we all contain both, sometimes in the same moment? Is real leadership the exercise of brutal authority in order to get people to do what you want? Or is it more about drawing them in to get the best out of them? Ender is struggling with these questions throughout the film.”

Q Are there similarities between Ender’s Game and any other movies you have directed?

In some ways, it’s very much like Tsotsi in that it follows one particular character’s journey and growth closely. A young man leaves the safety of his home to embark on an incredible adventure. He meets various characters who influence him one way or the other, both adults and other children.

Q Did your experience of directing action movies with lots of special effects such as X-Men Origins – Wolverine help prepare you for Ender’s Game?

It’s quite spectacular visually, so my experience on big visual-effects and action movies was very helpful in achieving environments like the zero-gravity scenes.

Q What was the biggest challenge in adapting Ender’s Game from Orson Scott Card’s book to the big screen?

“Our biggest challenge in adapting this was how to preserve the spirit and the intellect of Ender Wiggin without resorting to a great deal of voiceover.

The book is written almost entirely from Ender’s point of view. The author tells you a lot about what the character is thinking and feeling.”

Q Was there any fundamental difference between the movie and the novel Ender’s Game?

“At the beginning of the book, Ender is six years old,” says Hood. “At the end, he’s 12. Practically speaking, that would be very difficult to do with an actor, so the first order of business was reorganising the timeline. Setting it over a period of about a year allowed us to use the same actor throughout.”

Q For you what is the difference between reading a book and watching a movie?

“A film is a two-hour experience, whereas a book is something you read, put down, come back to,” Hood says.

Q When you are adapting a book for the big screen how do you decide what makes it from print to reel?

“We had enough material for several films, so we had to decide what aspects of the book were most important. We came to focus on Ender’s story.”

Q You wrote the script for and directed Ender’s Game. Does each process complement the other?

“The process of writing a script gives me a massive amount of preparation, so I think I direct better when I’m working with material that I’ve also had to wrestle with as a writer.”

Q What qualities does Asa Butterfield possess that you were looking for in Ender?

“When we found Asa, it was like a light bulb went on,” says Hood.

“Asa is mature beyond his years, genuinely kind, compassionate, intelligent and everything else we needed for Ender. Once we had him, we knew we had a movie.”

Q For a child, Ender is quite a deep character. How would you describe him?

The character is amazingly complicated in terms of both intellect and empathy.

Q Would it be fair to say that Colonel Graff, played by Harrison Ford, has it in for Ender?

“He’s very kind and friendly in order to recruit him,” says Hood. “Ender arrives at school thinking he has an ally, but Graff not only abandons him, he subtly turns the others against him. In a way, it backfires, because had he been honest with Ender, he might have had the benefit of Ender’s greater intelligence.”

Q Viola Davis plays Major Gwen Anderson in the movie. What was it like to direct her?

“In just a scene or two, Viola Davis can deliver an arc and a feeling of a character that might take other actors an entire movie to achieve—if they can achieve it at all,” says Hood.

Q Would it be fair to say that Viola Davis’ Major Anderson is a character that wrestles with her conscience?

“Anderson tries to go along with Graff’s notion that it is necessary to psychologically manipulate children for the greater good, but ultimately she can’t. In the end, that is what sets her and Graff at odds. She is more interested in Ender’s personal well-being than the ultimate goal. Harrison and Viola embrace those two points of view and clash fantastically in the movie.”

Ender’s Game is out in Ireland October 25th.

In the near future, a hostile alien race (called the Formics) have attacked Earth. If not for the legendary heroics of International Fleet Commander, Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley), all would have been lost. In preparation for the next attack, the highly esteemed Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) and the International Military are training only the best young children to find the future Mazer. Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), a shy, but strategically brilliant boy is pulled out of his school to join the elite.