I was doing it on the fly, so you’ve only read highlights from this press conference; here’s the full transcript of my chat with Harrison Ford,Asa Butterfield and Hailee Steinfeld for “Enders Game”.
Harrison, this is your big return to sci-fi and doing a film set in space. Do you see any similarities between Han Solo and Colonel Graff?
Harrison Ford: Han and Graff are nothing alike. Graff is a very complex character who is charged with an awesome responsibility. He recruits and trains young Ender Wiggin, in this construction of the story. He faces a lot of moral issues that are involved with using young people for warfare. The complex moral issues really are part of Graff’s story. Ender doesn’t really face 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. The book deals with a lot of complex issues of social responsibility and the moral issues that one faces when one is part of the military establishment. I was just delighted to be involved in a film with such high ambition and such talented people. I think Graff is a much more complex character than Han Solo. That doesn’t mean that I regret Han Solo.
Asa and Hailee, how cool is it to play these characters, from such a much-loved book?
Asa Butterfield: I read the book. I’m 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. One of the reasons this character 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 and the constant internal struggle that he’s 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. Creating a backstory for Petra was interesting because you’re introduced to her a little further into the story. But, one of the most exciting things is experiencing the excitement that everybody around us has. It’s been such a great experience and we’re so excited to share it [with everybody].
Harrison, the anti-gay views of the book’s author, Orson Scott Card, have been getting a lot of attention. Were you aware of his work with anti-gay organizations before working on this film, and has that changed your view of it, at all?
HF: None of Mr. Card’s concerns regarding the issue of gay marriage are proper thematics of this film. He has written something that has 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 really have no opinion on that issue. I am aware of his statements admitting that the question of gay marriage is a battle that he lost. He admits that he lost it. I think we all know that we have all won. Humanity has won. I think that’s the end of the story.
This is a very ambitious project with complex characters. In what ways did you research your roles, in order to bring your character to life, on screen?
AB: For me, having a novel to refer to is always helpful. I’ve been in 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, are so massive that it’s something you just can’t put down.
HS: I would say that having a novel to go to is so helpful. It’s an extra 200 and something pages of ideas and clues. There are just so many things that you can pick up on, whether it’s written about your character or the other characters. There’s so much there and so much to play with. For me, this is actually the first film that I had to do a lot of physical training, which was a lot fun for us. We went to space camp. We learned how to march. We learned how to salute. We learned different cadences. From day one, it was just such a great experience.
Harrison, you’ve had great success in the sci-fi and action genre, but these films also talk about important moral and social issues. What kinds of conversations are you hoping people will have, after seeing this movie?
HF: I think this movie is very pressing, and I think that the novel was very pressing, 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. We are somewhat emotionally disconnected from that. So, the morality of a military commander and a military command structure, and the morality of a society which raises a military that wages war, are the moral concerns of this film and they are something that we are now wrestling with daily, in our lives. The issue of inter-planetary warfare is the science fiction aspect of it, but what gives it such an emotional tone 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. That has always historically been the case. The youngest and fittest of our culture have always been the ones who were first in line for warfare. In the book, Ender Wiggin starts out at seven years of age. In this case, they wisely changed it to be a young person closer to matching Asa’s age of 12 or 13. But, the character that I play is responsible for manipulating young people, in service of some perceived need for humanity, as a whole. No matter how you try to 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, but also in our emotional and civic lives.
Harrison, what was it like to work with Sir Ben Kingsley on this?
HF: It was great. Despite his moniker, there is a real guy there who I vastly enjoyed working with. I had known him before, but the pleasure of working with him, as an actor, was a real treat, as was working with these young people who dedicated and devoted themselves to the telling of this story, and who also possess a surprising understanding of the craft. It was surprising to me, for their ages. They are enormously talented young people. I give credit to them, and I give credit to Gavin because casting is so important in these things. I was delighted to be involved.
Asa and Hailee, what was your favorite trait for your character?
AB: One of the things that I really enjoyed playing with Ender was how he’s constantly struggling between his brother and his sister. It’s like he’s got two sides to him. And I’ve always wanted to play a 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 darker side, which I had a lot of fun playing with throughout the film.
HS: My character is very strong and independent because she has to be. She’s put into a world where she doesn’t know who to trust and who not to trust. In most cases, there’s nobody to look to. 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 looking to maintain the respect from the guy’s around her. When she meets Ender, there’s this really truthful connection between the two of them that comes from finding their way and finding their place.