Deseret News archives
Nov. 1 marks the premiere of the film adaptation of "Ender's Game," a best-selling science fiction novel published in 1985. In this interview, conducted Aug. 30 by former Deseret News enterprise team reporter Jamshid Ghazi Askar, author Orson Scott Card talks about writing his own screenplay for "Ender's Game" 20 different times. He gives his opinion on the acting in the movie and explains why director Gavin Hood didn't want the book's author hanging around the set.
Card also talks about whether he's conservative or liberal, whether his beliefs are manifest in his fiction and why dinner with strangers is his idea of a personal hell.
Deseret News: How did it feel for you, Orson Scott Card, adapting Orson Scott Card?
Orson Scott Card: I've been re-adapting "Ender’s Game" for years. When I wrote the novel "Ender’s Game," I was taking the short story and I began much earlier. By the time I got to the events of the short story, the original was out the window. ... That adaptation was in '85, and then I went back and did the (Ender's) Shadow books in the '90s. ... I came back to the well again with "Ender in Exile," where I took basically the space between the second-to-last and last chapter of "Ender’s Game" and turned them into a novel in order to explore his path toward preparing himself to govern a colony. It wasn’t relevant to "Enders Game," so I skipped right over it. But it is relevant to the character, to who he was. So that was a fun book to write.
But I've been back revising the material repeatedly.
And then during the prep for the movie, I wrote 20 versions of the script myself. I was trying to figure out how to solve the problems. It’s a devilishly hard book to adapt for film. The biggest problem we had was that I would write draft after draft and people who already knew and loved the book would say, "This is it. You nailed it. This is great. This is even better than the last one." And then (I) would hand the script to someone who had never read the book, and they would have no idea what all of it was about. So clearly it was still dependent on having read the book and already caring about the character, and that’s not what you want.
Probably one of the greatest adaptations of a classic novel to screen was "Sense and Sensibility," Emma Thompson's brilliant adaptation. You don’t have to have read the book to get every single nuance. Then when you do read the book, you realize she actually did a better job than the book did of delivering the story clearly and well. Jane Austen was inventing the novel form at the time and that was her first full-length novel, and so it's not a surprise that Emma Thompson was able to clarify over what she did.
But adapting "Ender's Game" was just so hard. But I finally found a way that worked, but unfortunately I did my last draft after (director) Gavin Hood had already started work on his first draft. As far as I know, he never read any of my drafts. There's no reason he should have. You’re going to lose your job for filming the author-written script, so my scripts really served mostly as showing proof of concept, feasibility studies. That you could do a script even if this isn't the one they intended to use.
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