Critics, community and 'Ender's Game': An interview with Orson Scott Card

Published: Thursday, Oct. 31 2013 9:50 a.m. MDT

You’ve got to realize that terrified executives in Hollywood always want to know what to say about a script, which means it has to look like it was a product of a film school, which means they have to be able to detect clearly and obviously the three-act structure, to see all the plot points, the formulaic things that they expect. ... Nowadays, with anything they do, they’re going to be very leery of investing millions of dollars into a script that doesn’t look familiar to them. So that was Gavin Hood’s job, was to deliver a script that would look familiar to executives and make them comfortable. It was not really to deliver "Ender's Game" itself. But that’s fine. I made strong changes to the script myself. I had arguments with people. In fact, in some respects, Gavin’s script is more faithful than mine. ... He stuck to the structure of the novel in ways that I wouldn’t have and didn’t in any of my scripts.

So it's not a matter of faithfulness. People who go there thinking they’re going to see a film of scene-by-scene novel of "Ender's Game," there’s no way we could deliver that. That would have been 5½ to six hours long anyway. Nobody would have sat still for it.

So they’re going to see a sort of a reduced, compressed, simplified version of "Ender’s Game" with older actors because it’s just so hard, so impossible to work with children — so many children. It wouldn’t have worked. So they had to age it up, and I gave consent for that.

There’s some extraordinary performances. I’ve been able to see some of them. Harrison Ford is wonderful. He’s one of the best actors who’s ever worked in American film. He gets no credit for it because everybody always thinks, "Well, he’s not even acting." That’s what good acting looks like. … It was great to watch him work with Asa (Butterfield) and other actors and see the results that he helped bring out in them. And of course, Ben Kingsley is wonderful. The whole cast really does a very good job. And the kids do a good job. Asa's best performance so far is in this film. ...

I did get to watch one scene being filmed, and I would watch them do take after take. And Harrison would murmur to Asa, "Let's do this, let's try that." The change would be subtle, but it would transform the scene to a different meaning, to a different emphasis. As Harrison explained to me afterward, he said, "I just want to give the editor lots of options." And, then knowing the process they've been going through in editing the film — recutting and recutting to really sharpen and tighten it — the options that he gave them, they were useful. They were really valuable.

I’m very happy with the results of the work of these actors.

DN: When Harrison Ford was cast, he reached out to you?

OSC: No, I didn’t have any direct contact with him until I met him on the set. None of the actors did. Gavin Hood — no director does — did not want the author of the original material hanging around. It just distracts the actors. He would want them only to work with him. When I’m directing a show, I don’t invite the writer along. So that’s not a surprise. I had minimal involvement. Once Gavin Hood took over, it was his show, not mine, and I act accordingly.

DN: Do you feel that you’ve paved the way for other LDS authors?

OSC: Oh, no. This has nothing to do with LDS. In fact, Stephenie Meyer has had way more film success than I’m ever likely to have. The Twilight series — if anything, she paved the way. But I don’t think anybody says, "Let's find another story by a Mormon writer." No one actually cares. What they look for is, did it sell, does an audience like it, is it a strong story, do we know how to market this if we make it. If the answer to all those questions is yes, then there's a good chance that they’ll at least make the attempt.

DN: How has time affected and changed you in terms of the way you write?

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