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'Ender's Game' finds controversy, fans at Comic Con

Published: Monday, July 29 2013 3:35 p.m. MDT

This publicity photo released by Summit Entertainment shows Harrison Ford, center, and Asa Butterfield, right, in a scene from the film, This publicity photo released by Summit Entertainment shows Harrison Ford, center, and Asa Butterfield, right, in a scene from the film, "Ender's Game." (Richard Foreman Jr. SMPSP, AP)

"Ender's Game," a new sci-fi film about a gifted child at a military training school, premiered its first panel at Comic Con International in San Diego recently in the convention's largest hall — Hall H.

The film experienced a rocky road getting to the annual comic, gaming and pop culture convention after the group Geeks OUT started a campaign to boycott the movie.

Geeks OUT is protesting the movie because of its association with Orson Scott Card, the author of the "Ender's Game" novel. The Skip Ender's Game website calls Card, who is a board member of the National Organization for Marriage, an "anti-gay activist," and the group advises people to not give Card profits by seeing the film.

Despite the controversy, which Lionsgate has tried to distance itself from, Hall H was packed with fans as cast and crew members took their seats on the stage.

Gavin Hood, far left, director of the forthcoming film Gavin Hood, far left, director of the forthcoming film "Ender's Game," poses with, left to right, cast members Hailee Steinfeld and Asa Butterfield and producer Bob Orci at a preview event for the film at the 2013 Comic-Con International Convention on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 in San Diego, Calif. (Chris Pizzello, Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

A new trailer was premiered and the panel discussed their experiences on the set. A new clip also was released a day before the panel. It introduced one of the film's main characters, Mazer Rackam, played by Ben Kingsley, whose actions helped the human race win the first war with a group of alien invaders known as the Formics.

But when the panel began an audience question-and-answer period, the first question asked returned talks to the Card controversy.

According to an article on Rotten Tomatoes, producer Roberto Orci replied:

"The truth is, our first reaction when this first came up was we never want to invite controversy and we were first concerned with anyone who might be hurt by anything that comes up in anything we're associated with. But, we decided to use the attention that's on us now — no matter how bad — to completely and unequivocally support Lionsgate in the defense of LBGT rights ... and a lot of people worked on this movie, a lot of people worked to get this movie out ... and I would hate to see the efforts of all these people thwarted for the opinions of less than a percent of the people behind this movie. Particularly because the message of the book and of the movie is tolerance, compassion, empathy — all things that we hope are going to live on long beyond statements that any of us make."

Asa Butterfield, a cast member in the forthcoming film Asa Butterfield, a cast member in the forthcoming film "Ender's Game," poses alongside a model of his character in the film at a preview event for the film at the 2013 Comic-Con International Convention on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 in San Diego, Calif. ( (Chris Pizzello, Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Director Gavin Hood made similar statements in an interview, according to the Associated Press.

"The book is not about that issue, so I hope people can still appreciate the book because I think he wrote a great book, and the themes and ideas in the book, I think, are universal and timeless and applicable, and I hope the book will still be appreciated as a great work of art, even though I don't agree with the author. I optioned the book, not an author, and I love what the author said in that book."

According to the AP, actor Harrison Ford said, "I don't think that issue rears its head in the work. No part of the story concerns Mr. Card's theories about society in terms of gay issues or homosexual issues. So I hold it completely separate. I think it's an imaginative and complex story. And I'm glad he told it. And I'm glad I had a chance to be a part of it. I think he has a right to his opinions and I think he has also made it clear that it was a battle that he fought and lost and would like to get on with the rest of life."

Asa Butterfield, left, and Hailee Steinfeld, cast members in the forthcoming film Asa Butterfield, left, and Hailee Steinfeld, cast members in the forthcoming film "Ender's Game," pose together at a preview event for the film at the 2013 Comic-Con International Convention on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 in San Diego, Calif. (Chris Pizzello, Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Others have also defended seeing the film despite their disagreements with the author, including LGBT advocate and screenwriter Dustin Black. Black wrote the screenplay for "Milk" — a bioptic about Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in California — and the Prop. 8 play "8."

In a statement on his Facebook page, Black wrote, "Boycotting a movie made by 99 percent LGBT equality folks in an LGBT equality industry is a waste of our collective energy."

Katie Harmer is a journalism graduate of Brigham Young University and writes for Mormon Times. Email: kharmer@deseretnews.com Twitter: harmerk

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