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SDCC | ‘Ender’s Game’ Trailer Premieres as Producer Responds to Controversy

enders game3

On the heels of Thursday’s viral video and character posters, fans packed Hall H at Comic-Con International in San Diego for the world-premiere of the trailer for the adaptation of author Orson Scott Card’s sci-fi novel Ender’s Game. Present for the screening and Q&A were director Gavin Hood, producer Roberto Orci and stars Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield and Hailee Steinfeld.

The Lionsgate/Summit Entertainment film is set on a future Earth at war with bug-like aliens called Formics. As interplanetary fighting heightens, a military-school program is established to recruit bright young minds for rigorous training, with the story centering on the gifted Andrew “Ender” Wiggin (Butterfield).

Before the trailer even premiered, the crowd chanted for Star Wars and Indiana Jones veteran Ford, who sauntered to his seat, calm and cool, in front of the roaring fans.

The lights dimmed and we were treated to the trailer, with Ford’s character Colonel Hyrum Graff providing narration to footage of countless alien ships approaching Earth and torching the ground as he explains that a first invasion nearly destroyed the planet. “They will be back,” he states ominously. We see a futuristic car approach a lake surrounded by mountains, with Butterfield’s Ender appearing to train in front of touch screens as we hear, “The world needs you. You were bred for this — you see things in a way we can’t.” Ben Kingsley’s Mazer Rackham meets with Ford and Viola Davis’ Major Gwen Anderson as we see Ender manipulating ships and battles. After a particularly successful battle, Major Anderson deadpans, “I’ve never seen anyone do that.” The superiors continue to convene as the stakes get higher, until it becomes clear it’s the boy’s life or the world’s survival. Ender is revealed in a sleek suit, and he goes off book and abandons his supports to helm an epic battle, controlling hundreds of ships with the flick of a wrist.

Asa Butterfield

Asa Butterfield

Orci noted the novel and film will be separate entities, explaining, “You want to do what’s true to the book … take what you love about the book, but also show people who don’t know the book why you loved it. You cannot take the love of a book for granted — the audience is going to come and see it for its own merits. That’s the line you have to walk.”

Of embodying such an iconic character, Butterfield said, “It was pretty big, to say the least. It was exciting for me to bring such a beloved novel and someone like Ender to life, and it was a challenge, but we had a lot of fun doing it.”

The preparation for the film’s young cast proved grueling. Steinfeld recalled, “It was the first time that I’d ever had to physically train for a film — we had about three weeks of training before we started filming. We went to space camp in Alabama, we went through a military boot camp where we learned how to march and how to salute. It was very physically demanding, but I loved it.”

Asked what it was like to play Ender’s mentor, Ford gruffly joked with moderator Chris Hardwick, “I would correct your observation in that he is not so much Ender’s mentor as he is Ender’s manipulator.” As Hardwick good-naturedly groveled, Ford joked – in his classic gravely grumble – “I am never coming back here.”

The actor went on to address what attracted him to the script, saying, “I was drawn to the complexity of the moral issues here — the questions about the complex moral issues that are involved in the military. … The ability to wage war removed from the battlefield is one of the realities of our life now. This was unknown 28 years ago, but the issues of the manipulation of young people for their value as soldiers because of their special skills, their motor skill capacities, and because of their conceptual freedom, is something that was really complex and interesting to me. And I was delighted to be involved in playing a character that wrestled with these concerns and brought them into public consciousness.”

Hood confessed one of his favorite things about the book was the, “Amazing environment, the battle room. … It’s truly beautiful. There’s the real technical challenge of bringing that visual idea to the screen. What i love at the heart of the book is that this is not a simple story of good and evil. I’m kind of bored with that — we’ve seen enough visual-effects movies; visual effects don’t do it for us unless they’re supported by a great story. And this is totally a great, complex story … to have characters that are not simple, that wrestle with their own capacity for good and evil.”

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Hailee Steinfeld

Hailee Steinfeld

The director went on to talk about his incredible cast, saying, “You can’t fake intelligence,” and then demonstrated his camaraderie with Ford by joking, “When he’s not having a good day, you bring in Sir Ben Kingsley and he makes up for it.” The comment made the stoic Ford crack a smile.

The first question from the audience addressed the controversy surrounding Card’s writings about homosexuality and his opposition to same-sex marriage, which have led to a boycott of the film and a statement from Lionsgate reaffirming its support of the gay community.

“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,” Orci replied. “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. And so, rather than shy away from the controversy, we’re happy to embrace it and use the spotlight to say we support LGBT rights and human rights.” His remarks received intermittent bursts of applause, and were met with a roar upon completion.

Another audience member asked which prop they’d choose to bring home if they could take only one. Hood joked, “Harrison Ford.” Butterfield said, “This futuristic wash kit they gave us, which included some futuristic hair brushes and a futuristic toothbrush. It had like flashing lights and stuff.”

And, taking advantage of Ford’s presence, another brave audience member capped off the panel by asking Ford if Han Solo and Indiana Jones were to meet, what their first words would be to each other. Ford shrugged and deadpanned, “Hi, how are you?” The audience roared with laughter.

Ender’s Game arrives Nov. 1.

Related: Harrison Ford Addresses Orson Scott Card “Ender’s Game” Controversy


  • Cerberus

    If we refused to see, read or play anything because of the creator’s crazy views we would have very little to see, read or play. Sometimes you just have to separate the art from the artist. Ender’s Game is a good story written by a nutty person.

  • abstraxus

    It’s morre than that – It’s a great story

    it would be a shame if this tarnishes the work

    so it goes…

  • Wes

    What everyone keeps ignoring in their defenses of Ender’s Game is that Card donates money to and is on the board for the National Organization for Marriage, a major anti gay rights organization. Therefore the financial success of this movie and its potential for sequels have direct financial implications for Card and NOM.

  • Ian

    This. If I support Card financially, he’s simply going to take the money he earns from my ticket, either on this movie or from future success, and donate it to an organization that’s working directly against me. It’s not about censorship or suppressing free speech, it’s about not providing material support to someone who has never met me but still viscerally hates me.

  • Don Strutz

    What I don’t get is why people are so mad at Card? Because he believes something different than someone else? Because he donates to causes others don’t? How many LGBT people were involved with making the movie? Does their hard work not matter? Liberals are a funny crowd. They go on and on about how open they are to all views then get upset when someone has a different view on anything.

  • John

    To answer almost all of these I’ll just quote Ian’s comment from right above yours:
    “If I support Card financially, he’s simply going to take the money he
    earns from my ticket, either on this movie or from future success, and
    donate it to an organization that’s working directly against me. It’s
    not about censorship or suppressing free speech, it’s about not
    providing material support to someone who has never met me but still
    viscerally hates me.”

  • Opus

    Exactly why I boycott all movies, series, books and comics, that are made, directed written or starring homosexuals or pander to their agenda, because of my support for Card ( I started it while the whole brouhaha over Superman comic, long before all of this with Enders Game ). Thankfully, homosexuals have 0 importance in the wonderful world of SF, Fantasy and Horror literature, and I can live without likes of Hobbits, Man of Steel, Game of Thones or Arrow, for the moving pictures section of entertainment.

  • Archangel

    I want to know how much they are paying Card. I so hope he was only paid up front and that’s it. He is a monster who has said time and again that gays should be locked up in camps. There is no defending him. In my open all his book the money should be taken from him and his name should be removed from anything that bares it. When the film comes out his name should not be on it.

  • Opus

    He said no such things, and he is one of the greatest authors of SF Fantasy and Horror of all time. More people in the world care about that than about homosexuals having the attitudes of spoiled brats and fits of petty feet stomping when they do not get what they want.

  • Young American

    I wrote this on a previous article and I will write it again. Don’t want to go, don’t. How many people in this world, or your town do you think support gay rights 100%? Do you have Catholic friends? Because if they give to the church, they they are directly giving to a organization that opposes gays. Or what about the person you gave money to at Walmart that went into their paycheck and they don’t like gays… You see where hating of the movie because of Card is pointless. If you don’t want to go and support him so be it, but what people do with your money after you give it to them is their right. I would bet $100 that Everyone who is opposing this movie gives money to a person business that is against Gay marriage and doesn’t know it.

    I will be seeing the movie, do I agree with Card no, but I know that it is a great story and that I have waited my whole life to finally see this movie that I have made in my head every time I read this book. One of the only books that I would read because it stretched my imagination.

    See the movie, or don’t is up to you, but understand that there are many other people who worked on this film who do no share the views of Card who are looking for a paycheck, and just because people go to this movie, doesn’t mean they are hateful homophobes.

  • PB

    What’s interesting is that a lot of his later books in the Ender Series talk about tolerance for alien races, “others” if you will, including the Buggers who terrorized earth. His writing has never struck me as intolerant. And yet, Card is homophobic and outspoken about it. The two don’t really seem to go hand in hand.

    Then again, he is a practicing member of the Mormon Church. Not that it explains everything, but I guess religion can make people believe in things that don’t make much sense.

  • Max

    “And, taking advantage of Ford’s presence, another brave audience member
    capped off the panel by asking Ford if Han Solo and Indiana Jones were
    to meet, what their first words would be to each other”

    First of all, to be honestly, I’m not a supporter of the gay community but I don’t understand, what’s brave about asking Ford? And who was the first brave person to begin with? Why do I feel it felt like standing against tyranny or something in that press panel? With all respect, but no need for overaction.

  • jamesapril

    I’m liberal and agree with you. I separate out a person’s personal beliefs and my enjoyment of their work. Example: Don’t agree with Madonna’s political beliefs nor the Mafia connections that Frank Sinatra had. But I love her music and love his movies. What can you do?

  • jamesapril

    Get the difference between Internet rumors about Card and the truth.

  • jamesapril