Gavin Hood is a director who has a varied career, directing the likes of Tsotsi, X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Rendition . I had the chance to talk to Hood about writing and directing Ender’s Game for the screen and the difficulties of making a big budget special effects movie.
Hood is an energetic and passionate director. It was great chatting to him and the PR team and to literally drag him away from me – but not before he gave me what was almost a bear hug.
How do you go about putting together a script like Ender’s Game and then getting people like Harrison Ford and Sir Ben Kingsley to star in it?
When you write a script, focus is on getting the best script that you possibly can. You have no idea if someone like Harrison Ford is going to say yes or no. Your best way is to give him a script that he’s going to like. He’s not doing you any favours, this is his career as well as mine. I was just really pleased that when he did read the script, he responded as positively as he did because it’s a thrill to have someone with his iconic sci-fi status but also his wonderful compassion and gravitas.
The character of Colonel Graff has to be two things – he has to be a huge charismatic presence and he has to be manipulative. Underneath that you actually want someone who has real compassion. Therefore it’s a struggle for him to do what he needs to do – to manipulate this kid. It would be too easy to just get a lesser actor who is just the bad, bad colonel who yells at the kids. There’s not enough layers in that.
Actors like Harrison Ford, Viola Davis, they all fabulously came onboard which was a dream. They bring nuance and layers to the story, with just the flick of an eye. Someone like Viola Davis can show you a whole range of emotion – which can take a novelist three paragraphs to describe – getting it in a one second reaction.
How do you bring the visuals from the book to the screen? Was that difficult?
Yeah. One of the things that was challenging was that the Battle Room, in the book is just a black box, and I thought that’s not going to be so visual in the cinema, so I had this idea of a huge glass sphere and I got all excited. I had a big glass sphere and they jump into outer space. I pitched this to the producers and they went – ‘my god, do you know how much that’s going to cost?’ Fortunately they bought into the idea. You just have to come up with something which is as original as possible and then build on it and build on it.
Ender’s Game opens in the UK on 25 October and in the US on 1st November