Young people facing off against each other in the heat of battle seems to be a new trend in the movie landscape, with The Hunger Games and soon Divergent. However, this is nothing new to the world of Ender’s Game. While the book was originally published in the 1980s, it’s finally hitting the big screen on November 1, 2013. I recently sat down with the young stars Hailee Steinfeld and Asa Butterfield during the Ender’s Game press day and got insight into their process working on this film.
They trained at Space Camp and with Cirque du Soleil.
The kids spent six weeks training at space camp as real members – 7am wake up calls, homework, the whole deal. While this taught them how to march and salute, the most important thing is that this gave them the chance to bond and build up the camaraderie before filming started, to make these kids seem like a real unit.
While space came seems like an obvious training method for a science fiction film, coupled with the Cirque training they were able to get the young kids in this film not only knowledgable about zero gravity but also comfortable on the wires to make it look realistic. Hailee pointed out that when they first watched the Cirque team do the wirework and stunts as an example, it all seems so easy. Until you get up on the wires yourself and look like “a bunch of ducks flopping around.”
The troubles of working with the futuristic technology.
Working the command center in the film was difficult for Asa Butterfield because it’s all just green screen. He had to not only react to the game that was supposed to be going on in the room, but also have hand motions that actively reflect what game play is happening. Plus, he didn’t get much instruction beforehand – there was no real choreography to his movements in advance. He had to come up with motions that would make sense in the battle that the visual effects team would then have to marry with their images for a realistic game play scenario.
Having seen the film, I think both Asa and the VFX team did a fantastic job in these sequences. I completely believed the relationship between his movements and the actions within the gameplay.
You have to consider the potential for a franchise.
With the success of young adult franchises like Twilight and The Hunger Games, Hailee Steinfeld did not enter into Ender’s Game lightly. She definitely thought about how this could lead to more films down the road before committing to the first film. In the end, she was drawn to it because it was unlike anything she’d ever done before. And luckily, she had so much fun shooting this – with the cast, the creative team, the stunts, etc – that she would love to do it again if this film takes off.
There’s a major difference between filming a period piece and a science fiction film.
While that’s an obvious observation, Hailee didn’t realize just how stark the contrast would be until she went from film Romeo & Juliet straight into filming Ender’s Game. While period piece films are grounded by all the props and costumes that truly seem to transport you to another era, science fiction films don’t have that luxury. They function mainly in the world of the green screen and sound stage, where actors have to use their imagination to get in to the role.