Director Gavin Hood talks military, self-discovery in ‘Ender’s Game’

by W. Andrew Powell
Gaving Hood with Ender's Game stars Suraj Partha and Asa Butterfield

Ender’s Game director Gavin Hood has an uncommon connection with Ender Wiggin, the main character in his big screen adaptation of the award-winning science fiction novel by Orson Scott Card. At the age of 17, Hood was drafted into the army and served two years, which he said helped him relate to the story, and Ender’s troubles within Battle School.

Speaking with the exuberant, intelligent, and conversational director during Fan Expo earlier this year in Toronto, I had the chance to pick Hood’s brain about turning Card’s epic, heartfelt tale into a film.

When I asked him about his experience in the military, Hood said, “I was in the military for two years, which was a strange experience. I guess I related to Ender’s Game in a way. I read the book when I was an adult, and I have friends who read it when they were 11 years old, and it fascinates me how it almost doesn’t matter what age you are when you read the book, it has an impact, and for very different reasons.”

“My one producer, Bob Orci, read it when he was 11,” Hood said, “and he talks about how it really inspired him because he was bullied quite a lot and he was obviously a very bright kid, and he found, ‘Okay, wait. This book’s telling me that there are ways to lead and succeed through intelligence rather than physical strength.”

By comparison, Hood said that he related to the material in a different way.

“For me,” Hood said, “having been drafted at 17, I really related to this idea of being taken thousands of miles away from your home, and have people yelling and screaming at you and then wanting to praise you for the part of your personality that your mother would really not want praised. Your more aggressive side. And that’s very confusing for a young person where aggression is being praised and encouraged when you’re 17 or 18, because that’s really not a good way to function in the world; in the civilian world.”

“So, I loved the fact that Ender’s Game has this great idea–the idea that we have this tremendous capacity as human beings for compassion and kindness, but we have an equal and opposite capacity for terrible violence and aggression, and how do we reconcile those two?”

More than that, Hood also appreciated the main character, and the fact that he is not what you would call a hero.

“I love the fact that Ender Wiggin is not a perfect character,” Hood said. “He’s flawed. This is not a film about a good kid who, something terrible happens to, and he has to set the world right. No. The kid himself may not be all good. He certainly has within him the capacity to do bad things, and he has the sister Valentine, who’s compassionate; he has the brother Peter, who’s violent, and which way is he going to go?”

“And so I love the idea of a journey for a young person, of self-discovery, and in a very cool and exciting environment, with battle rooms and simulations, and all of those big wonderful visuals that make the movie really fun visually to direct, and hopefully to watch. You also have at its centre, a really strong, character-driven piece.”

Watch the full interview with Ender’s Game director Gavin Hood below. The film opens in theatres tomorrow, Friday, November 1.

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