Fans of the book, this is for you: Ender's Game author Orson Scott Card made a visit to the set last week and has nothing but praise for the actors, the sets, and the null-gravity work done by stunt coordinator Garrett Warren in the battle room.
"The scene does not come from the book – very few of the scenes in this movie do – so it was amusing when others asked me how it felt to have my book brought to life. My book was already alive in the mind of every reader. This is writer-director Gavin Hood's movie, so they were his words, and it was his scene."While sitting off-camera rehearsing his line, Card had the fortunate opportunity to observe a scene being filmed between Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) and Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) and was very impressed with what he saw:
"[T]hey were superb. Film acting, especially in closeup, is not about facial expressions. It's about what's going on behind the actors' eyes. And it's about timing.Card had lovely things to say about the casting of Asa Butterfield as Ender, remarking that he Butterfield is "smart" and an "actor who happens to be young" instead of just a young actor.
The scene got more and more minimal as the takes went on. What had been an arm grab and a shrug became a mere touch on the shoulder and a single glance at the hand.
And the less they did, the better the scene became. What mattered was the timing – when Ford put his hand on Butterfield's shoulder, how long it took Butterfield to glance at the hand, how long before he looked away and when the hand was withdrawn.
When it comes time to edit the movie, the actors will have given the editor a vast menu of choices to get just the right effect.
On the set, however, it was wonderful to see how Ford and Butterfield responded to each other's timing. It was such a delicate dance – and they worked perfectly together."
"He's convincing as Ender Wiggin," Card wrote, "so if the movie doesn't work, it won't be Butterfield's fault."
During Card's 6-hour visit, he also took some time to tour the physical world director Gavin Hood and the production team have created, exclaiming over the beauty and design of the sets.
Again, they were not building anything from the book, so I wasn't seeing my ideas brought to life. Their job was to build the scenery dreamed up by Gavin Hood for his story, and they have done a wonderful job.However, it was the battle room that impressed Card the most:
I love looking at well-designed sets – tough enough to be safe for the actors to work on, yet not wasting a dime on anything that won't show on camera. Haworth and Procter are a great team. [...]
The movie Ender's Game is going to look great.
"[S]tunt coordinator Garrett Warren took what he learned from the weightless work he did on Avatar built on it.It wasn't only the Cirque du Soleil members who were working hard. The young members of the Ender's Game cast have also been spending hours and hours up on wires, perfecting their movements in zero-G and using muscles they previously didn't even know they had:
There is a mechanism used for training gymnasts – a wheel they wear around their waists that allows them to rotate in space while suspended from wires. Warren used this on Avatar, which allows a great deal of apparent freedom of movement in space – once the computer artists have erased the wheel rig, you can't tell that there's any way a wire could have been attached. [...]
For the most difficult stunts, Warren brought in dancers from Cirque de Soleil. Being gymnasts by training, they tend to be small – they can bring off the illusion of children's bodies.
And they have the strength and training to do constant movements and poses that defy gravity, without ever looking as if they're working hard."
"Oh, how these kids suffered! I'm sure many of them had times when they dreaded each day's work.It's no wonder that the kids seem like great friends off-set; they have formed bonds in the battle room which will last well after filming is over, bonds which will be most certainly be visible on screen. And when it comes to Ender's Jeesh, what more could we ask for?
But human bodies adapt, and by the end of filming, they were all in superb physical shape. They were good at these dancelike movements. They had acquired a complete skill set, along with the required musculature, to perform an art that, with any luck, they will never have to use again.
Their suffering on the wires in the battle room helped them bond into a team. On the wires, there were no stars, no grunts. Everybody had to learn the same skills, do the same moves. They were equals.
So filming the battle room did the same job for the cast that the battle room itself was intended to do for the young students in the fictional Battle School – form them into cohesive teams."
You can read Orson Scott Card's full set report here. Check it out -- it's very recommended.
Are you guys relieved that OSC seems so pleased with what he saw on set? Does his remark about the many non-canon scenes alarm you? Let us know in the comments!