Gavin Hood looks to play 'Ender's Game'
EXCLUSIVE: Fans of Orson Scott Card and his seminal science-fiction work "Ender's Game" were despondent last year when the author revealed that he thought the movie could be hitting the rocks.
But the project about a boy hero is now back in active development, sources say, as independent production company Odd Lot Entertainment pushes forward on a movie version of the Hugo and Nebula award-winning novel.
Most interesting, sources say there's now a big-name filmmaker involved with the project -- Gavin Hood, who directed the Oscar-winning "Tsotsi" and last year's comic book franchise "X Men Origins: Wolverine." Hood has done a rewrite of Card's most recent script and is developing the project as a director.
That level of involvement doesn't mean a filmmaker will wind up directing a film, of course. But for a project that's struggled as much as this one, it's a start.
Sci-fi novelist and Mormon activist Card garnered significant acclaim with his 1985 novel "Ender's Game." Based on his own short story, Card's book tells of a world in which humans face a serious threat from an alien race known as the Formics and begin training elite military units in response. Against this backdrop comes Andrew Wiggin, also known as Ender, a child who becomes a top-flight solider and helps to save Earth (by fighting simulations that turn out to be real).
The book gained acclaim for its dystopian militarism and also generated controversy for what critics said was the justification of extreme violence, as well as the use of child soldiers. Card wrote several sequels depicting the character as as a teenager and an adult, and the property spun off comic book editions as well. Card returned in 2009 with the novel "Ender in Exile," in which the character -- Spoiler alert: Skip to the next paragraph if you don't want to find out more about the book -- is sent to a distant planet after fighting off another alien wave because he is too ruthless even for those who trained him.
There have been numerous attempts to get a film project of "Ender's Game" going over the years; at one point, Wolfgang Petersen was said to be mulling it as a director. In this "Call of Duty," war-in-the-Middle-East age, there's a timeliness to a story of simulated battle and young people in far-flung death struggles. But studios have found it tricky to take on the story, which, with its large-scale battles, they deemed as requiring a significant budget and a sophisticated visual aesthetic.
At the same time, Card himself has insisted that a movie not go effects-heavy; he told The Times last year that he envisioned a film "where the human relationships are absolutely essential -- an honest presentation of the story."
In that sense, Hood may be the best of both worlds. The South African's shantytown racial drama "Tsotsi" was a film rife with human emotion (it centers on a thug who finds an orphaned baby). But with "Wolverine," he's also worked on a large-scale production, one with big budgets, big stars and big studio politics. (He dealt with reshoots, rumors about producer Richard Donner calling the shots and then, to top if all off, a piracy scandal.) Tackling ferocious alien races, after all that, may be child's play.
-- Steven Zeitchik
Photo: Ender's Game Comic. Credit: Marvel Comics