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Gavin Hood looks to play 'Ender's Game'

September 20, 2010 |  6:25 pm

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

Comments () | Archives (30)

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Richard Donner? Don't you mean Lauren Shuler Donner?

Way to ruin the ending of the story in the article. *sigh*

lol - thanks for the spoiler.

First: You NEED to put some kind of spoiler alert or something on this article. You are definitely spoiling the book / movie in this post.

Second: I've never seen Tsotsi, but I did see X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and I SEVERELY hope that's not anything like what he would do with Ender's Game.

Yeah, you should certainly put a spoiler warning before ruining the whole premise of the story.

Seriously, why in the hell would you put the ending of the book in this story. That is a ridiculously big spoiler.

I'm kind of disappointed you spoiled the 2009 follow up novel. I hope you consider removing that spoiler, since 99% of readers of this article will not have read that edition of this series

Too many movie reviewers post spoilers with no real concern about whether or not you may want to actually read a BOOK as opposed to seeing a movie. The only way around it is to not read movie reviews. I needed to know that Mr. Card is a mormon. I guess that's what started his science fiction career.

correction: Ender in Exile picks up events at the very end of Ender's Game. It tells the 'thrilling' story of Ender on the space journey from one planet to another in which he puts on a production of Shakespeare. He's made governer, but quickly quits, and he gets on another space ship to fly to another planet so he can let himself be beat up in a fistfight (martyr points!) by the son of one of his old friends. There's no killing of another alien species whatsoever.

I first read Ender's Game while in High School in the late 90's after having read through the entirety of my dad's vintage collection of Heinlein and Herbert books. And still, Ender's Game blew my mind. I even recommended Ender's Game over Dune to my boyfriend, though I still can't believe he hadn't read either of those books.

While there are definitely a lot of really awesome battle scenes in Ender's Game, and plenty of other opportunities for use of some incredible special effects, I really do hope that whom ever ends up producing and directing an adaptation, should one get off the ground, does not sacrifice the nuances of the characters and subtleties of the story. Obviously when changing mediums from written word to big screen, there has to be certain concessions made, I mean, some things just don't translate. But Ender's Game is not just another pulpy sci-fi space drama (or a video game), it truly is a gem of the Speculative-Fiction genre. And it means a lot to a lot of people. So if depth of character, nuance of plot (within reason-we don't need a six hour movie), and overall philosophical underpinnings are completely bull-dozed in favor a flashy space block-buster, then why even bother to adapt THIS book in the first place? Any sci-fi paperback will do.

But if Card is involved with the script, and Tsotsi really is any good (I haven't seen it), maybe, just maybe it will work. I'd really like it to work. Well, anyway, here's hoping.

"I needed to know that Mr. Card is a mormon. I guess that's what started his science fiction career."

The Alvin Maker series is a sci-fi retelling of the Book of Mormon, he writes a blog about LDS theology and politics, and is an outspoken LDS advocate and intellectual. It is important, actually.

Pardon my mistake, the Homecoming Saga is based on the Book of Mormon, Alvin Maker is loosely based on American pioneer stories and the life of Joseph Smith.

Such terrible news to know that people who seem to of either never read the book or at least completely missed the point of it are going to have a hand in making it into a film. Can someone please alert me to the single instance in the book where the alien BUGGERS are referred to as "Formics" (I mean in "Ender's Game" specifically; the simple term "bugger" used in it better reflects how children would view the "bad guys", like boogeymen)? And at what point in particular, in the book, is there the need for huge, expensive CGI battle scenes (besides maybe with the null-gravity in the battle rooms)? The only battle scenes are all viewed through a "simulator" with no actual first-person Star Wars-ey space dogfights! The story is entirely about human emotion and character development. The drama doesn't stem from the fear of an alien invasion, but the corruption of childhood innocence and the nature of the supposed "enemy". Are the buggers really evil and hell bent on our destruction, or was it all a tragic set of occurrences and misunderstandings? At what point is our protection so important that we're willing to become monsters to survive? This movie should be made as a drama that happens to take place in the future, not as a Roland Emmerich/Michael Bay style "let's just blow things up and shoot lasers at it" style action crapfest!! Yes Tsotsi was amazing, but Wolverine was inspiringly AWFUL. All Mr. Hood has proved is that with a sizable budget his storytelling ability takes a backseat to fight scenes and questionable alterations of beloved storylines. This will be embarrassing to true Ender's Game fans.

Justification for extreme violence and use of child soldiers? Anyone who says this doesn't understand the book. Did they read the end? Or any of the other books? It did far from encourage violence but instead encouraged mutual understanding of other cultures, reconciliation in the face of security threats, and also presented the emotional damage done to the kids in training them to fight so young.

And the spoiler alert was in the complete wrong place. You didn't spoil the book Ender in Exile but you sure spoiled the ending of Ender's Game.

This project is long overdue. Please, oh please, oh please finally get made!

Holy cow - you might as well have blurted out that Rosebud is a sled. You do realize not everyone has read this book, right?

If there is any editor on this site who has any common sense at all, the spoiler should be stricken from this article. Printing that was very poor judgment.

Anybody else see Inception and it's zero gravity fight scene and immediately think Nolan would be perfect to direct EG?

I find it amusing that the majority of comments below are focused more on the "spoiler" in the article, rather than the article itself. And for all those out there that are still convinced that this "spoiler" has a monumental effect on a reader's enjoyment of the book, please reread the novel.

Returning to the article itself, I am rather dejected to hear this news. Ender's Game should not be a film rooted in special effects or intensive story telling -- rather, EG thrives on its character interactions. And in my opinion, this should be the focus of Card and the film. Having strong actors, who accurately portray the characters will make this movie a classic.

EDIT this article you spoiling idiots! You could potentially ruin the whole story for totally new readers/viewers. Come ON.

Ender's Game was a great book and I agree with Card. If they are going to make a movie of it, then they need to spend a lot more time making the movie a good one. Not one that is quickly released because of the money opportunity.

@anonymous but trustworthy: they didn't call the buggers formics in EG specifically but that's the politically correct name for them in ender's shadow

There is an Ender's Game movie trailer going around online.




How could you include this line for people who have never read the book?

(by fighting simulations that turn out to be real)

Talk about spoiler!!!

I dont like this at all! I've seen X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and it wasn't the best movie I've seen.

The Buggers were first called Formic in the later Ender books and in Ender's Shadow series. Do yourselves a favor and read all 9 books. Then ask yourself if a movie is the best medium to recreate this universe or should there be a push toward television. There is too much to cram in to 2 hours.

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