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Gavin Hood Picks 'Hugo' Star Asa Butterfield To Headline Adaptation Of 'Ender's Game'

by Oliver Lyttelton
November 17, 2011 7:51 PM
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Casting is always a difficult proposition, but doubly so when it comes to finding an actor or actress on the younger end of the scale; picking a fledgling young star who doesn't come across as being too precious, while still being able to sell potentially difficult material. And it's triply difficult when you're working from well-established material, with all the preconceived notions that might be in place for an audience. These are the difficulties that director Gavin Hood has been faced with for his new film, "Ender's Game."

The filmmaker, who broke out with the Oscar-winning "Tsotsi" before moving into studio territory with "Rendition" and "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," has been on board the adaptation of the classic science-fiction novel since earlier in the year, but given that the plot revolves around children being trained to become military commanders in a future where Earth is at war with an insectoid race called the Formics, he's clearly taken some time to get his casting done; not every stage school tyke will work for the material, clearly.

But it seems like Hood's search might have come to an end, as Deadline reports that the director has offered the lead role of Andrew 'Ender' Wiggin, a bullied young boy who turns out to be a master military strategist, to 14-year-old Asa Butterfield. The young British actor first came to attention as one of the two central boys in tear-jerker "The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas," but is about to become even more familiar to audiences, with the lead role in Martin Scorsese's 3D family flick "Hugo," which opens next week.

It does seem to only be an offer at this point, but we imagine it's a pretty tempting offer for Butterfield, as Summit, who acquired the project a while back, are clearly hoping that the film might become a franchise down the line. Whether he's right for it is another question; we're not familiar enough with the material to talk about his suitability, but many early reviews of the Scorsese picture have pointed at Butterfield's performance as problematic. But seeing as Hood directed "Wolverine," that may be the least of the project's worries... "Star Trek" writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman are producing "Ender's Game," and Summit will release it on March 15, 2013. 

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  • Lily | November 27, 2011 3:59 AMReply

    ... I don't agree with those who say that Ender's Game was written only for young teens, because I'm well into my teens and I still love it (plus the sequels are very, very political o.O). But... to me, this movie seems like a disaster waiting to happen. I was VERY excited about the prospect of a movie because it has the potential to be GREAT... but, in all honestly, I think it'll be a flop. Asa's an amazing actor (I've only seen good reviews of his acting in Hugo, so I don't know what this article's on about), but I agree that by the time this movie starts filming, he'll already be 15 or 16 or even older. In other words, too old for the premise of the book. I've heard that they changed the ages to 11 or 12 for the movie, but even then, Asa no longer looks that young, he's going to grow up very fast in these next couple of years, and that problem applies to every young actor they're going to be looking at. The child actors that actually fit the age range will be too inexperienced as actors (and as people) to perform as this movie would require, and the young actors who COULD pull it off would look too old.
    Plus, casting is definitely not the most pressing of their concerns. With the way Card wrote the book (very little description, with a LOT of arcs all packed into one novel - and not all of them really well developed), it'll be very hard to adapt it into a film (unless they pull a lot of stuff from the comics).
    But, I'll probably still go watch the film, just to see what they do with it. And, if Asa's really going to be Ender, that would also be a pretty good incentive for me ;) I thought he was amazing in Hugo.

  • TRW | November 18, 2011 12:59 AMReply

    The Ender's Game novel, though its high-concept premise is interesting, is incredibly thin material to work with in the first place, so I'd say casting is indeed a low-priority problem in the grand scheme of making a good movie. There is practically no believable conflict, as -- after the initial Cinderella set-up -- Ender overcomes every single straw-man obstacle that comes his way. For me, he was practically impossible to relate to as a character: he's the golden child, the overachiever; his dramatic arc ends one third into the story. He really never was an underdog; as soon as he gets to school, he's 'the best.' And after the anticlimactic twist at the end, you realize everything's over before it really even began. Plus, Card literally provides no description in his prose, so it will be up to the director and his prod design team to create the world -- which definitely could be fantastic, as the comic series so far has had a very cool look. I agree that motion capture would be a good way to go for this, but not because you need Daniel Day Lewis to play Ender (who, at least in this first novel, has two dimensions: persecution, achievement), but because it would allow for the creation of a more thoroughly realized fantasy world. In all, low hopes for the property. Probably another Tron waiting to happen

  • nimorphi | November 17, 2011 9:38 PMReply

    This kid will be in his thirties before this film will be made.

  • padre | November 17, 2011 9:29 PMReply

    He's too old. By the time they start filming he'll be way too old. Ender's Game needs to be motion capture, like Tintin. Age appropriate children aren't capable of giving the nuanced performance required of the novel. And this story requires several of these kids, so even if you find the Michelangelo of child actors, that won't help much with the rest of the kids sucking. Just get older, accomplished actors and cgi them down to kid size.

  • jingmei | November 17, 2011 8:47 PMReply

    This kid looks like a cute nerd, like his style.

  • Dan S | November 17, 2011 8:23 PMReply

    To me he looks more like Bean than Ender. It probably won't matter, I lost hope for this movie when Hood was hired to direct.

  • Jolene@rite | November 18, 2011 5:00 PM

    This is messed up already. Sadly, this is done before it gets started. The story is written for YOUNG boys about young boys not teens. OSC must be reeling. Teens WILL NOT be interested in this storyline and the kid they are casting will be a man by the time they shoot this. Its almost funny!
    way to go Summit.

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