Ender’s Game Star Asa Butterfield
By: Lynn Barker
Cute, blue-eyed,16-year-old Brit actor Asa Butterfield whom you might have seen starring in the fun movie Hugo, doesn’t know how tall he is. He has probably grown four inches in less than a year. Some of that growing took place while he was filming the Sci-Fi classic adventure Ender’s Game based on the novel by Orson Scott Card. The costumers had to keep adjusting his wardrobe for the growth.
On a future Earth, that has been devastated by an alien attack from the Formics, huge, intelligent ant-like creatures, Ender Wiggins is a super bright and empathetic cadet/student who is singled out by military school commander Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) to go to Command School where he will be tested physically and mentally. In the zero gravity Battle Room, his strategy and fighting skills must shine and wargames simulations are tough. Ender makes some friends like Petra (Hailee Steinfeld), a fellow cadet and enemies, like Bonzo (Moises Arias) who is determined to best Ender as top cadet.
Asa as Ender
Sensing that the Formics are about to attack again, Graff and other military have set the goal of all this intense testing and training to result in the choice of one young commander who can lead the International Fleet in a final battle for survival of the human race. Why use tweens and teens? Their minds operate at a higher speed and they can multi-task and deal with technology without getting too freaked! This will be the giant video-game with the highest stakes ever.
We’re with Asa in Beverly Hills.
Kidzworld: As a gamer what was it like to just be living a giant video game in this movie?
- Asa: That’s a good point I think. One of the really important discussions in today’s society is that children of my generation have grown up around all this technology and it’s shaped their lives. My little sister, who is four, can work my mom’s i-phone better than she can. It’s crazy how much that has changed in the last five or ten years.
- Imagine 50 years from now, that’s going to become an even bigger part of our lives. To take that idea and make it such an important part of the story was really exciting. And, because I do enjoy computer games, being able to take some of that knowledge of mine and put it into my performance was something new, yeah.
Ender directs the battle (giant video game style)
Kidzworld: Favorite game right now?
- Asa: “Dota 2”. It’s a PC game.
Kidzworld: Very cool. When you are commanding the troops in the film, you use your hands and fingers (on a giant screen). Is that choreographed? Does your game playing experience help with that?
- Asa: Well I didn’t have anything actually there because it is all green screen so it was pretty much down to me to convince myself that what I was supposed to be seeing was there. Of course you want to make it look like you actually have a purpose to each move you make rather than just flailing your arms around because then it’s impossible for the special effects team make it look real so I was taught a few moves but it was pretty much down to me to put it all together and make it look like I was doing something.
Some of Ender's fellow cadets
Kidzworld: Tell us about auditioning for the lead role of Ender.
- Asa: I first got the script in the summer of 2011 and it really stood out to me. I’m a huge fan of science fiction and this is definitely one of my favorite scripts. I mean (I’d be) flying around in zero gravity shooting laser guns. What more could you want? When I found out there was a book, I read it and loved that.
- When I Skyped with Gavin the director and we talked about the character, this was before I got the role, we talked about his view for it and where I wanted to take it and it was really interesting for me to have that much of a discussion about such a complex character and then I ended up flying here to L.A. to audition in front of Gavin and after that, I got the role.
Ender and Petra (Hailee Steinfeld) become friends
Kidzworld: Can you talk about all the training you went through for the role? There was Space Camp and then Cirque du Soleil?
- Asa: Yeah. There was Space Camp which was a lot of fun. For us kids that was a process to break the ice and because of that, we got to know each other so well and really got on and I think that really comes across in the film as well. We also had to learn to march and salute and do all the things you would learn in a military camp. It gives you insight into what the characters were experiencing. Obviously, not to the same extent but we were up at seven and lights out at nine. It was hard but a lot of fun.
- Cirque du Soleil was Garrett the stunt coordinator and his crew. They were amazing. They really made us feel comfortable in the harnesses and up on the wires (for the zero gravity Battle Room scenes) and, watching them pull off these flawless maneuvers then us going up there and being like a group of flapping ducks in a barn, as Harrison so eloquently puts it in the film, it was a lot of fun, yeah.
The zero gravity Battle Room
Kidzworld: Can you talk about the first day you met Harrison Ford and what it was like to work with him? I mean he was Han Solo, Bladerunner and Indiana Jones for gosh sake!
- Asa: Yeah. I think I can speak for a lot of people in that they would be pretty nervous about meeting Harrison Ford. I was definitely one of those people. For me, once we got to know him you do get along really well. He’s such an amazing person and an amazing actor. There were so many young people on the set and I think he really brought the best out of us.
Kidzworld: How did you go about establishing your personal relationships with Harrison and your peers in the movie, especially with Aramis Knight who plays Bean and Moises Arias who plays Bonzo?
- Asa: In terms of my relationships with a lot of adult characters, when I was working with Harrison, it wasn’t like a verbal agreement but we both understood that because there was this constant tension between our characters, we couldn’t say “cut” and start acting normal. We had to keep an essence of that relationship between our characters also off screen which was really important and I think a lot of that is what helped me develop my character. I wouldn’t say it was “method acting” (where you stay in character on and off set) but it was definitely more in depth than I’ve done before in terms of acting.
- With the other kids, we were all such good friends by the time we started shooting and because of that, it allowed us to trust each other more and to push the dynamics of the relationships to places you might not be able to had you not trusted that person. I think that everyone was such good friends that we took that onto the screen. Even though mine and Moises’s character are not exactly friends, because we were in real life, it means we could test each other.
Harrison Ford (as Graff) gives Ender a hard time
Kidzworld: So you really did feel badly when (as Ender) you knocked him down on the concrete?
- Asa: Yeah. That was a pretty intense scene to shoot because it was one probably of the bigger scenes in the story. Bringing that to life with Garrett the stunt coordinator was really interesting.
Kidzworld: Ender is both a leader and super smart. Is there a subject that you are super smart in and do you consider yourself a leader?
Video by Lynn Baker
Kidzworld: We see a lot of your character’s emotions through your eyes. (He has gorgeous blue eyes BTW). How hard is it for you to cry like that?
- Asa: I know that a lot of actors don’t find it easy. I don’t. It is definitely one of the harder parts of acting for me. You have the physical difficulty and then you have the mental and emotional difficulty for different scenes. For my character in this film, he’s so complex and there’s so many different things he is thinking about at one moment in time that to incorporate that and, at the same time, have to express that visually whether it’s crying or just being completely shaken up, it was an interesting experience for me. I just think sad thoughts.
Kidzworld: Ender is under enormous pressure. Do you ever feel that way in Hollywood? How do you deal with all the pressure and expectations?
- Asa: Good point. It is one of the things we have in common, myself and Ender. It’s not at the same level but, as a young actor there is often a pressure to be this star and to be in the limelight. I think what’s really helped me stay away from that is living in London which allows me, when I’m not here filming or doing press, I’m just like any other 16-year-old. I play football, I hang out with my mates, I listen to music. It’s not changed my life back at home as much as a lot of people think. I do think that’s really helped me become a more developed actor, yeah.
A younger Asa as Hugo
Kidzworld: You play a genius young man who elevates into a leadership role and in your next film, X Plus Y, you play a mathematical genius. In real life, are you brilliant in any particular subject and do you feel like you have leadership qualities on your own?
- Asa: It’s funny you say that. No. I think it’s always difficult, no matter how similar your character is to yourself, to get into that mindset. Yeah, however much they are similar to you, they’re not you so, in Ender’s Game, I’d like to think I’m smart, obviously nowhere near as smart as Ender or Nathan (In X Plus Y). But, with any character, there are different ways you approach understanding him. In this film, I had the novel to refer to and it’s really helpful to have all of that information and hundreds of more words which give you an idea into the background.
Kidzworld: So are you a leader?
- Asa: Yeah. I guess so. I don’t lead humans to fight with aliens but yeah.
Hailee as Petra
Kidzworld: Talk about doing an American accent for the role.
- Asa: I’d never done an American accent in a film before and, during the audition process, I had someone working with me and I think, at that point in time, I developed the accent for the words on the page rather than to be able to speak it as though you are an American. When we started filming Jess Platt, the accent coach, really helped me understand not just the words in the film, but the sounds that you could take into any conversation, any situation and improvise to have a believable American accent. One of the things that also helped that was being surrounded by crew and cast that were all from the states. Even though it was Louisiana so they had a pretty southern drawl. It was interesting for me, yeah.
Ender's Game is in theaters November 1st!