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Exclusive Interview | Asa Butterfield: Star of The Space Between Us

Jan 30, 2017

By: Lynn Barker

You probably saw 19-year-old actor Asa Butterfield star as Ender Wiggin in the sci-fi action movie Ender’s Game and Jacob Portman in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. In The Space Between Us, Asa plays Gardner Elliot, a teen born on Mars who escapes to Earth to meet Tulsa (Britt Robertson), the girl he’s been Skyping with but most of all to find his father whom he’s never met. Can a teen born on Mars adjust physically, mentally and emotionally to life on Earth?

Gardner and Tulsa get news about his dadGardner and Tulsa get news about his dadCourtesy of STX Entertainment

We talked with Asa recently about playing such an unusual character, developing online friendships, colonizing other planets and more!

Kidzworld: I think the film is warm and sweet and also a great date movie. Do you think so?

  • Asa: I think it can be a date movie. It’s just a really nice, sweet story.

Kidzworld: Playing Gardner, was it a challenge to have to wipe your mind clear of what you know about your environment and play a total innocent seeing common things on Earth for the first time? Or was that just fun?

  • Asa: It was both. It was a challenge in that it was something different and I had to work on the way he moved. He wasn’t normal. He was like an alien essentially. But whenever you have a challenge like that you can have fun overcoming it. The character was funny and spontaneous and enjoyable.

Gardner (Asa) and Tulsa on their road tripGardner (Asa) and Tulsa on their road tripCourtesy of STX Entertainment

Kidzworld: How did you develop that crazy walk he does on first getting to Earth..I heard that the director tied weights to your feet and had you walk around? Is that true?

  • Asa: Yeah, that’s one of the things he did to make me realize how I’d really feel if I weighed a third or half as much as I really do.  Weights around my ankles and chest weights to effect the way he walks. It was weird but enormously helpful to figure out what he was feeling. You’ve got to time it right just jumping around. You want it to be noticeable but not so that it was too distracting.

Gardner and Tulsa share the Grand CanyonGardner and Tulsa share the Grand CanyonCourtesy of STX Entertainment

Kidzworld: Serious question. Gardner feels that he is invisible on Mars.. just a nobody. What do you think is harder to deal with, feeling like you don’t exist or having an actor’s high profile? Which is more difficult in life?

  • Asa: I don’t know. For me, I’d imagine living on another planet would be much harder. As an actor, depending on who you are, you might be stopped on the street and might not get all the privacy you want but I’d rather have that than no human connection whatsoever. Gardner is just kind of (barely) existing.

Gardner on Mars, visits his mom's graveGardner on Mars, visits his mom's graveCourtesy of STX Entertainment

Kidzworld: How was working with Britt (Robertson) as Tulsa? Do you have the same approach to your work?  

  • Asa: Yeah. We had a lot of fun. You have to on a film set. You can’t take yourself too seriously unless you’re on camera. You want a good experience. We didn’t have very long to form this friendship and relationship on screen because it was quite a short shoot but we took the opportunity we had to have some fun and just mess around. The more you do that the more relaxed you are and the more convincing too I guess.  

Gardner and Tulsa float on the shuttleGardner and Tulsa float on the shuttleCourtesy of STX Entertainment

Kidzworld: Gardner is getting pretty stir crazy or cabin fevery on Mars. A lot of teens feel like that. Have you ever felt trapped like that?

  • Asa: I think we’ve all felt like that at one stage or another, like you’re trapped in your own house with nothing to do and you’re bored or you’re trapped in school and you don’t feel like you’re doing the right thing. We all try to break out of that one way or another. It’s not easy.

Gardner (Asa) celebrates with Tulsa (Britt)Gardner (Asa) celebrates with Tulsa (Britt)Courtesy of STX Entertainment

Kidzworld: Can you tell us about the similar traits that you share with your character?

  • Asa: I think me and Gardner are both quite interested in the natural world and are kind of fascinated by it, in lots of aspects. We both share a curiosity and a drive to see more of it, or explore it. I think that is probably the biggest thing we share.

Kidzworld: Are you interested in space exploration or colonizing another planet?

  • Asa: Yeah, I am interested in it. I like science fiction. I am quite a technologically kind of up-to-date person. I like seeing what the new developments are. I built my last PC. Aside from that, yeah, going to Mars is the next logical step. I'm still hopeful that we will come up with some sort of way to fix, or help the s**t storm we've stirred for ourselves. I think as long as technology's advancing, we should theoretically come up with a solution, because so much attention's being put toward it, and if we don't, then we're all screwed and we need to go to Mars.

Gardner (Asa) goes outside on MarsGardner (Asa) goes outside on MarsCourtesy of STX Entertainment

Kidzworld: Gardner is pure, a romantic. Do you consider yourself a romantic? I don’t just mean in relationships but in life? (Romantics love nature, old things like castles and churches, love poetry and beauty, and have a tendency to get carried away by ideas).

  • Asa: In some ways, yeah. I think I don’t like cheesy things but I’ve got quite a sugar-coated view of life. I’m very optimistic. I’m happy-go-lucky I guess. I try to be. When things don’t go your way, you brush it aside and carry on. Don’t take what you have for granted. Enjoy what you have.

Tulsa helps Gardner escape in a crop duster planeTulsa helps Gardner escape in a crop duster planeCourtesy of STX Entertainment

Kidzworld: Great attitude! Have you ever developed an online friendship like Gardner does with Tulsa and then finally met the person? If so, how was the experience?  

  • Asa: Yeah. It’s happened a few times playing video games. I might only hear their voice for a year or two then eventually meet them. It’s interesting. That’s one of the way things are today with friendships, not the way it was ten or fifteen years ago. I was never disappointed. I had a pretty good mental image of them in my head. They were people of all ages as well.

Kidzworld: Did the wire work training for zero gravity that you did in Ender’s Game help you in the short anti-gravity kissing scene in this film?

  • Asa: I took a lot of my experiences from Ender’s Game for this show. Yeah, zero gravity is not that easy to replicate. It’s never easy when you are in a harness. You have to get used to them.

Gardner loves flying above the EarthGardner loves flying above the EarthCourtesy of STX Entertainment

Kidzworld: What do you think tweens and teens especially will get out of seeing The Space Between Us?

  • Asa:  It shows you what is so special about our planet and what you should value about what we have and what we’re so lucky to have living somewhere so beautiful and to not take it for granted and just walk down the road without batting an eyelid. Think about how alone and lucky we are to be on this tiny speck of dirt in this big universe where somehow life is able to exist. I think that is something this film will allow us to appreciate. When you’re a kid, you probably don’t appreciate it because you are a kid and have other things to think about.

Kidzworld: What is your favorite thing about planet Earth? That’s a question your character Gardner asks throughout the film.

  • Asa: I think the night sky, the stars on a clear night are amazing.

The Space Between Us Movie PosterThe Space Between Us PosterCourtesy of STX Entertainment

See The Space Between Us in theaters Friday, February 3rd.


Have Your Say

Do you think it would be cool to be born on Mars? Do you sometimes feel isolated and alone? Talk about it with a comment below.