Rising star Asa Butterfield went from playing Mordred in BBC’s Merlin to wowing audiences in Martin Scorsese’s beautiful cinematic tribute Hugo to taking the lead role in controversial sci-fi adaptation Ender’s Game, starring opposite Harrison Ford and Sir Ben Kingsley.
After hitting cinemas on a wave of heated discussion about author Orson Scott Card’s homophobic views, Ender’s Game is now available on home video. SciFiNow spoke to Butterfield about why this is the perfect time to judge the film on its own merits.
How was the pressure of headlining Ender’s Game?
When you act in a film you never want to let that thought affect your acting. You’ve really just got to get over it. Ever since I read the script and I got the part, something which I really wanted to do was keep the heart of the character and keep it from the book, to try and keep it as loyal and as true as possible. That was definitely one of my main goals.
It’s a film with tremendous scope but the personal conflicts of Ender are quite rich. Was that what drew you to the film?
Yeah, I think I can speak for most actors, whenever you go for a role you want there to be something new or something different. Something fresh which you can bring to the screen because you never want to get stuck into a certain type of genre or a certain type of character. And I think it’s always quite hard to break out of that. You can get stuck into it, so I’m really trying to vary up my roles as much as possible, this gave me the chance to, definitely.
What was it like working on such an effects-heavy film?
It was really interesting, I think pretty much everything had some degree of greenscreen on it. And it was definitely the film that I’d done that had the highest level of greenscreen, I think I speak for most of the actors when I say that. It’s always quite interesting, especially when you’re reacting against things that are so huge and there’s nothing there, it’s always quite interesting just letting your imagination go absolutely wild with the sort of things that you can see. Which was quite a lot of fun, I think.
Working with Harrison Ford must have been pretty intimidating, too.
It was…at first it was a bit intimidating. But, as with any actor, you can’t let that kind of feeling affect anything you do. Harrison and I, I think we both agreed it would be best to keep some kind of distance off set. Not that we wouldn’t talk to each other but to try and keep a resemblance of the relationship our characters had off-screen, which was helpful.
You’ve obviously had some experience of working with amazing actors after Hugo!
Yeah, indeed. I’ve had the privilege to work with a lot of incredible and really really talented actors. Sir Ben Kingsley, Harrison Ford, I can’t name all of them. I’ve been really really fortunate.
Yeah, I’m a massive sci-fi fan and I’m a huge fantasy fan as well. So both Hugo and Ender’s Game let me treat myself with the roles and the story which was really quite amazing and again I’m really lucky about that.
For me one of the things I find that’s quite different about science fiction and fantasy, it’s one of the things that I thought was quite interesting as Ender’s Game as a story, so much of the technology and so many of the scenes in science fiction films can be related to the modern day. The war, all the politics, all the morals and the ethics, which are all so core to the story, and then again you have all of the technology, which if you research it you can see that it is coming up and it is very close to being real which I always find so astonishing.
Do you feel like addressing these themes is something sci-fi should do?
Yeah, definitely, I think that a huge part of the story is to show how big an impact your choices make and making sure you make the right choice, whether it’s necessarily the choice that has the biggest impact, taking into account every single possibility, which is something Ender had to do in the film. Being in the position he was, it’s really relevant to society, I think.
Obviously there was a great deal of controversy surrounding the film. Do you feel that now, with the film on home video, people can take a step back and take the film on its own merits?
Exactly, I think that’s something that we as an audience have to do. Yes, the book is an amazing source material and we’ve done our best to adapt it to a different medium but, as I’ve said many times before, Orson’s views are totally different, totally separate to the film, and so now that you’re able to see it anywhere as a DVD or Blu-ray it’s definitely given the opportunity for the film to get a whole new audience I think.
Do you think you might return to genre material or are you looking to change things up?
I want to change things up but I never look specifically for a type of role. I just read the scripts and any that really strike me as being important or interesting or having an amazing character, those are definitely the ones that stay with me the most and are the most interesting to me. So 10,000 Saints which is what I just finished filming in New York is this amazing story about these two kids growing up in New York in the 1980s as they both deal with loss, it’s an amazing coming of age story but that was a lot of fun
There are a lot of SciFiNow readers who love Merlin, I have to ask if you have any fond memories of it!
I was a huge fan of it, Merlin, I had such a great time shooting that. It’s such a great group of people. It’s definitely the first TV show that I’ve ever done where I’ve been in more than one episode, and what’s really nice was being able to do it, film it, it doesn’t take up a huge chunk of your life, but then to be able to go back to it a few months later and see everyone again and play the character in a different sort of way…you can’t do that in film. And that’s definitely something which is quite nice and special.
Own Ender’s Game Now in HD from iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/movie/enders-game/id724568224