Director’s huge sci-fi adventure
Tsotsi’s Gavin Hood helms new Harrison Ford movie
IT WAS 10pm on a sticky evening at Comic-Con International in July, where I was due to interview South African-born director of the Oscar-winning Tsotsi, Gavin Hood.
He’s been doing interviews all day for his new film, Ender’s Game, which is out in South Africa on Friday. The magic words come my way: Everyone else has left, but Gavin waited for you. He’s a big guy with a sincerity that’s typically South African. He’s tired, but he grabs my recorder as we settle down to talk in a dark corner.
Ender’s Game is a sci-fi adventure based on a novel by Orson Scott Card with a young cast that includes Asa Butterfield ( Hugo), Hailee Steinfield ( True Grit) and Abigail Breslin ( Little Miss Sunshine), anchored by a cast of awardwinners such as Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley and Viola Davis.
Set in the near future, a hostile alien race has attacked Earth. If not for the heroics of International Fleet Commander Mazer Rackham (Kingsley), all would have been lost.
In preparation for the next attack, Colonel Hyrum Graff (Ford) and the International Military are training the best children to find the future Mazer.
Ender Wiggin (Butterfield), a shy but brilliant boy, is pulled out of school to join the cause and he quickly masters increasingly difficult war games.
Ender is soon ordained by Graff as the military’s next great hope and is set to lead his fellow soldiers into an epic battle to save the human race. Your first big Hollywood film, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, was pirated and released on the internet before it was released in theatres, and now its been revealed that the author of the Ender’s Game supports a cause that opposes gay marriage. Can you put this controversy behind you and concentrate on the product? I actually feel privileged to talk about the issue, given that this is a sci-fi movie about a boy in space, that revelation gives me the opportunity to express my views. Were you upset to discover author Orson Scott Card’s contribution to the National Organisation for Marriage? Gay rights was settled in South Africa 20 years ago. To find that America is still grappling with this issue is surprising. I have been a member of the Courage Campaign for years. I support it financially. They hold the opposite view to the National Organisation for Marriage that Orson supports – which I believe he has now resigned from. My position is this: I love the book, Ender’s Game. It has fantastic themes of tolerance, compassion and empathy. I’ve been at a loss to understand how the person who wrote that book has his views. Since I loved the book I had to separate the art from the artist. You’re working with an icon – Harrison Ford, and with up-andcoming young actors too – how did you strike the balance? Harrison Ford, Sir Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis – these are great actors with great presence who happen to be very down-to-earth people. They were very generous with these young actors, Asa Butterfield and Hailee Steinfield, who were intimidated by these legends, which suited me because the character of Ender (Butterfield) is somewhat intimidated by Graff (Ford). Were you intimidated at all? Of course you are a little intimidated the first time you walk on to the set, but Harrison puts you at ease and wants your input – some of the time. He’s very genuine, very real. There’s a little bit of, “Wow, I’m working with Harrison Ford, I better not screw up”. This is only the second time he’s done Comic-Con. So did Sir Ben and Viola. Director Neil Bloomkamp and Sharlto Copley ( District Nine, Elysium) have had incredible success in Hollywood – do you feel like you opened the door for South Africans? It’s sweet of you to say that. The reality is we worked very hard on Tsotsi and for us to win the Academy Award, an element of luck played into it, and yet it opened the doors for me and I hope for more and more South African filmmakers. Neil’s work speaks for itself. District 9 is brilliant and a bigger production than Tsotsi ever was, so he has opened doors for bigger South African films to be seen. How often do you get home? I’ve always gone back at least once a year because my parents were there. My mom passed away during pre-production and my dad just passed away seven weeks ago, and I was there for that. I haven’t processed it all yet. My sister is still there so I go back to see her. Where are you based? In America, my wife and kids are here but we go back. I think of myself as drawing on my South African heritage, it’s what formed me emotionally. We love a good debate and care about themes in film and art because we come from a country that has wrestled with its conscience. We are a passionate people. We have a perspective that’s exciting and finds a way into our work. I’ll always be a South African at heart. But I’m also lucky to be in America which is the heart of the film industry.
‘EXCITING PERSPECTIVE’: South African-born director of