Di­rec­tor’s huge sci-fi ad­ven­ture

Tsotsi’s Gavin Hood helms new Har­ri­son Ford movie

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODMOVIES - MAR­GARET GAR­DINER

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.

En­der’s Game, PIC­TURE: REUTERS

‘EX­CIT­ING PER­SPEC­TIVE’: South African-born di­rec­tor of

Gavin Hood.

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