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Orson Scott Card Talks About 'Ender's Game' Book And Movie

Melissah Yang |
April 20, 2013 | 11:55 p.m. PDT

Senior Arts Editor

Judy Wang/Neon Tommy.
Judy Wang/Neon Tommy.
Questions about “Ender’s Game” and its movie adaptation dominated Saturday's hour-long Q&A with author Orson Scott Card at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

The Q&A, moderated by Aaron Johnston, coauthor with Card of the Formic Wars novels, kept the audience of 250 people laughing with the pair’s banter and Card’s self-praise and self-admonishment of his writing career. 

Card kicked off the conversation by insisting he had long believed “Ender’s Game” to be “unfilmable,” surprising many fans, some already wearing black Ender shirts with the film’s release date “11.1.13.”

“Ender’s Game is an ‘unfilmable’ book, not because it’s too much violence but because everything takes place in Ender’s head,” Card said. “The biggest problem is that if you don’t know what’s going on inside Ender’s head, then it’s just the story of an incredibly violent, little kid. Why would you like him? Why would you care? Only when you know what he’s thinking does it become a story that matters.”

Movie executives and fans have long talked about turning “Ender’s Game” into a film since the book was published in 1985, but Card said he was the primary obstacle to putting his story on the silver screen.

“I became a problem in that we could not sign any deal unless I agreed to certain conditions about [the movie] being true to the story,” Card said. 

And then a script came along that captured what Card said was the essence of what made the book so beloved to readers of all ages. The issue, according to Card, was whether the movie could successfully recreate the same emotional investment in Ender among audience members who had never read the book. 

“It’s the story of Ender as someone you would follow into battle and give your life for, and if you don’t feel that way, there’s no movie,” Card said. “That’s when I realized the story is about the relationship between Ender and the other kids.”

Card warned fans of the book they should not expect to see a completely faithful adaptation when they buy their movie tickets in November. Subplots like Peter and Valentine’s Internet personas are rumored to be absent from the film. 

But Card said fans would be satisfied with spending their money to see a “damn good” movie. 

“Every book I’ve written was the best I could do with a story that I really cared about and believed in,” Card said. “And likewise, this film will be the best that good people could do with a story they really cared about and believed in.”  

Topics also ranged from Card’s writing process, in which he said he never knew the ending of his books when he first began writing them, to his literary influences, which included more canonical authors like Shakespeare, Jane Austen and Mark Twain. 

But as expected, the conversation always returned to “Ender’s Game,” and audience members were already curious about future movie sequels to which Card quickly dismissed as impossible. 

“I don’t want [‘Speaker for the Dead’] to be filmed. I can’t imagine it being filmed,” Card said. “If they wanted a sequel to ‘Ender’s Game’ the movie, the sequel would have to be kids in space…You guys know. When you read ‘Ender’s Game’ and you read ‘Speaker for the Dead,’ weren’t you sitting there going, ‘What is this?’”

Still, it wouldn’t be the first time Card declared one of his novels as “unfilmable.” 

Audience members may one day enjoy in theaters the rest of Ender’s journey in “Speaker for the Dead,” “Xenocide” and “Children of the Mind.” Or perhaps a movie executive will give the green light to a movie franchise on the “Shadow” series. 

But at the rate that Card’s novels are going, that will probably happen in another 30 years. 

Reach Senior Arts Editor Melissah Yang here. Follow her on Twitter @MelissahYang.

For more coverage of the Festival of Books, click here!



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