When Hollywood sinks millions into the effort to adapt a beloved YA novel, the author is typically elevated to red-carpet celebrity, as big a star as the actors bringing his or her characters to life. But at Monday night’s Ender’s Game premiere at Los Angeles’ TCL Chinese Theatre, Orson Scott Card was nowhere near a microphone or tape recorder.
Card’s anti gay-marriage views have hampered Lionsgate’s ambitious sci-fi production since at least one gay and lesbian organization threatened to boycott the film over the summer. Though the movie, about a young military prodigy (Asa Butterfield) who’s groomed by a gruff commander (Harrison Ford) to destroy an alien race, doesn’t reference Card’s controversial views, Lionsgate has been troubled by what the author’s baggage might cost them at the box-office when the film opens in theaters on Friday. The studio put out a statement in July that distanced the film’s message with Card’s personal views, and director Gavin Hood sat for a long interview with the gay and lesbian publication The Advocate to reassure those who were contemplating a boycott.
On Monday night’s red-carpet, Hood and the film’s producers fielded questions again — perhaps for the last time before the paying public delivers its verdict with its wallets. “The book is a fantastic book full of wonderful themes like compassion and tolerance and I am distressed by Orson’s position on gay marriage,” Hood said. “I hold the opposite view. But I loved the book. … Would I prefer to be doing a movie without controversy? Yes, but I’m not in the least distressed that we are having this conversation. It is a very important conversation. It’s just odd that our film, which is all about tolerance, has to be used to counter of the author.”
By now, Card’s best-seller, which was published in 1985, has been parsed page-by-page, line-by-line to see if his personal views inform the narrative, but that doesn’t seem to be case. Those calling for the boycott seem most offended that Card, someone they oppose, would simply profit from the film since he’s listed as a producer. “I think if we’d detected any of the issues surrounding the controversy in the text itself or in Gavin’s script, yeah, it would have given us pause,” says producer Roberto Orci (Star Trek). “That just wasn’t our reality. I do think it is important when you are dealing with art to try and separate art from the artists. That’s for each individual to choose and obviously we’ll respect whatever decision [they make]. I would hope they don’t miss out on the fact that 99.9 percent of the other people involved in this film have different views.”
There is still a segment of the movie-going public that never read Ender’s Game, doesn’t know who Orson Scott Card is, and thus has no clue that he is adamantly against gay marriage. They’re just going to the theater on Friday to see what looks to be a promising science-fiction movie with Han Solo and the kid from Hugo. Others who have followed the controversy might be ambivalent, a notion Hood understands. “Some people might,” he said. “The reality is that art has often risen to greater heights than the people who created it. Many flawed artists have created great works of art. You have to decide if you are going to listen to Richard Wagner’s music or not because he was very anti-Semitic.”
[Reporting by Carrie Bell]