Asa Butterfield of ‘Ender’s Game’ talks choosing movie roles

Asa Butterfield plays a kid being trained for war in "Ender's Game." Credit: Getty Images
Asa Butterfield plays a kid being trained for war in “Ender’s Game.”
Credit: Getty Images

The long-awaited film adaptation of “Ender’s Game” has sparked more online discussion than most movies, whether among hardcore science-fiction fans or folks upset about author Orson Scott Card’s anti-gay views. So it would make sense for its 16-year-old star, Asa Butterfield, to avoid the Internet. But he’s not one for conventional wisdom, apparently. And while he’s been making his mark in lead roles for the most part in his young career (in “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” and “Hugo”), Butterfield appreciates that it’s not the size of the part that matters — something he picked up from “Glengarry Glen Ross,” of all places.

You Google around a lot. Isn’t it a bit dangerous when you’re in a movie to go around looking for stuff about it online?

Obviously I’ve got to respect that of course other people are going to have opinions, but I think it’s impossible to not read things on the Internet. It’s so widespread. You know Reddit? I’m on Reddit quite a lot, and I find that however much other people’s opinions influence you, if you enjoyed it and you think the film is amazing — which I think it is — as long as you think that, then sod what other people think, really.

The Internet is famous for prejudging things, especially big Hollywood films.

Yeah, you’re right. It’s hard to not think about them and think, “Wow, that’s a good point.” But wait, why are they jumping to conclusions? They haven’t seen this film that we shot. So I’m sure when everyone sees it that everyone will be pleased.

The controversy over Orson Scott Card’s view on gay marriage seems to have peaked well before the film’s release. People seem to have moved on or forgotten about it for the most part.

Yeah, you’re right. I hadn’t thought about it that way, but it’s sort of over now, and people have realized that the film is separate. We love the story, but we don’t agree with the author’s views. It’s as simple as that. And so yeah, I’m glad that we can share it with everyone being open to it.

I had my suspicions the public attention span wasn’t that long.

No, you’re right. Thankfully.

How do you approach choosing roles as a young actor?

I sort of have a checklist of things. Of course you want story to be brilliant, and if the story isn’t interesting then — no, you want the story to be interesting, definitely. [Laughs] Don’t do a film if the story isn’t interesting, that’s probably No. 1 on the list. And then of course you want your character to be as interesting as possible and not just be there to fill in the gap. Then you look at the director and the crew — are they respectable, are they reputable. Yeah, if it ticks all those boxes then generally I find it’s a good project.

Are there any areas where you can compromise if need be?

For me, definitely one of the most important parts is the character. It may be a lead, it may be a supporting part, it may just be very little. But as long as you can make your mark on the film, then you’ve sort of done your job. And one of the films I always refer to when talking about this is, do you know the “Glengarry Glen Ross” film? Alec Baldwin comes in at the start and pretty much just tells them to sharpen up. That scene, I mean that has one of the best pieces of acting I have ever seen — and it’s his only scene in the film. I think it’s definitely one of the most memorable scenes I’ve ever watched. So that’s definitely something I reference when talking about this and how your character needs to have a purpose, and you need to give all you’ve got to your character and let everyone else do their job.


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