Asa Butterfield was ready for battle when it came time to show up on the Ender’s Game set. The actor had been through rigorous training at Space Camp, but also with the aerialists at Cirque du Soleil to ensure everything he did on screen felt honest and real. As shown in the Ender’s Game trailer, Butterfield’s Ender is recruited by Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) to train and lead a group of teenage pilots in a war against an alien enemy who had years before almost annihilated the entire planet.
We caught up with Butterfield as Ender’s Game premieres and found him incredibly intuitive in how he compared his life as a young actor playing in a big boy’s world of Hollywood to his character. “I think it is one of the things we have in common -- myself and Ender -- is how, obviously not to the same level, as a young actor there is often pressure to be this star and to be in the limelight,” Butterfield said.
Then, what’s the secret to staying grounded, especially after all the success that Hugo brought him? “What’s really helped me is simply living in London which allows me to be just like any other 16-year-old. I play football. I hang out with mates. I listen to music. I think that’s really helped me become a more developed actor.”
Butterfield is an avid video gamer so the chance to portray a character that is essentially playing a large scale video game was a dream come true. The powers that be in the Ender’s Game world saw how adept at these situations the youth were, and so they put them on the front lines.
“I think one of the really important discussions is how children of my generation have grown up around this technology and it’s shaped their lives. My little sister who’s four can work my mom’s iPhone better than she can. It’s crazy how much that has changed in the last five or 10 years. Imagine 50 years from now, that’s going to become an even bigger part of our lives. So to take that idea and make it such an important part of the story was really exciting because I do enjoy computer games,” Butterfield said.
“Being able to take some of that knowledge of mine and give in to my performance was something new.”
He first wanted the Ender's Game part when he got the script in the summer of 2011. “It really stood out to me. I’m a huge fan of science fiction so I think this was definitely one of my favorite scripts of the time. I was flying around in zero gravity shooting laser guns. What more could you want?” he said and laughed.
“When I Skyped with Gavin (Hood, director) and we talked about the character, we talked about his view for it and where I wanted to take it. It was really interesting for me to be able to have that much of a discussion about such a complex character.”
Going through Space Camp truly bonded the cast and was priceless, given how these kids (including co-star Hailee Steinfeld) were supposed to be a tight knit military unit.
“That served to break the ice. Because of that we got to know each other so well and we got on. That comes across in the film as well. We also learned how to march and do things you would learn at a military camp,” Butterfield reported. “It gives you an insight into what the characters were experiencing.”
Also what worked on Hood’s set was how the kids and adults (such as Ford, Viola Davis and Ben Kingsley) seemed to have a natural balance that enhanced their roles on screen. After all, the man leading them played Han Solo, Indiana Jones and Jack Ryan for goodness sakes!
“When I was working with Harrison, we both understood that there was this constant tension between our characters. We couldn’t after ‘cut’ go back to normal. We had to keep an essence of that relationship in our characters off screen, which was really important. It wasn’t method, but it was much more than I’ve done before,” Butterfield said.
But, now that the experience is over… Butterfield is basking in the glow of sharing the film that would serve as Ford’s first return to sci-fi since Star Wars.
“I think I can speak for a lot of people in that they would be pretty nervous about meeting Harrison Ford, and I was definitely one of those people,” Butterfield said. “For me, I think for all of us, once you got to know him, you do get on really well. He’s such an amazing person and an amazing actor. Because there were so many young people on the set, I think he really brought the best out in us.”