Ender’s Game News – Ben Kingsley and Hollywood Whitewashing
Some notes: This post has some plot details of Ender’s Game: The Book, so if you haven’t read it (and WHY NOT) read the rest of this at your own risk.
I hesitate to even write this, as Orson Scott Card’s books were a pretty fundamental part of my childhood, after I read my brother’s copy of Ender’s Game. We Card fans have been looking forward to a movie based on the book for well over 15 years. It’s never gotten far as Card wants to be sure the movie gets done right. Well, after many false starts, it finally looks like it’s happening. People are getting cast (Slashfilm has the details on Kingsley, Asa Butterfield, and Hailee Steinfeld), there are writers and directors, the whole nine yards. Sounds like a dream come true for a Card fan, and for Card himself. I was on Facebook the other day when the news about Kingsley broke, and saw a fan ask Card what he thought. What she got in return was a bit of a rant by Card about Hollywood and casting an actor who plays ‘white’ roles in a role he had pegged for a dark-skinned actor (Mazer Rackham, in the book, is a half-Maori New Zealander), disliking the Hollywood-ism that since he looks ‘ethnic’, it would work. I attempted to comment but the thread was deleted (I didn’t screenshot it). I then posted this on Card’s wall:
I know you wouldn’t want to be associated with Hollywood style whitewashing, but I can’t be mad at a role in Ender’s Game going to Ben Kingsley (if true). He’s a well-known name that can help get this movie in front of casual moviegoers. To me, the most important place to keep the diversity is with the Battle School kids.
That too was deleted quickly, and I didn’t press the issue. In the book, Mazer’s heritage, in my opinion, is not as big a deal as Alai’s (a fellow student at Battle School who is Muslim) and the other kids. I have friends who would disagree, but that’s how I se it. With the adjustments you have to make to shorten a novel into a movie, I can see that bit of characterization for Mazer being ignored completely. It’s referenced once, as a foil to the Jewish military leaders he out-thought in the second Bugger invasion, and wasn’t mentioned again.
I can understand that Ender’s Game is probably very close to Card’s heart. Ender was based partially on his son Geoffrey, and the book still stands as one of his finest works. I reread Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead all the time, and they hold up well. That it is happening now is probably a testament to him finally letting go a bit, and wanting to see the movie done while people still want to see it. Helps that the tech is finally there to do the battle room and command school justice.
Uncle Orson, I hope you can come to grips with whatever casting and story decisions are made, and judge the movie based on it’s merits. The movie will be it’s own thing. I’d hate to see bitterness in the decisions made cloud the joy of seeing something you created on the big screen. Your book will always exist and be the first one picked up from my shelf when I want to read something good. Let the process play out, see the result, and judge. And like the friends I mentioned, I hope you got a dump truck full of cash in return for the stress this is causing.