Harrison Ford returns to space in ‘Ender’s Game’

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BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF. — Chicago native Harrison Ford grinned widely when I  joked about his “return to space” in “Ender’s Game,” the big-budget film based on Orson Scott Card’s futuristic sci-fi novel about genius children being trained to combat a long-anticipated alien invasion. “Yes, but this was very different from ‘Star Wars,’ and I’m a lot different now, from when I played Han Solo,” said Ford during a recent chat in Los Angeles.

In “Ender’s Game,” Ford plays Col. Hyrum Graff, the military mastermind and mentor to the title character, portrayed in the film by Asa Butterfield.

Q: At times in watching your character, Graff, it’s hard to tell if you’re a good guy or a bad guy. Assume that was a strong appeal for you — the mysterious aspect?

A:  Yes. I liked that. The fun part was the complicated relationship between the character I play and Asa Butterfield’s — Ender Wiggin. My character — Hyrum Graff — is manipulative and yet very caring about Ender and the other kids. He has to train them to save the world from this expected alien invasion. He truly feels he has the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Of course, in the real world, soldiers are very young — though not as young as the kids in ‘Ender’s Game.’ But this story — both the film and the book it’s based on — makes us very aware that it’s not old men, but very young men, and women, who are called upon to fight our wars and frequently die at such tragically young ages while doing it.

Q: When reading the book, I was curious how it would translate to the big screen. What do you think was important to make that work?

A:  In the book a lot of it is in young Ender’s head. So making the choices to create dramatic opportunities to translate those thoughts into a form that would open it all up was key. They did it. Plus, the visual elements in this film are strikingly realized.

Q: “Ender’s Game” is entertaining, but also clearly delivers a message about life and community. What is the secret to making an entertaining film that educates without preaching?

A: Movies can’t be a sermon — they’ve got to be an experience. One of the things I look for when I’m choosing a role is a certain emotional content that I hope the audience will feel. That’s important because if the audience is simply watching a movie — rather than participating in it —  you lose an opportunity to have them experience something special.

Q: Are you a big fan of science fiction?

A: Genre doesn’t mean that much to me. The best thing about sci-fi in my mind is you have this opportunity to go beyond the gritty world we live in and you can exercise your imagination — which is great. I think it’s especially great if it’s a unique vision of the future — which I think we have here.

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