Gig Pritzker on the set of “Ender’s Game”
Chicagoan Gigi Pritzker, who has carved out a major role in Hollywood as a film producer, is seeing her most ambitious movie yet — “Ender’s Game” — finally coming to theaters nationwide Friday. Based on Orson Scott Card’s bestselling novel — after Pritzker got the rights to the book — it took her 15 years to bring the project to completion on the big screen.
Having produced a wide range of films like “Rabbit Hole,” “Drive” and this past summer’s “The Way Way Back” — “Ender’s Game” and it’s approximately $110 million budget — makes it one of the largest independent films ever made, and clearly the biggest so far for Pritzker and her partners.
Recently, the Lake View resident sat down to chat about her experiences making “Ender’s Game.”
Q: How did you get involved?
A: That is a very long story. But basically, nobody had been able to crack it. They had tried for years [to turn the book into a movie]. I first heard about it thanks to my nephew, David Pritzker — who read it at [Chicago’s Frances] Parker [School].
To give you some idea of how long it’s been. David was in the 8th grade. He’s now just had a baby and he’s getting his PhD at Oxford!
Yeah, it was a good idea, but it was not easy to get made.
Q: The idea of producing a film seems overwhelming in many ways. Why do you like to do it? How do you approach it?
A: People often say to me, ‘Don’t you want to direct?’ I don’t, because you have to focus so much. With my ADD, producing is the perfect job for me — I love constantly going off in all directions and becoming involved in multiple projects every day. There’s no typical day. You’re constantly on your toes. The set is my favorite place to be, because you’re constantly solving problems. I love to help people resolve problems to get to a good place.
Q: Of all the aspects of producing, what’s the most important for you?
A: The reason I do what I do is because of story — I’m totally story-driven. There is absolutely nothing that ties all the films I’ve done together except story. For example ‘Drive’ or ‘Rabbit Hole’ — are so very different. But they are both about real people in real situations, dealing with real problems in their lives.
Even in “Ender’s Game” — yes, Ender Wiggin is in space, but he’s dealing with real issues of bullying, of leadership and dealing with pressure.
Q: What are some of the things you remember most from making “Ender’s Game”?
A: Well, one highlight was when we arrived on the set outside of New Orleans. We shot in this enormous NASA facility — simply gigantic. It set quite a mood for a film that takes place in space. As you drive in you go past a piece of the Challenger. … You realize, you’re actually in a place where they built rocket ships. It made for an added element of emotional resonance that I know affected the entire cast and crew.
Q: As a producer, you obviously are involved in the casting process. Talk about casting Asa Butterfield in the title role.
A: We looked everywhere for kids. Asa’s character in particular. We initially thought about finding a kid nobody knew before, but then it became so obvious that Asa was the right choice. We had all seen ‘Hugo.’ At 14 [at the time of filming] he was a true professional — so incredibly mature. As Gavin [Hood, the director] says, ‘You can’t act intelligence behind your eyes. That’s not acting. You either have it, or you don’t.’ Asa has that in spades.
As the producer — when you’re hiring kids — you also interview the parents, because you are going to live with those people for seven months — in very intense situations. Asa’s parents are as awesome as he is.