It was a long week of spilling all the beans on my visit to the set of Ender’s Game last year and I definitely think all that word spewing burnt me out. I’ve still got one last report and you can bet the best has been saved for last. Or rather, the best for me.
Not that meeting everyone else wasn’t just flat out amazing, but keep in mind we were at the end of a full day on set. They were going to stick us back in the van and take us back to the hotel. I was looking around for something to tie myself down to so that I could insist that I had to stay longer.
Then they announce that Sir Ben Kingsley is willing to give us ten minutes of his time between scenes. They led us to a some dark formic room on the Eros set that had already had the lights removed. It was stifling in there and we simply waited for him to arrive. I suddenly found myself suffering from some weird kind of anxious terror. What in the heck do you ask a knighted actor you’ve seen in movies all your life?
After a while, footsteps echoed down the hall and suddenly Mazer Rackham walked into the room. Now, we’d already seen a photo of Sir Ben Kingsley in his Maori tā moko makeup, but for some reason I was expecting just the actor. So when he walked into the room in full makeup and costume, I went from anxious terror to dizzying terror.
He sat down on a stool and in a really weird moment, we suddenly all swarmed around him, recorders in hand.
“So your tattoo must have hurt really bad.” joked a woman in our group.
“That’s right! Agony, yeah.” he said, playing along. I asked him how long it takes to put on. “It takes an hour and a half. I sit very still.”
Though we only talked to him for a brief four minutes, Kingsley seemed to have a great appreciation for science fiction, which is perhaps why he went on to star in Our Robot Overlords. “Very often, bad science fiction is completely locked into the present; they have no perception–who could?–of the future. It takes a great imagination to transcend the limits of what we know.”
Since he’d worked with Asa Butterfield previously on Hugo, we asked what it was like working with him again and whether he’d changed, other than the obvious six-inch growth spurt. “We have a very good working relationship. Very good. He’s pure, he’s simple, he’s uncluttered. He’s highly intelligent and there’s no wasted time on the set with Asa. It’s a great relationship.”
As for whether he ever gives Butterfield any advice, he assured us they never give each other advice. Instead, they work and learn from each other through osmosis. “The wonderful thing about making a film is that it’s collaborative, and if you are alert to what’s around you. You will learn, and you’ll probably teach.”
When I asked him what impressed him the most about the project, he had an interesting answer. It was collaboration between all the different departments that impressed him the most. “To see it all being coordinated is a great sight.”
I feel I should note that this question I asked him became one of the most memorable parts of my time on set. I don’t know if it was because he was still slightly in character, having just walked off the set, but when he spoke to me he locked eye contact with me and I felt like he was somehow staring into my soul. I felt paralyzed until he looked at someone else. He simply looked that intense.
Earlier in the year, Kingsley had starred opposite another Hugo co-star Sacha Baron Cohen in The Dictator, which is a decidedly different type of role for an Academy Award-winning actor. When asked what makes him choose such vastly differing roles, he simply told us that change is good. “[It's] one of the most exciting things about my life. Every day’s different, every role’s different, every director’s different, every script is different. So if you’re blessed, it’s going to be a bonus in that part of your life. Some actors tend to play the same role over and over again–and they’re very good at it. But I’ve been really fortunate. It’s great to change.”
Before we knew it, he was whisked away to resume filming, but not without a few parting words. “Lovely to meet you all! I really hope you enjoy the movie when it comes out. Thanks for your enthusiasm. Spread the word!”
And that was something we were all more than happy to do.
This concludes EnderWiggin.net’s ‘Straight from the Set’ reports. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading all about our time on the Ender’s Game set!