Asa Butterfield says he learned a lot while starring in Ender’s Game, and not just about acting.
The 16-year-old actor, who plays a teenager named Ender handpicked to take on an alien race of mutant insects called Buggers, said the research and training he put into the role gave him a glimpse of what real conflict looks like around the globe.
“It’s made me a lot more aware of what goes on in society and especially things about leadership and children and warfare,” Butterfield said. “How it’s happening around the world, [even if] we may not like to accept that it’s happening. This film attacks it in a slightly different way, but it still allows you to think about it.”
There is a good reason the film touches on these topics. Ender’s Game is based on a 1985 novel by famed science fiction writer Orson Scott Card, one that uses interstellar conflict as a metaphor for the hostilities that exist between nations and their “foreign” enemies. The novel was ahead of its time, predicting the impact automation and video games would have on warfare and the introduction of weapons like attack drones.
“There’s no easy answer for any of these things because it’s not black and white,” he said. “We’ve always trained young people because young people make our best soldiers. They are the fittest. It’s always been the business of war to raise soldiers from the youngest members of society, but it’s a moral issue worth thinking about.”
It is a theme Asa Butterfield is quite familiar with through his work. In 2008 he starred as Bruno in the drama The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, where the brutality of the Holocaust was seen through the eyes of an 8-year-old boy who befriends a Jewish prisoner.
For Asa Butterfield, the role in Ender’s Game is the next step in an acting career that started when he was just 7. Butterfield was working in an after-school program at the Young Actors Theatre when he was discovered by a casting director. Not long afterward he was picked to star in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.
Despite an ascending career and a potential blockbuster, Asa said he tries to lead a normal life outside of his acting.
“I’m really like any other 16-year-old back at home,” said Butterfield, who still attends school.
Asa Butterfield can be seen in Ender’s Game, which will be released on Friday.