A: The real problem with adapting the book to screenplay has always been that screen is terrible at getting inside people’s heads. Everything that makes you understand Ender and makes you care about him depends on being inside his head. If you just see what he does and you don’t understand what he’s thinking, he’s just this incredibly scary, violent, dangerous kid. I couldn’t have Ender become suddenly talky about what he’s doing. But I can give him a rival who then becomes a friend. And what that is — that’s the plot of a buddy movie. And Hollywood knows how to make buddy movies.
Q: This year saw the announcement of an Ender’s Game video game as well as a Marvel comic. Why the sudden resurgence?
A: It actually took an incredibly short amount of time once we’d detached the rights from the movie. The movie people always want to control the rights. But I don’t need the movie to sell the comic book. The book sells the comic book, and the comic book sells itself because it’s a great comic. The bonus is that the comic is a visualization, so the people in the studios who don’t know how to read scripts — which is most of them — are seeing pictures and know how it can be done.
Q: You also worked with Marvel on your Ultimate Iron Man series. Why did you choose that title?
A: I really hate superhero comics. Then Marvel comes to me with this character, and when they told me what it was I said, “Wow, that is even dumber than most superhero comics.” This guy is the head of a multi-million dollar international corporation — that’s a full-time job. He is also a scientist-inventor-engineer — that’s a full-time job. And he wears a suit and goes out and save people? But then I found out I could give him a childhood — that’s what I do. So that worked for me. I literally can’t write a story I don’t believe in. I sit there staring at the screen and nothing happens. I have to wait until I believe in it.
Q: You wrote the novelization for James Cameron’s The Abyss. What did you learn from that experience?
A: Actually, what helped me was seeing how The Abyss was deformed by the studio. We had a terrific director at the top of his form bringing in a movie that was going to be too long. And because of the way that Hollywood works, that meant he had to either cut it himself or let them cut it. You can start with a great script, a really talented director who has enormous clout and still get a really bad ending. So what I realized was, I’m glad a novelist. Because when I say a book is done, it’s done.