If you're not familiar with Asa Butterfield just yet, don't worry: you will be soon enough. Previously seen in 'The Wolfman,' 'Son of Rambow,' and 'The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,' Butterfield (above left) plays the titular Hugo in Martin Scorsese's just released children's movie 'Hugo,' a orphan living inside the Paris train station. Plus, if casting notices are to be believed, he's been offered the lead role in the highly anticipated adaptation of 'Ender's Game' that Summit Entertainment -- the studio that brought you 'Twilight' -- is planning for 2013. Not bad for a 14-year-old boy from London.
Butterfield came to 'Hugo' like dozens of other young hopeful stars. "There were loads of kids up for the part," he told Moviefone on Sunday afternoon at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Manhattan. "First, I sent off two tapes to the casting director. Then I sent off one to Marty to see personally. When he filtered it down to the last two people up for the role, he flew us out to New York and we had to perform in front of him for the chemistry read. A couple of days later, I found out I got the part. It was incredible."
Of course, earning the coveted role of Hugo brought about its own problems. For starters, a lack of familiarity with Scorsese, one of the all-time great directors. "When I first started auditioning, I knew of his films but I didn't know of him," Butterfield said. "After the first audition, I started watching some of his films -- that I was allowed to watch -- because most of his films were for adults. I saw 'The Aviator,' 'King of Comedy,' 'Shutter Island.'"
The brief tour through Scorsese's oeuvre was worth it, especially once filming began. "I could see ways that he brought things from other films into 'Hugo,'" Butterfield recalled. "He used all of his years of directing expertise and brought them into 'Hugo.' And when you watch, it looks amazing."
Lots of that has to do with the way Scorsese uses 3D; 'Hugo' is certainly one of the best 3D filmgoing experiences of the entire year, and even James Cameron praised Scorsese for his quick adaptation to the format. "It's absolutely the best 3D photography that I've seen," Cameron recently said. Butterfield would tend to agree.
"I like 3D in movies, but the way Marty has done it in this is incredible," Butterfield said, familiar enough with his director to call him "Marty." "It's not gimmicky with things jumping out at you -- pushing the audience away. He's used all the smoke and practical effects to bring the audience in. It adds a whole new layer."
In the film, Butterfield shares most of his screentime with fellow rising star Chloe Moretz, as well as Sir Ben Kingsley, who plays Papa Georges, the owner of a toy shop in the train station that hides a secret past -- and a connection with Hugo himself. Kingsley -- an Oscar winner -- went method on the set of 'Hugo,' staying in character throughout the arduous eight-and-a-half month shoot. For Butterfield, that wasn't an issue. "Sir Ben was one of the most inspirational actors I've worked with. He gave me loads of tips, loads of advice. We really fed off each other."
The lengthy shoot, however, was a trial. "It was very long. Very long, very trying, very repetitive. I was a bit fed up with it by the end of it," Butterfield said, before quickly adding. "But, you're in a Martin Scorsese film, so it's great. The whole experience was unbelievable and fun, but it was tiring and long. We were filming in a boiling hot studio for eight-and-a-half months."
Whether 'Ender's Game,' an adaptation of Orson Scott Card's award-winning science fiction novel, takes quite as long remains to be seen. If it does, though, Butterfield probably won't mind.
"Nothing's been confirmed, but it's something I'm quite excited about," he said when asked about the news that he was offered the film last week. "It's very exciting. I love the book. I've been doing a lot of serious films, it'll be good to do something relaxing and great fun, which 'Ender's Game' is."
'Hugo' is in theaters now.
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