When we caught up with the extremely articulate Asa Butterfied, the young star had yet to be cast as the lead in the highly anticipated sci-fi adaptaion, Ender’s Game. Back then, he was merely the star of Martin Scorsese’s dazzling 3D fable, Hugo, currently in theaters. Expect big things from this kid. Here he is on relating to his characters, bonding with costar Chloe Moretz, and learning about film from the master.
You’ve already worked with so many great actors from Emma Thompson to Anthony Hopkins, and now Scorsese. How does that feel for someone still quite young?
Honestly, I really don’t think about it. Quite a few of those names I hadn’t even heard of when I first worked with them, Marty for example. It was only other peoples reactions that alerted me to just what big a deal it was. And the brilliant people I have worked with have just wanted to be helpful and are really good fun. And after the first day of filming, you don’t think about them as celebrities, just as friends.
How did you get involved with Hugo?
There were a couple of auditions for Hugo, which were in London but the last audition was when I flew out to meet Marty and work with him and the two possible Isabelles, one of which was Chloe of course. Within a day or so of getting back to London I heard that I got the part, it was an amazing feeling. Hugo’s character is similar and different to all the other characters I’ve played. Similar in the sense that he is innocent and is unaware of the harshness of the world, but different in the sense that he is more mature than the other characters I’ve played, and knows what consequences his actions will lead to.
How did you relate to Hugo?
Because Hugo’s life was so different to mine, I couldn’t really relate to him through experiences. I had to come up with ideas of what his life would have been like and imagine how that would affect his emotions and the things he did. I don’t think I’m like Hugo particularly. I mean we’re both boys and the same sort of age. I suppose I’m like him in that Hugo is adventurous and wants to learn more about the world than what’s in front of him. I like to think I’m like that too, and being an actor does give me the opportunity to do and see things I wouldn’t otherwise be able to. Come to think of it, I’m also like Hugo in that he can be on his own. I would hate to be always on my own, but sometimes it’s good just to sit and read or paint and make models.
What was the filming process like? Was it a really physical shoot?
There were a lot of emotional scenes and a lot of physical scenes but all of it was a great experience. There were lots of times when I was being chased by the Station Inspector and his dog, we would often do lots of takes and different camera angles so it was very tiring by the end of it, but it was great fun. There are also a few scenes where I had to be in a harness, these were great as in-between takes I could fly around the set.
How was Scorsese as a director?
Marty really is an amazing director. I know that’s an obvious thing to say but the way he set up shots and the detail that he attends to is quite something. I could see that early on when watching bits of playback in his tent. And now I’ve seen the film I can see how that attention to detail has really paid off – it’s so beautiful. He’s not a director that tells you to do it in a particular way, instead he suggests different ways and he was always so encouraging. This lets you come up with your own ideas of how to play the scene and that in turn affects the other actors performances. The other thing I’ve come away with is a real appreciation of film. All through shooting, he’d suggest films for me to watch. I’m now really in to Kurosawa, and before I met Marty I’d never heard of him. Marty also shared with me some of the early films he enjoyed as a boy and young man, I’ve got to see some of them now and can see what inspired him to be the great film maker that he is.
How was it working with Chloe Moretz?
Working with Chloe was great, because were both the same age we got on really well and had a good time working with each other. As she is more experienced in the industry she gave me lots of tips throughout filming. Although she is American, her British accent was amazing so I wasn’t distracted by it.
Do you have any dream roles?
I’m looking forward to playing characters that have a bit more world experience. I do have a dream role, so if anyone wants to make ‘Young Bond’, I’m your guy.