PR Interviews for Hugo out on DVD & Blu-ray Feb 28
Paramount Home Entertainment
Interviews with Martin Scorsese, Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz and Ben Kingsley that were completed for the DVD/Blu-ray release of Hugo
Interviews with Martin Scorsese, Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz and Ben Kingsley that were completed for the DVD/Blu-ray release of Hugo, which will be released on 2/28.
Q: You Faced So Many Challenges Making Hugo. It Was The First Time In Your Illustrious Career You Shot A Movie In 3D, The Sets Were Complex, Two Of The Leads Were Young Actors And There Were So Many Other Complexities. The Question Is ... Was The Experience Fun Or A Headache?
A: It was a lot of fun and yes it was a headache (laughs). But it was a really enjoyable headache. (Cinematographer) Bob (Richardson), (production designer) Dante (Ferretti), (editor) Thelma (Schoonmaker) and (original music) Howard (Shore) could all tell you it was a discovery with each shot. Each sense of designing the picture and every facet of it was really a re-thinking about how to make pictures. Of course, that's with the element of 3D, but also the re-creation of a boy's memory of where he was in the past and how you create a sense of heightened impression of Paris in 1929 -1930. All of this was built together in many different facets. It was arduous, but a great deal of fun.
Q: You have achieved so much. Why put yourself through the stress of such a big film shot in 3D?
A: As tough as it was sometimes, I thought it would be fun to go back to square one. I wanted to test the boundaries and see how far we could go. I loved the possibility of using depth. 3D is exciting. It also demands respect. The truth is I have always been excited by 3D and I felt Hugo was a perfect opportunity to explore 3D. Sometimes it was restrictive. Depth became very important and every shot changed. We had to place actors in different spots. The actors' performances had to be different. We needed things in the foreground and things in the background. It was difficult, particularly in the first few weeks, but after a while we got into our groove and 3D is a wonderful tool to tell a story.
Q: It seems Hugo is the perfect movie for you. It is a magical story and journey, but also, as a lover of film history, it delves into the first motion pictures made by the great French filmmaker Georges Melies which must have excited you. Can you talk about how you became attached to the project?
A: When I received the material from (producer) Graham King my wife read it. She loved it and gave it to me and I read it. It was from a beautiful book by Brian Selznick. It was a graphic novel in a sense from the look of it. But, also I have a young daughter. I guess it was two trains running in a way. I was with my daughter every day and I just began to see things differently and perceive life or the world around one in a child's view as it changes and the imagination of a child, the creativity of a child, but also a child's thoughts and storytelling. So, it just seemed to be a very happy coincidence that this story, and also the fact that this story resolves itself, through the device of motion pictures. Graham King said 'Marty this is you. You have to do it'. It all came together.
Q: Can you talk a little more about your experience reading Brian Selznick's book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, for the first time.
A: I had one of those experiences you often hear about. I was given the book about four years ago and sat down and read it completely in one sitting. I immediately connected to the story. When I was reading I didn't realize the man in the toy store would be Georges Melies. Then I discovered it was a true story. He worked in the toy store for 16 years because he was broke and someone did discover him.
Q: What in the book spoke loudest to you?
A: I loved the idea of seeing the world through a boy's eyes. Hugo is 12-years-old. I was particularly drawn to him because he is a vulnerable child. The boy was living alone in an attic type place in a train station - one of the biggest train stations in Paris. It had the atmosphere of a giant engine. The attic is filled with clocks and a big window that looks over Paris. I loved that.
Q: Can you provide a quick summary of the film?
A: The boy's father dies, he is alone, but he has the automaton that is broken down. It lacks some covering and you can see the gears and flight wheels inside. He meets Georges Melies and a little girl, Isabelle, who is Melies' goddaughter. She helps him find the answer to everything. But we also learn about the origins of film. I didn't realize there are generations who do not know about the origins of film. I love the fact young people may learn about this.
Q: When you agreed to do Hugo, who among your collaborators did you contact first? Do you go to Dante and say 'How do we do this?'
A: I think I did. Yes, I think we went to Dante. Then the film was cancelled (laughs). I wanted it (the look of the film) to be the boy's memory of Paris in 1931 so it doesn't have to accurate. It has to be heightened, but it shouldn't be fantasy. So I was thinking about the surrealist films of the 1920s that they made there - Rene Clair's Le Million, but particularly Under the Roofs of Paris and A nous la liberate and the beautiful Jean Vigo films Zero de Conduite and L'Atalante. That whole school of filmmaking of the time is what we really embraced. Apparently Brian Selznick too, in the book, used the references including The 400 Blows (by Francois Truffaut).
Q: Can you talk about 3D and its place in filmmaking. 3D has its supporters and critics, just like Technicolor had its supporters and critics?
A: The first time images started to move, immediately people wanted color, sound, a big screen and depth and that's just what we're doing now. Ultimately it took until 1935 to get the three strip Technicolor process working right and even then, from 1935 to 1960 or so, color was only deemed proper, or appropriate, for musicals, comedies and westerns. No serious, quote-unquote, films. Until finally in 1967, 68 or 69 or just about the time the color started to fade, that's when every film had to be made in color. I remember doing Raging Bull in 1979 and the studio was reluctant to do it in black and white. Irwin Winkler pointed it out to them every picture made in the 1970s in black and white had been a hit - Paper Moon, The Last Picture Show and Lenny - so they relented. You have to understand that is a mindset against color because there were so many attempts at color from 1895 . They were all hand tinted and painted. There were so many attempts and the audience always said 'It wasn't realistic enough. The skin tones are wrong. Everything is orange. Everything is blue' until finally they got it right. For me, 3D is just another element to tell a story. As I'm sitting here now, I'm seeing you in 3D. Most people have stereo vision, so why belittle that very, very important element of our existence? There's got to be, for all of our technical expertise, a comfortable way of dealing with it. The cameras are certainly getting smaller. The cameras are getting more flexible. The issue with glasses? No glasses. That's being worked on. Why not use it?
Q: Where do you see the next big change in filmmaking?
A: If everything moves along and there are no major catastrophes we're basically headed towards holograms. Why can't you have 3D Hamlet? He comes out to the audience and does 'To be or not to be?' I mean, they do in the theater. The actor walks right out into the centre. Why can't you have it in a movie theatre? You have to think that way. Don't let the economics and fashion inhibit you if you're being creative.
Q: You have some great actors in the film - Sir Ben Kingsley, Ray Winstone, Emily Mortimer, Christopher Lee and Jude Law and the youngsters Asa Butterfield and Chloe Grace Moretz. Probably the most interesting casting choice was Sacha Baron Cohen as the train station inspector. Can you talk about that?
A: The station inspector's job is to question any kid in the train station who looks like a street urchin. If they have no family, they go to an orphanage. I asked Brian Selznick if we could open up the part because I didn't want him to just be a villain who is chasing after the boy. I wanted to bring more layers to the character and that's why I wanted to work with Sacha Baron Cohen. I know he would bring more layers to it.
SIR BEN KINGSLEY
Q: Hi Sir Ben. Before you received the script for Hugo were you aware of the character you play, the trailblazing French filmmaker Georges Melies?
A: I knew a little bit because as a schoolboy I was lucky enough to have a film society at my school that explored the early days of cinema. We saw Sergei Eisenstein, Fritz Lang and other extraordinary filmmakers. We saw glimpses of Melies. I was convinced I saw A Trip to the Moon before I read the screenplay and the novel and walked on to the film set. So, a little bit I did know. I found it beautiful because he seems to have entered the psyche, all of us felt we recognized Georges Melies' work. There's an odd familiarity about his work so I think his presence was absolutely in my conscience before we started filming.
Q: Hugo is your second film with Martin Scorsese. The first being Shutter Island. What is it like working with him?
A: I find his level to attention to what I am doing between 'action' and 'cut' is absolutely extraordinary. He will see absolutely every fragment of what you are offering to the screen. Way before he sees the rushes with Thelma (Schoonmaker) his brilliant editor, he remembers take after take exactly what you did. He knows the tilt of your voice, what wash of fear or joy colored you expression. He always treats his actors as equals. He never patronizes you. He is firm and loving. You never have to go around to the director and say 'Did you like that?' You never need to worry.
Q: What was it like for you to shoot Hugo in 3D? Did it change your approach as an actor?
A: The 3D camera doesn't like acting. It loves behavior. It forced an economy on us. You can't show off in 3D. You have to be modestly inside your character. Between the 3D and Marty, that combination won't miss anything.
Q: Hugo has been described as a magical cinematic experience. Would you agree?
A: Yes. I would say it reminds an adult audience of what it was like to see the world through a child's eyes. That is an extraordinary achievement not only from Marty's direction, but also the camera work, the 3D, the lighting, the sets make a period film look brand new. Everything is shined and polished with a newness. It's an experience I think you haven't felt since you were a child. Asa (Butterfield) is really the camera. Marty uses the eyes of the young people in the film so we are able to experience the beauty and potential of life. The kids are healers in this film.
Q: Hugo is mesmerized when he watches his first film. What was your first movie experience?
A: I saw it at the cinema. It was the black and white film Never Take No for an Answer. It was filmed in Italy and is about a little boy and a donkey. The boy is an orphan, just like Asa's character. The donkey is the taxi, the tractor, carter, the mover of the whole village. The donkey gets very sick and the boy has to go all the way to Rome to get a special letter from the Pope to get the donkey into St Francis' Chapel. That is basically the film. I was in floods of tears at the end of the film. I looked just like the little Italian boy in the film and so much so the theatre owner lifted me up above the crowd and said 'This little bambino!'. That was my first experience. It was a magnificent adventure and beautiful film for everybody filmed through the eyes of a boy, so with Hugo, I feel I have come full circle.
Q: Was that also the first time you decided you wanted to be an actor?
A: Absolutely. I was so moved by the story and identified with the boy, I knew I had to be part of storytelling.
Q: There are many messages in Hugo. One is the importance of preserving film.
A: Yes. Implicit in this film is how important it is to rescue our culture. Cinema is an amazing record of how we got here. If you watch a film like Breakfast at Tiffany's you see the politics of that era. You see how men related to women in that era. Films document our journey. To have films destroyed or lost forever is shocking. All of the black and white footage on my Dad's 16mm camera of me growing up from a baby to 24 or 25-years-old, my mother destroyed it all. It was miles and miles of my history. It was the social history of Indians at that time. It's all gone. I have personally experienced that loss from my own childhood. For Marty to be restoring films and for Georges' film's to be restored, it is very, very important. It is more than just saving movies. It is about saving our history. How we got here.
Q: You are such an accomplished actor, but is it possible for you to learn from young actors like Asa and Chloe?
A: Absolutely. Oh yes. It is very exciting to be with those who are taking baby steps. Martin Scorsese was taking baby steps as a 3D director and Asa and Chloe were taking early steps as actors. Their intuition and truth and uninterruptible honesty is yet to be bashed out of them and when you are in a scene with them, you have to respond to them. It is a duet. The song they are singing I have to join in. It is so honest and so truthful. I learned and was reminded of a huge amount. I love working with young actors.
Q: Did you spend a lot of time with Chloe?
A: I did. Although we did not have a lot of scenes together, but we had a very strong relationship because we had a lot of conversations about our characters. I remember we spoke about how disturbing it must be for Isabelle to see Georges cry because he is her rock. For a child, that can be disturbing. It was a very interesting conversation.
Q: Martin Scorsese and his team put a lot of effort into recreating the films that Georges Melies made and you really ham it up in those scenes. What was that like?
A: Fortunately, thanks to Marty I saw the original footage so I knew Georges' body language when he was the actor, director, choreographer, composer, writer, magician and all of those things. Thanks to Marty's love of all film, he knew where to guide me and what to watch. I watched lots of footage. I'm also fascinated by body language, so I really enjoyed replicating it. In those days the gestures were derived from theater and theaters in those days were gaslit, rather dark and very big so gestures had to be huge in order for them to be seen. That carried over to the early days of cinema where it was very demonstrative.
Q: Your character in the film is a broken man. Have you ever felt broken in your own life?
A: I have died many times (laughs). I have experienced a second, third and fourth chance. Many chances. What is stunning and gives this film lasting resonance is it is an ancient myth of a broken soul being guided back into life by the hands of a child. There are four hands of children in this film and they are profound. It is an extraordinary gesture to be seen in a 21st Century film in 3D because you have ancient, beautiful healing mythology.
Q: Georges Milies says 'Only happy endings come in movies'. Do you agree with that?
A: He is actually contradicted by the film. We have a man who has given up life, but is guided back by a child. I do not believe happy endings only happen in movies. I also like sad endings in movies because it is a movie. You can walk away, have a good cry and a gin and tonic and you are right. It is a movie. I honestly believe the outlawing of tragedy from the screen is very, very dangerous. That's why children are told stories every night before they go to sleep. It is a form of healing and a form of education and a form of preparing your children for the world. That's why Grimm's fairytales are terrifying. In the Victorian era they changed the ending Romeo and Juliet and King Lear. Romeo married Juliet and Edgar married Cordelia and nobody died. It didn't catch on. We need in stories the kick of tragedy. It makes us appreciate life. If we sugarcoat everything it is absurd. There are dark moments in this film. Hugo does cry his heart out. He is frightened, desperate and lonely. We all go through dark periods during the movie. It was very brave of Marty to say 'No, it's not all popcorn boys and girls. It has to get dark before it gets lighter'. If there was no dark area in the film, our hero would have nothing to rescue. My character Georges has to be rescued.
Q: Hi Chloe. Thanks so much for spending some time with me. I was looking at the schedule of films you have coming out and you are super busy. I'm glad you can fit me in.
A: Yes, it's true (laughs). I'm, busy, but that's great, right?
Q: It is and talking about great … Hugo is such an amazing film. The sets looked amazing. Were they as amazing in real life as what they appeared to be for the audience watching the movie.
A: Definitely. The sets were huge. Absolutely gigantic. They are bigger than the Harry Potter sets. It was two stages and they built an entire train station on the two stages. I can't tell you how beautiful it was. There was just so much detail.
Q: Martin Scorsese is one of the great directors. Was it intimidating for you when your first met him and, I guess, every day when you were on the set working with him?
A: I remember when I was in the waiting room before I went in to audition for the role. I was really scared. Not only because I was auditioning for Martin Scorsese, but because I was trying not to mess up an accent in front of Martin Scorsese. I was intimidated until I walked in and said 'Nice to meet you Mr Scorsese' and he said 'Oh, call me Marty, kid'. Never again are you intimated by him. He's like a father. He is the best friend and director you can have. He makes the set so relaxed and natural.
Q: That's great.
A: Yeah, he's such a sweetheart. He makes you feel so close.
Q: Do you sometimes pinch yourself just to check your experiences are real? You're 14-years-old. You're working with Martin Scorsese and other great filmmakers.
A: Yeah. Ever since Kick-Ass I have been pinching myself trying to make sure I remember where I came from. It is a really special experience to work with Martin Scorsese and then go and work with Tim Burton (Dark Shadows).
Q: Your character in Kick-Ass was hilarious. Of course, she swears like a sailor. When fans of the movie see you out in public do they ask you to swear? They shouldn't because you are just 14.
A: Yeah. That's the thing. They forget I'm only 14. I tell them I'm 14 but they say 'Come on! Say the word!' I'm like, that's my character. That's not me. How old do you think I am? 20? No.
Q: You mentioned earlier about your accent in Hugo. You are from Atlanta, but in Hugo you play Isabelle who has an English accent. Was it hard to pull off the accent?
A: I worked really hard with my brother on that. It was just me and my brother.
Q: You have actually spent a lot of time in England.
A: I shot Kick-Ass, Hugo and Dark Shadows there.
Q: So, you are basically an Englishwoman now.
A: Yeah, I've lived there for about two years. I have a huge friend group out there. They are the most amazing people. I love them.
Q: You are really active on Twitter. Why is that?
A: I think Twitter is a very important tool because it not only allows you to be close to your fans, but it is also good for your movies. You can put the name of the movie out there. When I'm nominated for something like a People's Choice Award it's good to let people know that I'm thankful that they voted for me.
Q: What was the best part about playing Isabelle in Hugo?
A: The best part was the British accent. Also, it allowed me to cut my hair off. That made it special because I wasn't Chloe. I was Isabelle when I cut my hair.
Q: In the movie Hugo is amazed when he sees his first film. What was your the first movie you can remember watching?
A: My mother is obsessed with Audrey Hepburn as much as I am so the first movie I saw was Breakfast at Tiffanys. I was probably five or six so didn't understand it that much, but I do remember seeing this magnificent woman on the screen. I just fell in love with her. I thought 'Oh my gosh. I don't know what that is, but that's what I want to do'. That's why I love the character of Isabelle so much. The character is a lot like an Audrey Hepburn character.
Q: In what way?
A: She's sweet and young, but at the same time she is full of adventure. She wants to go out and live life with Hugo. I think the movie is special because it is about these two kids who come together, grow and need each other. I think everyone in the movie fits together like the clocks, like Emily and Sacha's characters. We all need each other.
Q: Hugo also gave you the opportunity to work with Sir Ben Kingsley. What is he like?
A: Working with Sir Ben was absolutely phenomenal. Our characters had an interesting relationship. We had a conversation about their relationship and how she really looks up to him. She doesn't have a father or mother and she has to have her rock. Acting is reacting and Sir Ben gives you so much to react to. His eyes said so much to me.
Q: One of the great scenes in Hugo is when Isabelle sees Sir Ben's character, Georges, break down.
A: Yeah. She realizes the man she always looked up to and relied on was a human too. Kids look at their parents as if they are on a pedestal, but to see them cry it makes you realize they are people.
Q: Hey Asa. As an audience member Hugo was a fun and magical movie to watch. What was it like to be the star because you were in almost every scene?
A: It was great, but it was also a lot of hard work. It was tiring. Long hours, but it was an amazing education for me. The backbone of the film is about old cinema and I didn't know a lot about it before we made the movie.
Q: So making Hugo was a bit like a film history class?
A: Yeah. The most amazing film class possible (laughs). When we began rehearsals I watched a lot of Georges Melies' films, but I didn't know who he was. But when we started shooting the film I looked into it further. I also looked at a lot of other great early filmmakers. I discovered so much.
Q: What's an example?
A: Just about how filmmakers like Georges Melies have had an impact on the filmmakers that have followed through history. Georges Melies was also the creator of special effects.
Q: Can you explain who your character, Hugo, is?
A: Sure. Hugo is an orphan and lives inside the walls of the Paris train station. His life has been so harsh and he has had to grow up so much faster than anyone his own age should. His father gave him a machine - an automaton - which he is trying to fix. He meets Georges Melies, but does not know his background as a filmmaker. The story is about how Hugo, Georges, Isabelle and the automaton's stories entwine.
Q: Hugo is always dirty. He is covered in grime. Is that make-up or did you roll around in the dirt for an hour before you shot each scene?
A: (Laughs) That was make-up. Don't worry.
Q: Just as Hugo has to grow up quickly, you have had to grow up quickly. I guess after The Boy in the Striped Pajamas was released in 2008 your life changed.
A: Yeah. My life completely changed. It was the turning point. After that I thought acting could be a career opportunity and it was only then I found my passion for acting.
Q: Were you nervous when you first met with Martin Scorsese?
A: Yeah. I flew to New York but once I met him he calmed my nerves. He was so nice to me. You see his other films and you realize what he is doing is bringing all of this immense experience into Hugo. He is not using the 3D as a gimmick where things jump out at you, with Marty everything goes inward and sucks the audience in. It adds a while new layer to the story.
Q: Personally, what was it like being directed by Martin Scorsese?
A: It wasn't bad (laughs). It was incredible. He is so inspirational and is such a perfectionist. He would ask you to do something over and over and over again. You would wonder why. But he would keep going until he got exactly what he wanted and he would say "perfect!" Then when you see the finished film you realize how he brings everything together and how amazing each scene is.
Q: What was it like working with such an exceptional actor as Sir Ben Kingsley?
A: I learned loads from Sir Ben. The first scene we did was the one where he grabs my arm and calls me a thief just before Sacha Baron Cohen's character chases after me. At that moment I knew Sir Ben a little, but not as well as I do now. He gave me plenty of advice.
Q: Like what?
A: One of things that has stuck in my mind is a technical thing. He said 'When you are looking at an actor and the camera is on you, always look at the eye closest to the lens.' He also said 'Acting is a duet and without the other person it can't work'.
Q: Hugo is amazed when he sees his first movie. What was the first movie you saw?
A: My first movie was A Bug's Life. I saw it on a VCR.
Q: Can you talk a little more about discovering Georges Melies' work?
A: Before I started the auditioning process I had seen A Trip to the Moon. I didn't know Georges Melies himself. When I read the screenplay and the book, I got into a much deeper understanding. Marty also gave me some of Georges' films and other filmmakers to watch. Not only was making Hugo an amazing experience, but it was an amazing education for me on old filmmaking. It completely changes the story. This film isn't just about an orphan. It is also an education about film history.
Q: You have quite a few scenes with Sacha Baron Cohen. What is he like?
A: Yeah, I had lots of scenes with Sacha. The first few involved Sacha and his dog chasing me around. It was bloody tiring, but fun (laughs). We got along well.
Q: Is he anything like Ali G or Borat?
A: It was bizarre because after you see him play characters like Borat and Ali G you think he will come on set and play pranks, but he is really serious and inspirational. When we weren't filming he would stay in character. It inspired me to do the same thing and it did make me a better actor. I did have a lot of tough scenes where he drags me around and I'm crying. We ended up forming a strange bond.
Street Date: February 28, 2012
Pricing: $44.99 U.S. (Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/DVD combo pack)
$39.99 U.S. (Blu-ray/DVD combo pack)
$29.99 U.S. (DVD)
Runtime: 126 minutes
U.S. Rating: PG for mild thematic material, some action/peril and smoking
Canadian Rating: PG