Hugo Interviews: Martin Scorsese, Chloë Moretz, Asa Butterfield & Ben Kingsley

Martin Scorsese’s first venture into the world of 3D filmmaking sees him directing Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz and Sir Ben Kingsley in Hugo, the story of a young orphan living the walls of a Parisian train station and searching for somewhere to call home.

The film explores family, renewal and adventure through the lens of 1930’s filmmaking and storytelling.

We went to the movie’s London press conference to find out more from the stars about the real power of film, the future of 3D and just to hear Scorsese talk.

This is a movie about the power of cinema and the power of movies to move and inspire people. Can you remember the first time you sat in a cinema and were really inspired by film?

Martin Scorsese: “The film that I think created the biggest impression on me about film and about filmmaking, saying maybe you could do this yourself, at least you can get the pictures to move, was The Magic Box. The thing with that film, the element wasn’t the moving image but it was the obsession and the passion of the people at that time in creating that… and I went home and starting drawing more pictures, pictures that moved, but something about the beauty of his obsession with the potential of the mechanism itself and the creation of the celluloid…which is all different now of course in digital, but it’s still telling stories, still stories with a moving image.”

Chloë Grace Moretz: “My mom’s always been pretty obsessed with Audrey Hepbern, as am I, and so one of the first films I saw that really inspired me to be an actor and kind of be someone else would probably be Breakfast at Tiffany’s because I saw Audrey Hepbern and I saw how she just lit up the screen and she makes you smile when you see her and her little face, she just lights up the screen and when I saw that I just realized that that’s what I would like to do… I like to make people smile, I like to make people dream, I like to make people imagine that they’re in that time and that feeling and I guess that’s one of the things that really inspired me to be an actress.”

Asa Butterfield: “Well it wasn’t so much watching a film that inspired me, it was during the filming of The Boy In The Striped Pajamas and a switch sort of flipped in my head because only before that I didn’t really take it that seriously, it was sort of a pass time, extracurricular if you would, but during about half way through the filming I sort of realized that this is something that I really wanna do, it’s a passion of mine and ever since I’ve just tried really hard to be the best I can be and just enjoy it, I just love to be someone who you wouldn’t be able to be in real life and to do things which are impossible and it’s magical.”

What did you think of the films of Georges Méliès that you saw?

Asa Butterfield: “I loved them, I mean Marty did give us a lot of homework… very old films, things by Georges and things that inspired him as a film director. One of the first things I saw, that he showed me, was The Magic Box…”

Martin Scorsese: “That’s right, we screened that just to get a sense of the time and the respect and the love for the medium… the respect of the art form.”

Chloë Grace Moretz: “Yeah, same thing basically… we went to that screening at the… I forgot what it was.”

Martin Scorsese: “The BFI.”

Chloë Grace Moretz: “Yeah, something like that.”

Martin Scorsese: “British Film Institute…”

Chloë Grace Moretz: “Yeah exactly! Something, something like that and I went into see it and it was just one of the most magical experiences… Marty’s there and everyone and I was just like ‘this is just this surreal moment’, you know, when you’re not only doing a movie with Marty in your whole life but as a young actor you know, as a thirteen, fourteen year-old it was really just surreal.”

Martin Scorsese: “I sent some of the DVDs of Méliès’ films too.”

Chloë Grace Moretz: “Yeah you sent the whole reel”

Asa Butterfield: “The first Méliès film I saw, Marty flew us out to New York and we’re super jetlagged and… woke up about 3 o’clock in the morning and so we were bored, there was nothing to do, it was still dark outside, they didn’t have room service, so we got on the laptop, got on the internet and we watched some old Georges Méliès films on youtube.”

The film comes across as a love letter to silent movies and to that embryonic period, how important is it to you that today’s generation recognizes where movies came from and how important is it that the film as an entity is preserved?

Martin Scorsese: “Well I think that the problem is really the… new generation, it’s a problem of every generation, which is the obligation of the ones before inform and to expose the new generation to the great art of the past… it’s exciting to do that with children and the younger generation, very exciting I think… I don’t know what the cinema screen is gonna become, I do know, I think if things run its course it will be something that’s not gonna stay on the stage, I should say on a wall, it’s gonna be moved out to the audience in many different ways and that could be a very low budget independent film or it could be a film that costs a good deal of money. But I do think it’s important to make younger people aware of what came before in every aspect of every art form. And it’s exciting to, and as you do that very often if you’re working with young people and working with students… and I use mentoring, that term, but the idea is you do get, I get, a lot out of it whether I’ve expressed it correctly or not or best, I don’t know, but I do get a kind of regeneration.”

Of course this film’s in 3D, for the actors what’s it like? Is it a different experience making a 3D film?

Asa Buttefield: “Well, it’s quite different… Most people forget the camera it’s more for a D of P, Marty and the special effects teams it’s more for them to look at but occasionally there was the ‘3D moment’ as they call it, where you reach for the camera… but it wasn’t that much of a change other than the fact that it made everything take a lot longer, as we know from experience.”

Sir Ben, did you find you had to change your technique?

Sir Ben Kingsley: “Well I think that Chloe and Asa are so young that they’re pure, that their performance is not filtered through anything and it was a great addition to the 3D discipline on the set to be working with Chloe and Asa who work from the heart and not from the head because if you work from the head in 3D, it’ll spot it, you have to be utterly genuine, you have to be accurate and you have to be modest in front of the camera. It is far more scrutinizing than any close-up lens I’ve ever experienced in my life… for me it pulled out a stillness and a modesty that I loved going into… the joy of the 3D and Marty behind the camera is however you minimize, nothing is lost, nothing is wasted and everything you see, and you have combined 3D with Marty’s all-seeing, all-loving eye as a director, no single tiny gesture that we offer the camera is lost, wasted, or ignored. It’s amazing to have everything captured that you offer. It’s beautiful.”

Chloë Grace Moretz: “…Just as Sir Ben said, acting is reacting and with this you can’t overact, you can only react because it picks up everything. It picks up the lint in the air, the fibre in your eye, it’s really a window into your soul as an actor because… you see Isabelle, you see Hugo, you see Papa Georges, you see Mama Jeanne, you don’t see Sir Ben, Chloe, you know, Asa, you see these people and it’s like a black hole, it sucks you in and it makes you cry with them, you know, and it makes you be a part of it, you know, especially with the steam and everything, you can feel like the heat and the smell of the smoke and the feeling of the 1930’s Parisian train station.”

Sticking with the 3D thing, did you adjust any of your work ethic or is it something you’d like to take into your future films?

Martin Scorsese: “Yes, it is something I’d like to take into my future films. I just happen to be a great admirer of it, because when I first saw those viewmasters and the stereoscopic images… I was taken into another space as a child and tapping into that imagination of a child, which is the same thing that I depend on and look for… whenever we make a film… but it has to be there every day, that thrill of the imagination and somehow seeing those first 3D , stereoscopic images has that and I’m making my last connection to childhood imagination, it’s that feeling, and so I’ve been fascinating with 3D all my life, I don’t see any reason if it’s used appropriately for the story, why not?… It’s always pointed out, for a long period of time colour was something very special. First, everyone complained about it until 1935 when they got it right… then by 1970 it was announced that every film would be made in colour and we were all appalled because black and white is extraordinary… and so this is what we were aspiring to, but somehow colour became, through the demand of the audience and a generation that grew up not on black and white films, it just became natural… the colour is part of the story… but we’re forgetting one other thing, there’s also space… But, I think that yes, I would like to deal with 3D as an element in the future there’s no doubt. The equipment is getting much more flexible, their working on ideas about losing the glasses.”

Chloë Grace Moretz: “Really?”

Martin Scorsese: “Yeah.”

Chloë Grace Moretz: “Wow.”

Martin Scorsese: “So, why not?”