You wouldn't normally expect to see Martin Scorsese listed as the director of an adaptation of a popular children's book. But that's one of the many delightfully strange things about Hugo, a lavish adaptation of Brian Selznick's best-selling period novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, in which a young orphan living in a Parisian train station unwitting befriends the pioneering silent filmmaker, George Méliès. The cast and crew of Hugo appeared at a press conference in New York recently to talk about their involvement in bringing Scorsese's vision for the film to life.
Producer Graham King On How the Film Came to Be
"While making of The Departed together, Marty and I talked about how great it would be to make a movie we could show to our kids. So it was like magic when this book turned up; if there was ever a book for Martin Scorsese to direct, this was it. We were actually going to make it after The Departed, but one thing led to another and he went off and did Shutter Island. I had about five or six big directors interested in making Hugo, but I felt it had to be Scorsese. So I waited and after Shutter Island he said 'Let's go for it.'"
Author Brian Selznick On Learning Martin Scorsese Would Be Adapting His Book Into a Movie
"I wrote this book thinking it could not be filmed, because at the end of the story, the object of the book itself becomes part of the plot. So I never imagined it could be a movie and then I got the call saying Scorsese wanted to make it. If someone would have asked me, 'Who would you imagine directing this movie,' I probably wouldn't have thought of him first. But, of course, I soon realized there was no one else who could have made this movie. I sat for two-and-a-half years at my desk thinking I was writing something that no one would read because it was a book about French silent movies for children, which isn't a guaranteed bestseller. But it's as if I did all of that for Marty.
Asa Butterfield On Playing the Title Character
"Hugo's an orphan and he's had to grow up far faster than anyone his age should have. I found it quite hard to relate to him because of the hardships he's gone through in his life. I almost had to come up with a false past for him that was more similar to mine. The biggest challenge filming the movie was probably dealing with the crying scenes; those were draining both mentally and physically.
Chloe Moretz On Playing Hugo's Pal, Isabelle
"Isabelle's a lot like Hugo in that she doesn't have a mom or dad, but she does have her godfather [George Méliès] and godmother, which is kind of a special relationship. I'd say the hardest part about the role was trying to conquer the accent. When Marty flew Asa and I to New York to read for the roles together, I walked in fully British and talked that way to the end of the audition, when I went back to my American accent. The whole time he thought I was a British actress, because he had never seen any of my other movies -- he'd never seen Kick-Ass or anything like that. So when I said 'Okay, thanks, see ya!' he went, 'Woah kid. You mean, you're American?' So I fooled him there."
Sacha Baron Cohen On Playing the Bad Guy
"When I approached the character, I wanted to know why he was so obsessed with chasing children. Was he a classic villain or was there a reason for his malice? And I sat down with John [Logan, the screenwriter] and Marty and we talked about how perhaps he was a World War I veteran who had been injured in battle. So we came up with the idea of the leg brace; originally it was a false leg, which the audience wouldn't have realized until the first chase -- my leg would have flown off and into the camera and that would have been the first big 3D moment. But I was made aware that I'd have to strap on that false leg for months to accomplish that, so I started wearing a leg brace instead. We also decided that that he himself was an orphan and was put away in a workhouse. That's the only structure he knew, so he tried to impose that on children. He's a bumbling authority figure, but he's got some beauty and softness. I actually have a little romance in the film and it's the first romantic plot I've had that's not been with a black prostitute or a man." [Laughs]
Sir Ben Kingsley On Playing Pioneering Film Director, George Méliès
"I had a whole box set of Méliès films to watch, hours of it really. It was hugely useful for me, not only to understand his language of cinema, but also to see how he multi-tasked to an extraordinary degree. He performed in, wrote, directed, edited, and designed all of his films. I think he must have gotten four hours of sleep a night, because after working all day in his studio, he'd go to the Paris Opera at night to do his magic act onstage and saw people in half."
Emily Mortimer On Scorsese's Directing Methods
"Marty tends to direct not by telling what to do and guiding you through every step of the performance, but by just showing you other people's movies. He just helps you understand the world of the film by showing you other films, which are his inspiration anyway. It's such an education to work with him. And there's something so perfect about Scorsese using the latest technology to make a film about the very first technology ever used to put magic on the screen over a hundred years ago."
On Whether The Movie Is Too Long or Slow For Kids
Cohen: "I'd say this. I've only worked with Scorsese once, but it seems to me that Marty makes films for himself. He's an artist, a true artist and he makes the movie he wants to see. My first line in the movie has the word "malfeasance" in it, which I barely understood. And I said to him, 'Are you worried that some of the children might not understand this?' And he said 'No, it's the right word to use there.' Marty's made a work of art in the same way Méliès did and I think it's a remarkable thing for a filmmaker to be able to achieve that.
Selznick: The book I wrote is 530 pages and people had the same comment about whether kids would be able to sit through it. I think the story Marty has captured on the screen is something that will carry kids through. Of course there will be individual kids who are fidgety; there are individual adults who get fidgety during Gone with the Wind! But I think the story will carry them along, because I've seen the film and talked to a lot of kids who have as well. And the ones I've talked to have been really thrilled and excited by it.
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