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HUGO

Finding The Characters
When it came time to find the actors who would inhabit the rich array of roles in "Hugo,” Scorsese made an overall decision: "I went with British actors, for the most part to be consistent, and I use the device that the English accent is from the world that they're in. Even though it's Paris 1931, it's a heightened version of that time and place.”

Finding the boy to play Hugo was possibly the tallest order to fill. He is the centerpiece of the film, in a majority of the scenes and is somewhere around 12 or 13-years-old. With casting director Ellen Lewis, young actors were brought in. Rather early on, Asa Butterfield auditioned for the part. Scorsese remembers, "He read two scenes, and I was convinced immediately. Before making the final decision, I looked at one film, ‘The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.' Vera [Farmiga] was in the film with him, and I worked with her in ‘The Departed.' She told me about him, and said he was very, very good.”

Almost in the same boat, the young Butterfield didn't really know who Martin Scorsese was, but he had heard good things.  Asa says, "I knew who he was, but I hadn't seen any of his films, because most of them are 18's [restricted to 18 and over in Great Britain]. My mum told me that he was the best.  When I got the job, everyone said, ‘Oh, that's amazing.  He's, like, the best director ever!' And so I slowly began to realize how big this actually was.  And he is the best director. Marty never says ‘Do,' instead he encourages you to experiment and says, ‘Try this.'  And he's such a perfectionist, there are always the slightest changes you can play with.  It's been incredible.”

Butterfield found the character's inherent mystery to be a big draw. He observes, "You never know that much about him. Loads of traumatic things have happened to him; his father has died; his mother's died. And he ends up living with his Uncle in a train station, doing a man's job. And then his Uncle leaves and doesn't come back. By the time the story starts, all that's happened to him, and he's just left alone with this robotic figure, the automaton. So he's quite to himself until he meets Isabelle, and then that starts getting him out of his shell.”

In order to be seen for the role of Isabelle—god-daughter to ‘Papa Georges' and ‘Mama Jeanne'—American actress Chloë Grace Moretz adopted a disguise…of sorts. Scorsese recalls her audition: "I was seeing a few young actresses from England. Chloë came in, and she spoke with a British accent, and I thought she was from England as well. At that stage, we started reading actors in pairs for Hugo and Isabelle, and Asa and Chloë just looked right together. There were a couple of other actors, and we switched the pairs, but the looks weren‘t right. Not only did they look right together, they sounded right together. They play off of each other very well, and they have very distinctive personalities, very different.”

Moretz also recalls: "I met him for the first time in New York, and it was actually the first time I set foot in New York since I started in this business. So it was a really cool turn of events, because I show up in New York for the first time in seven years and I am meeting Martin Scorsese for this phenomenal role. I went in and met him, and he was just really warm. He told me a bunch of stories and I thought, ‘Wow, he's a really cool guy.'”

Chloë was also attracted to the mystery aspect of the story, but more in the external sense. "Being 13-years-old, as the characters are, there's always something that you want to find out. There's always something that you're poking and prying, trying to figure out what's going on, or how something works. In this movie, Isabelle and Hugo are poking and prying at people.”

As far as having his two younger leads putting on a ‘period' style, the director had a firm notion—don't do it. He offers, "We don't put up a title card that says ‘1931.' It doesn't matter, because what the children are, what they need, what they're looking for, how they behave, it's contemporary, it's universal, it's not something of a time and place. It's something that is natural, and therefore, it doesn't matter what time this film takes place. And the children simply behave like children.”

For the key role of Georges Méliès, ‘Papa Georges,' the director/producer didn't have to look very far in any direction. Per Scorsese: "I've always wanted to work with Ben Kingsley over the years, and finally I got these two pictures, ‘Shutter Island'—we had a really good working relationship on that picture—and now, this. He's an extraordinary actor, really one of the greats, which I don't even need to say…just look at his body of work. His range, his versatility. In any event, when we looked at the image of Georges Méliès, there was no doubt in my mind that the look would be perfect for Ben.”

The look, yes, but what mattered even more to Kingsley was the physicality of this man in decline. Scorsese was amazed at the performer's exacting technique: "Ben worked out a way of moving, with a sense of defeat…a defeated impression of his body, a defeated posture. This, after the man had been so alive, making 500 films, three films a week, doing magic shows in the evening, and having to shoot during the daytime. He created a whole new art form and suddenly, he loses all of his money, has to burn everything and winds up sitting behind the counter of a toy store in a very quiet part of the Gare Montparnasse.”

In Kingsley's research, he found much to admire on a personal basis in Méliès, beyond the man's visionary talent in cinema. The actor relates, "Georges had the confidence and charisma of a great stage magician. He had to be very precise in the execution of his tricks—sawing people in half, levitations, disappearances, that sort of thing—and his sleight of hand. His precision was contagious to his cast and crew. Given that he made hundreds of films, they must have been very disciplined indeed. He ran a tight ship, but I hear he ran it very affectionately. He rarely lost his temper or raised his voice, if ever. He had a way of gently reminding people what they'd forgotten to do, reminding them when he had said something before. What a man he must have been.”

Just as his character shifts from magic to cinema, Kingsley sees a natural evolution in Martin Scorsese's venture into 3D filmmaking: "I suppose it's a little bit like an artist going from fine portrait painting to landscape painting. It's a shift in the way he puts his brush, but it's the same brush and it's the same canvas.”

A looming presence in the train station and the constant threat to Hugo's independent way of life is the Station Inspector, a role slightly modified from the novel. Per Scorsese: "We asked Brian Selznick if we could open up this part, because I just didn't want it to be a figure of fear—basically, a villain, just to threaten and catch the boy. I wanted him to have a little more flavor, more levels to him, and so I thought by working with Sacha Baron Cohen we could find that.”

Baron Cohen describes his take on his character: "Now naturally, in any train station, it's dangerous for children to be running around. So in the ‘20s and ‘30s, with the working conditions and such, if you have homeless children about, unsupervised, it would present a danger to the passengers and the kids themselves. So, you have me, a Station Inspector. He's this wonderful fellow who's utterly repulsive and horrid to children, but yet, there's a different side to him. He has a gentler side. He was probably in an orphanage himself, and he is actually a war invalid. He's limited physically by a metalli

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