Asa Butterfield plays Hugo Cabret and Jude Law plays Hugo's Father in HUGO, from Paramount Pictures and GK Films. Photo credit: Jaap Buitendijk. © 2011 GK Films, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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Also Known As: Hugo 3D, Hugo Cabret
Opened: 11/23/2011 Wide
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Trailer: Click for trailer
Genre: Family Adventure
Rated: PG for mild thematic material, some action/peril and smoking.
Throughout his extraordinary career, Academy Award®-winning director MARTIN SCORSESE has brought his unique vision and dazzling gifts to life in a series of unforgettable films. This holiday season, the legendary storyteller invites you to join him on a thrilling journey to a magical world with his first-ever 3D film, based on BRIAN SELZNICK's award-winning, imaginative New York Times bestseller, The Invention of Hugo Cabret.
HUGO is the astonishing adventure of a wily and resourceful boy whose quest to unlock a secret left to him by his father will transform Hugo and all those around him, and reveal a safe and loving place he can call home.
Scorsese has assembled an impressive acting ensemble comprised of rising new talent working alongside venerated stars of the stage and motion pictures, including BEN KINGSLEY ("Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time," "Shutter Island"), SACHA BARON COHEN ("Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa," "Borat"), ASA BUTTERFIELD ("The Boy in the Striped Pajamas," "The Wolfman"), CHLOE GRACE MORETZ ("Diary of a Wimpy Kid," "Let Me In"), RAY WINSTONE ("Rango," "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull"), EMILY MORTIMER ("Shutter Island," "Lars and the Real Girl"), HELEN McCRORY ("Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Parts 1 & 2," "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"), CHRISTOPHER LEE ("The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, "Star Wars" Episodes II and III), RICHARD GRIFFITHS ("Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," five films in the "Harry Potter" franchise), FRANCES de la TOUR ("Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1," "Alice in Wonderland"), MICHAEL STUHLBARG (HBO's "Boardwalk Empire," "A Serious Man") and with JUDE LAW ("Contagion," "Sherlock Holmes").
Equally stellar is the behind-the-camera team of filmmaking artists--many of whom are previous Scorsese collaborators--which includes double Oscar®-winning director of photography ROBERT RICHARDSON, ASC ("Inglourious Basterds," "The Aviator"); two-time Oscar® winner, production designer DANTE FERRETTI ("Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," "The Aviator"); three-time Academy Award®-winning editor THELMA SCHOONMAKER, A.C.E. ("Shutter Island," "The Departed"); triple Oscar®-winning costume designer SANDY POWELL ("The Aviator," "The Young Victoria"); Oscar® winner, visual effects supervisor ROB LEGATO ("Shutter Island," "Titanic"); and three-time Academy Award® winner, composer HOWARD SHORE ("The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, "The Departed").
Paramount Pictures and GK Films present a GK Films/Infinitum Nihil Production of A Martin Scorsese Picture: "Hugo," directed by Martin Scorsese, with a screenplay by JOHN LOGAN, based upon the book entitled The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. It is produced by GRAHAM KING, TIM HEADINGTON, Scorsese and JOHNNY DEPP. The executive producers are EMMA TILLINGER KOSKOFF, DAVID CROCKETT, GEORGIA KACANDES and CHRISTI DEMBROWSKI. The music supervisor is RANDALL POSTER; casting is by ELLEN LEWIS.
Film Inspires Author, Book Inspires Filmmaker
Growing up in a section of New York City known as 'Little Italy' in the 1940s and '50s, a young Martin Scorsese found a deep connection inside the movie houses of the time--not just to the experience of viewing motion pictures, but also a closeness to his father, who sat with him in the darkened auditorium, fostering the future filmmaker's nascent love of the art form. So when Brian Selznick's award-winning novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret landed on his desk via prolific producer Graham King (who had previously collaborated with Scorsese on three films), the Oscar®-winning filmmaker found the tale profoundly resonant. For Scorsese, "It was particularly the vulnerability of a child alone that was striking. Hugo's living in the walls of this giant engine of a sort--the train station--on his own, and he's trying to make that connection with his father, whom he has lost."
Scorsese remembers, "I was given the book about four years ago, and it was one of those experiences...I sat down and read it completely, straight through. There was an immediate connection to the story of the boy, his loneliness, his association with the cinema, with the machinery of creativity. The mechanical objects in the film, including cameras, projectors, and automatons, make it possible for Hugo to reconnect with his father. And mechanical objects make it possible for the filmmaker Georges Melies to reconnect with his past, and with himself."
Scorsese, in turn, shared the book with his youngest daughter, which only confirmed his belief that the story held a magical quality: "In reading books to my daughter, we re-experience the work. So it's like rediscovering the work of art again, but through the eyes of a child."
Author Brian Selznick recalls the genesis of his book: "At some point I remember seeing 'A Trip to the Moon,' the mesmerizing 1902 film by Georges Melies, and the rocket that flew into the eye of the man in the moon lodged itself firmly in my imagination. I wanted to write a story about a kid who meets Melies, but I didn't know what the plot would be. The years passed. I wrote and illustrated over 20 other books. Then, sometime in 2003, I happened to pick up a book called Edison's Eve by Gaby Wood. It's a history of automatons, and to my surprise, one chapter was about Melies."
It seems that Melies' automatons (mechanical figures, powered by inner clockwork, which appear to perform functions on their own) were donated to a museum once the filmmaker passed--they were stored in the attic, where they ended up largely forgotten, ruined by the rain and eventually, thrown away.
Selznick continues, "I instantly imagined a boy climbing through the garbage and finding one of those broken machines. I didn't know who the boy was at first, and I didn't even know his name... I thought the name Hugo sounded kind of French. The only other French word I could think of was cabaret, and I thought that Cabret might sound like a real French name. Voila`...Hugo Cabret was born."
Research into automatons and clocks, the life of Melies and the City of Lights in the 1920s and '30s fueled the author's imagination, and the tale of an adventurous boy who lives within the walls of a train station in Paris took life, interwoven with the stories of the colorful characters that surround him. Add in the threads of the discovery of both an abandoned automaton and a largely forgotten filmmaker, and you have Selznick's beautifully illustrated The Invention of Hugo Cabret (A Novel in Words and Pictures. Published in 2007, The Invention of Hugo Cabret (A Novel in Words and Pictures) won the 2008 Caldecott Medal (awarded by the Association of Library Service to Children to the artist of "the most distinguished American picture book for children") and The New York Times' Best Illustrated Book of 2007. It was a number one New York Times Bestseller, and a Finalist for the National Book Award.
Producer Graham King: "My producing partner Tim Headington and I were enchanted by Brian Selznick's book. Immediately we thought it would be a beautiful story for Martin Scorsese to create into a piece of cinema."
The team turned to John Logan--their writer on "The Aviator"--to take Selznick's words and illustrations and transform them into a screenplay. As with most book-to-movie conversions, some things had to change. Logan comments, "I had to cut and change some elements of Brian's book to make a more streamlined, shorter movie. The drawings were extremely helpful, because they reminded me of movie storyboards. In effect, they presented a road map for me to follow. In fact, the screenplay opens with a description very similar to Brian's first drawings in the book."
Producer King addresses the perhaps unexpected pairing of Scorsese and the story of Hugo: "All of Scorsese's films have a specific sensibility to them, and 'Hugo' is no different. The beautiful imagery and fantastic performances are all there. The main difference is that this film is not made solely for an adult audience--it is for everyone."
To try and replicate the experience of moving through Selznick's work, Scorsese also turned to a different film format. He says, "As moviegoers, we don't have the advantage of the literature, in which you can become aware of Hugo's inner thoughts and feelings. But here, we have his extraordinary face and his actions, and we have 3D. The story needed to be changed to a certain extent, so some elements were dropped from the book. But I think that certain images--particularly in 3D--cover so much territory that the book resonates in them."
Scorsese strove to honor the author's work with every decision, and comments, "Brian Selznick and his book were always an inspiration. We had copies with us all the time. The book has such a distinctive look, whereas our film has its own look and feel, very different from the book, which is in black and white, for one thing. We really went for a blend of realism and a heightened, imagined world."
"It Might Be An Adventure": 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 Chloe Grace Moretz adopted a disguise...of sorts. Scorsese recalls her audition: "I was seeing a few young actresses from England. Chloe 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 Chloe 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.'"
Chloe 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 Melies, '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 Melies, 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 Melies, 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 metallic attachment to his leg, which we imply may have been the result of a war wound, but it was most likely self-inflicted, by accident."
Inadvertently, the actor had already begun his own research in the physical style of comedy of the day: "In England, I think Harold Lloyd was on television everyday after school, so we kind of grew up watching him. I never found him that funny at the time, but there are references in 'Hugo' to those films, particularly 'Safety Last,' where he climbs up a building, and does this incredible stunt and gets stuck on a clock that falls backwards. We directly reference that. So Martin wanted me to look at these early comedians, which was very interesting. They were doing brilliant stuff, people like Keaton and Chaplin. Yeah, I discovered this very obscure guy called Charles Chaplin, I believe, and his work is quite interesting--definitely worth a look."
Scorsese also came up with another way to add facets to the 'villain' of the piece. Baron Cohen explains, "When Marty and I met originally, we were talking about ways to make the villain not seem like an archetypal villain--Marty had this idea of bringing in some romance. And it was quite lovely to have Emily Mortimer, who is a wonderful actress and woman, play my love interest, so there is a bit of love. You know, the Inspector really is a nasty man. He's a horrible man, but deep down, he is a nice guy. It's just really deep...down."
Scorsese expresses, "Emily is one of the best actors around, she has a great sense of humor, and she was a wonderful choice to play a love interest for Sacha, which was unique for him to try."
The Station Inspector isn't the only threat to Hugo. He is brought to live in the train station, in fact, by his estranged Uncle Claude, a menacing lout who promptly pawns off his maintenance duties onto the small boy.
The director/producer: "I worked with Ray Winstone in 'The Departed,' which was a great experience. Ray has this passive menace--he doesn't need to be involved in any dialogue or anything physical, but you can still feel this darkness lurking in his character. I thought he would bring that threatening gravity to Hugo's Uncle Claude."
Perhaps even more than performing in the role, Winstone enjoyed the shared experience of working with Scorsese in 3D. Ray says, "The joy for me during filming was actually watching Scorsese work, because it was like he was falling in love with making a film again. Watching him with 3D, with something he'd never worked with before . . . it was like watching a kid with a new toy. And the feeling was palpable and eventually passed around the cast and crew."
For the key featured role of Hugo's father, Scorsese needed to find an actor who could embody all of the warmth and goodness that the young boy had experienced (up to that point in his life) in just a few short scenes.
"I worked with Jude Law once before, when he played Errol Flynn in 'The Aviator.' I also saw him onstage as Hamlet, and he was really wonderful. He's so unique. He has the authority and the charm for this part, and I'd love to be able to work with him in a longer project," offers Scorsese.
Law professes, "I knew the book because I'd already read it to my children. So I went back and re-read it, and I talked to my children about it and asked them their impressions of the father. I got to talk to a clockmaker, and I looked at automatons, so I had a certain knowledge of how to hold things, and if they were referring to tools, I'd know what they were. But otherwise, to me, really, it was simply about creating a very warm and heartfelt chapter in Hugo's life, knowing that the majority of the story sets him in quite a cold world. I wanted to make sure that you realize he had been loved. I thought it was really important that I carry my experiences of being a father into it."
For the role of Monsieur Labisse, who runs a book shop in the train station, Scorsese finally had the opportunity to work with a truly legendary performer. He states, "On this film I finally got the chance to work with Christopher Lee, who's been a favorite of mine for 50, 60 years."
The 89-year-old Lee recalls traveling in France in 1931: "I remember very well those shops, cafe's and restaurants. So to me, in a way, it's like stepping into my past. My character is sort of a guardian angel, and I help open the world to these children through literature."
Lee was thrilled to finally be able to cross Martin Scorsese off of his list: "Not to flatter Martin, but I said to him, 'I have more credits probably than anyone in the industry alive today, so I'm told. But I always felt that my career would not be absolutely complete unless I did a film with you, because I've worked with John Huston, Orson Welles, Raoul Walsh, Steven Spielberg, Tim Burton, Peter Jackson and many, many, many, many others, but never with you.' Along comes this story, and obviously there is something for me. So finally!"
Scorsese cast Helen McCrory in the pivotal role of Madame Jeanne, the support and protector of the aging Melies, who at one time was his muse. Scorsese explains, "I had seen Helen in 'The Queen' as Mrs. Blair, and in a British television series of 'Anna Karenina,' and she was excellent. We got to meet, talked, and I thought she would be perfect for the role. It's a complex situation: Madame Jeanne, who supports her husband, has worked with him for years and wants him to get past the bitterness of his great disappointment in life. She was wonderful, working in different layers, shades and colors into her performance."
The crucial role of Rene Tabard, the film scholar who, thanks to Hugo and Isabelle, rediscovers Melies and arranges the gala in his honor at the French Film Academy, went to the versatile screen and stage actor Michael Stuhlbarg. Scorsese was delighted at being reunited with him. "This is the third time Michael and I have worked together. He appeared in the commercial for Freixenet champagne I shot that was an homage to Alfred Hitchcock, and he also played a leading role in 'Boardwalk Empire.' Michael's range as an actor is astonishing. He can switch effortlessly from drama to comedy, from a contemporary film to a period piece. He's equally brilliant as a vicious, hardened crime boss in 'Boardwalk' or, in 'Hugo,' as a gentle, self-effacing film historian who idolizes George Melies and is in awe of his movies. It was a great pleasure working with Michael again."
A great deal of the 'local color' of the train station is provided by people who depend upon the traffic in the station's main hall for their livelihood, which include the flower seller, Lisette (Mortimer); the book seller, Labisse (Lee); a gentleman who runs the newsstand, Monsieur Frick; and his neighbor, who runs the cafe, Madame Emilie. For the role of the slightly eccentric (potential) couple, Scorsese slotted two of Great Britain's finest character actors, Richard Griffiths ("one of the greatest actors working today," states Scorsese ) and Frances de la Tour ("I've always been a great admirer of hers," he adds).
The director elaborates, "The characters that John Logan placed in this little world of the station, in our impression of Paris at that time, I call them the 'vignettes;' they inhabit this world. They work there everyday. All these characters were meant to weave in and out of the picture, with everybody trying to connect with each other, the way Hugo is trying to connect with his past."
Scorsese approached the vignettes with a light touch, and shot them almost like a silent film. The characters quietly, almost wordlessly, move in and out of frame as they relate to each other. Just watching them, scenarios arise, which add to the atmosphere and the feel of the train station.
As the Station Inspector's menacing dog, Maximillian, three trained Dobermans were brought in (Blackie was used in most scenes, with Enzo and Borsalino in the wings to cover). Trainer Mathilde de Cagny also oversaw the use of the longhaired dachshunds (which play into the story of Frick and Emilie), a cat (forever perched atop a pile of books in Labisse's shop) and several pigeons (what's a clock tower without pigeons?). De Cagny herself was usually costumed and stationed in the crowd, near enough to the action to 'direct' the animals, but not evident enough to pull focus and spoil the shot. When no crowds were present, she was outfitted in a 'green screen' suit, for easy removal in post-production.
To fill the role of one very special character--who is central to the plot and its unfolding--filmmakers turned to props master David Balfour, who worked with 'problem solving' prop builder Dick George, creator of Hugo's automaton.
Dick George offers, "He's a character in himself, so in a way, it's like building a little human being." A total of 15 automatons were built for filming, each one, to execute a different move or serve a different purpose within the script.
George continues, "The advantage that we have in manufacturing this piece is that we have all modern technologies at our disposal, which early clockmakers didn't have. However, they had a wealth of experience and understanding of clockwork mechanisms. The early automatons were driven on a cam system, and the information was programmed in, letter-by-letter, so the amount that it could actually write or draw was quite limited. In our case, because it's a computer program, it can draw absolutely anything."
Of his taciturn co-star, Asa Butterfield notes, "It's really odd. It does feel like he's another actor. When I heard that I was going to be working with a robot for a portion of this movie, I thought it might look like the Tin Man from 'The Wizard of Oz,' but it looks so human."
Ben Kingsley observes, "The automaton took on a life of its own. It was very touching and beautiful to watch the little chap turn his head, dip his pen into a pot of ink and draw the face of the moon, which I watched it do with my own eyes. There was one scene, where Hugo comes to Georges while cradling the automaton, which really is a child holding a lost child. Then I take the little chap in my arms, and we walk off--and then it's really three children walking away."