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'Hugo' author's movie companion illuminates film world for youths

November 2, 2011 |  1:23 pm

Asa Butterfield and Chloe Moretz in

Characters in movies like this summer’s “Super 8” and the recent British comedy “Son of Rambow”  remind us that even youngsters can fill the director’s chair. But ask a child if he knows what a second unit director or a 3-D stereographer does and you probably wouldn’t expect him to have the answer.

Author Brian Selznick set out to change that with “The Hugo Movie Companion,” which hit shelves Tuesday. The book takes a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Martin Scorsese’s upcoming “Hugo,” which is based on Selznick's children’s novel “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.” Unlike the typical official movie companions that studios release with new films, this one is geared toward a younger audience, like the movie itself.

“I interviewed 40 people from Scorsese to the dog trainer and asked everybody to define their jobs for children, which is something I don’t think Scorsese had been asked before,” Selznick said.

The Academy Award-winning director may be more accustomed to darker fare like “The Departed” and “Taxi Driver,” but he supplied Selznick with a poetic answer for his young audience:

“[The director’s job is] the same thing that children do when they play … make up stories, give people parts to play, and figure out where they go and what they do,” Scorsese said in Selznick’s book.

The cover of Brian Selznick's The Hugo Movie CompanionThe young and the young-at-heart stay prevalent in the book. Selznick interviewed the filmmakers about their favorite films when they were children. A photo of a miniature train is accompanied by an anecdote about a 12-year-old boy visiting the set who got to call “Action!” for the take, sending the train crashing through the window of a miniature set.

Featuring other key players, from the cast to the dialect coach to the set decorator, “The Hugo Movie Companion” also includes photos from the London set built at Shepperton Studios, annotated pages of the script, storyboards, concept art and Selznick’s illustrations from the novel.

In the book’s last chapter, Selznick describes the making of one scene in the film where all the people he interviewed play a part –- including the author himself in his own cameo.

“It was really fun to interview everybody and get to look at how a movie really gets made, because there’ll be a lot of jobs that kids didn’t even know existed until they read this book,” Selznick said.

“The Hugo Movie Companion” is published by Scholastic Press. “Hugo” opens in theaters Nov. 23.


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–- Emily Rome

Photos, from top: Asa Butterfield and Chloë Grace Moretz in "Hugo"; cover of "The Hugo Movie Companion." Credits: Paramount Pictures; Scholastic Press