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In a class of his own.

* SA Butterfield has just got home from school and, like most 14-year-olds, would probably much rather be watching TV or playing video games. Instead, he has taken time out to chat about working closely with legendary director Martin Scorsese on his acclaimed new movie Hugo - and he couldn't be more polite. He had better get used to all the attention because Butterfield, who was just 11 when he gave an impressive performance in The Boy In Striped Pyjamas, is proving to be a talented young actor. Scorsese's decision to pick him to play the lead in Hugo, the director's first 3D outing, is a clear indication that Butterfield is a teenager with a very bright future. Based on Brian Selznick's illustrated novel The Invention Of Hugo Cabret, Hugo is a fantastical adventure set in the 1930s telling the story of a young orphan who lives within the walls of a Paris railway station. He spends his time winding the clocks, stealing food to get by and watching the other people who work around him.

His only companion is a defunct clockwork man, which he believes holds a secret message from his father. Butterfield refers casually to Scorsese as "Marty" but admits he was nervous when they first met. "It was in New York when I had the last audition and I was pretty nervous because you're performing in front of Martin Scorsese, which for any actor is nerve-racking.

But almost straight away we got on really well," he says. "Working with Marty was amazing because he's such a perfectionist and he's such a well-rated director." Butterfield devoured the book as soon as he began auditioning for the role so he could get to know his character.

"Hugo is quite shy because ever since his dad died, he hasn't talked to many humans," he explains. "But he's also very mature because he's had to grow up far faster than anyone his age should have. "There are scenes where he's quite sneaky and stealing things, so he's innocent but he's also had to become quite streetwise." Growing up fast is a familiar theme for Butterfield, who lives in north London with his parents, older brother and younger sister and began acting aged seven at a local after-school theatre group, going on to secure minor roles in TV and film.

His breakthrough came in The Boy In Striped Pyjamas, playing the son of a Nazi officer who befriends a young boy in a concentration camp.

The performance earned Butterfield several award nominations and helped him to secure more roles including in children's adventure Nanny McPhee And The Big Bang.

Scorsese is not the only big name Butterfield encountered while making Hugo: his character is constantly avoiding the attentions of the fearsome station inspector, played by Sacha Baron Cohen.

Working with the comedian was "very surreal", says Butterfield. "When I heard he was going to be playing it, I thought he would be really jokey and sort of ...Borat.

"But he was very serious on set and everyone had to call him by his character name and he would even stay in role when we weren't filming.

"I was a bit intimidated by him because he's quite an imposing figure, but we had a great time chasing after each other."

Hugo also gets into trouble with a grumpy old toyshop owner, played by Sir Ben Kingsley. "He was one of, if not the most, inspirational actors I've worked with," says Butterfield.

"Like Sacha, he would stay in role even when we weren't filming, and that inspired me to stay in role, so he helped me out and because I was staying in role, I helped him out.

"As he told me, 'acting is a duet and you need two people for it to work'."

A bonus for Butterfield was working with fellow child star Chloe Moretz, who is also just 14 and shot to fame as Hit Girl in Kick Ass.

She plays Isabelle, the toyshop owner's god-daughter, who befriends Hugo. "We bonded straight away and we hung out a lot," says Butterfield.

"We had similar taste in music and we both like very teenagerish things like playing computer games and doing sports. So when we weren't filming, we'd often play table tennis in my room or play on the PS3." The cast spent months making the film at Shepperton studios, which involved lengthy meetings in Scorsese's 'tent' being briefed on the finest details of every scene. "There were a couple of weeks in Paris where we did all the outside scenes," recalls Butterfield.

"We'd been in Shepperton for four months by then, so it was really good for everyone to get out into the nice Paris air."

The young actor was blown away when he watched an unfinished version of Hugo at the New York Film Festival, as Scorsese had applied painstaking attention to detail as he recreated Hugo's magical world on screen.

"The way Marty's used 3D is amazing," says Butterfield. "Most 3D films are very gimmicky, with things jumping out, but with Hugo everything goes inwards. There's a real sense of depth."

Now, inspired by what he has learned from greats like Kingsley and Scorsese, the teenager is determined to keep progressing.

"I think I want to start doing more teenage roles, where I play a more mature character."

His dream role? "Young Bond!

Or some sort of sci-fi movie." The latter could soon become reality as he is reportedly in talks to star in Ender's Game, about a bullied young boy who turns out to be a master military strategist. Butterfield says he's coping with the pressures of his new-found fame. "Going from doing science GCSE coursework to flying out to New York is quite a big change. "You've almost got to change the way you behave and the become a lot more mature."

At an age when most boys are skulking in the back of family photos, he enjoys going to magazine shoots and has been able to turn it to his advantage.

"It's good meeting different photographers because I'm doing photography GCSE, so I learn a lot from them."

He adds: "I think it's quite fun getting a suit by Dolce and Gabanna. That's definitely a perk of the job."

But he's clearly a little embarrassed to be asked what his school friends think of this new glamorous side to his life.

"I don't really talk about it. It's a weird experience going from a film set to being back at school." * Hugo is in cinemas now
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 4, 2011
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