Asa Butterfield on ‘Sex Education’ and Why Martin Scorsese’s ‘Hugo’ Was a Game Changer

     July 7, 2020

Asa Butterfield got a very early start in this industry, gaining a good deal of notoriety with one of his very first credits, the award-winning The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. His career hasn’t lost an ounce of momentum since and it’s propelled him forward to his very first lead role in a series – and some of his best work in my opinion – playing Otis Milburn in Netflix’s Sex Education.

As you’ll hear me say in this edition of Collider Connected, I can’t imagine having the drive and professionalism to churn out next-level work in feature films at such a young age. As Butterfield explained, it all began as fun and simply being a kid tapping into his imagination, but things began to change when the opportunity to work with Martin Scorsese on Hugo came his way:

“I remember auditioning for that and every time I told someone I was auditioning for it and said, ‘Oh yeah, Martin Scorsese’s directing it,’ they were like, ‘Oh my god!’ And as a 12-year-old at the time, I had no real scope as to what that was and kind of the importance of that. Because I liked watching sci-fi action movies and The Lord of the Rings, cartoons.”

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Image via Paramount Pictures

Butterfield led Hugo as the title character, Hugo Cabret, a 12-year-old boy living in the walls of a train station in Paris in the 1930s. He’s responsible for maintaining the station’s clocks, but what really interests Hugo is the automaton and notebook left to him by his late father. That production included a number of Academy Award winners and nominees like Scorsese, screenwriter John Logan, cinematographer Robert Richardson, production designer Dante Ferretti, and then some. Butterfield essentially walked on a set packed to the brim with the best of the best.

“It wasn’t until a bit later on, around about when I did Hugo, that I started kind of looking a bit more into the future, and not only that, but also [gained] a wider scope of acting and filmmaking as a whole, and my appreciation of cinema. All of the bits that go into [working] not just as an actor, but the sound and music, the cinematogprahy, and set design, which on Hugo were, as you could imagine, a 13-year-old stepping into that set with some of the most legendary filmmakers, set designers, DoPs, just kind of blew my little mind and so from that moment onwards, I think is when I was really captured.”

Butterfield also took a moment to highlight Scorsese’s influence specifically, and the time he took to introduce the young star to all of the possibilities in this industry and the history behind it:

“One of my biggest takeaways from that, the thing I really value that I got from Marty was just an appreciation of history of film and cinema, and that’s one of the core themes of the movie. And so Marty would often talk to me about films that inspired him and he’d give me films to watch over the weekend that we would then talk about, and it really kind of captured my imagination and influenced me to appreciate everything that went on in filmmaking.”

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Image via Summit Entertainment

If you’d like to hear more about Butterfield’s experience working as a young actor, how each project influenced his goals, how he dealt with bumps in the road like losing the role of Spider-Man and why the timing of Sex Education couldn’t have been better, check out his full episode of Collider Connected at the top of this article!

 Asa Butterfield:

  • 00:28 – Cats!
  • 01:32 – When Butterfield first got started, was he initially drawn to acting or was it an activity his parents suggested?
  • 04:15 – What Martin Scorsese movies had Butterfield seen before working on Hugo; what movies was Butterfield busy watching as a kid?
  • 05:20 – Was Butterfield instantly a pro on set, even at such a young age?
  • 07:23 – Can Butterfield tell when an actor got their start at a very early age?
  • 08:40 – Of all the iconic filmmakers Butterfield has worked with thus far, whose advice does he find himself recalling the most?
  • 09:39 – What was it like working with a legend like Scorsese?
  • 11:43 – What was the film that gave Butterfield the most clarity for his career path?
  • 12:48 – More cats!
  • 13:45 – Which co-stars made a big impression on Butterfield over the years?
  • 15:48 – Revisiting Ender’s Game; what it was like for Butterfield when the film didn’t take off as hoped.

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    Image via Netflix

  • 19:10 – Butterfield discusses auditioning for Spider-Man and overcoming the disappointment of not scoring the role.
  • 21:58 – Sex Education is Butterfield’s first series; why did he decide to take that plunge now?
  • 24:30 – Which Sex Education character does Butterfield identify with most?
  • 26:03 – Which Sex Education character far exceeded Butterfield’s original expectations for the role?
  • 28:05 – Which Sex Education character does Butterfield hope to learn more about in Season 3 of the show?

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