“I was about 7 when I started acting,” recalls north London–born Asa Butterfield, star of Martin Scorsese’s whirling new 3-D adventure film Hugo, with the reflectiveness of a seasoned pro. “I went to this club in my neighborhood just for fun,” Butterfield continues. “But I never took it that seriously until I got my first proper job.” That job was the lead in director Mark Herman’s Holocaust drama, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008), in which he played the sheltered 8-year-old son of a concentration-camp commander—not a particularly soft role for a newcomer. “Through the conception of such a harsh film, I learned so much about acting and the Holocaust,” says Butterfield, now 14, whose current pastimes include playing squash and piano and hanging out with his siblings. It’s all a stark contrast, though, to the fantastical day-to-day of Butterfield’s character in Hugo, an orphan living in a bustling Parisian train station, who sleeps in a clock tower and steals to survive, befriends a local girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) and deftly eludes the ubiquitous station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen) while working to solve the mystery of his deceased father (Jude Law). “He’s quite innocent, like most of my characters—and so am I,” admits Butterfield, who has now spent half his life in front a camera. Nevertheless, the actor is weary of being pigeonholed. “I’d like to become a young James Bond,” he exclaims. “That would be great!”
Photo: Asa Butterfield in London, September 2011. Sweatshirt: osklen. T-shirts: H&M and American Apparel. Styling: Tony Irvine/streeters. Grooming: Anthony Turner/Art Partner.