Meet the stars of Scorsese’s new blockbuster

What on earth is life like for the 14-year-old stars of 'Hugo', Martin Scorsese's new movie? Well, Chloë Moretz lives in LA and spends her evenings at Katy Perry concerts and Chanel dinners, while Asa Butterfield goes to a comprehensive in Hackney and struggles with his maths homework. Is it any wonder they enjoy a good bicker?

In a New York hotel suite, two 14-year-olds are having a teenage argy-bargy.

"Hi mate, yeah, oi, I'm a British boy..." says glamorously confident Chloë Moretz, affecting the throaty tones of a moody adolescent Cockney oik.

"I don't speak like that," tuts well-spoken, wide-eyed, fidgety Asa Butterfield. "You use our language so don't even..." The Londoner stops and glares at the Hollywooder sitting next to him. When I ask him if his voice has recently broken, she titters. "I think it's in the process of breaking. This morning it was going ooe-e-aah-ooh," says Butterfield in a strangulated wail. The young Brit has also recently taken to Twitter to boast that he's now taller than the American.

"Barely," Moretz says witheringly.

"She might be taller than me right now," says the five-foot-sixer ("and a half"), looking at her elaborately shod feet, "but if she took her heels off she's like a little midget."

"I am five-five and still growing," she pouts proudly.

But right now you're Little Midget Moretz...

"I AM NOT MIDGET MORETZ!" she shrieks in the manner of someone who's been called this before. "I am Very Tall, Amazing Moretz."

Roll over Diaz and tell DiCaprio the news: Martin Scorsese has a new pair of leads, and they're brilliant squabbling teens. Butterfield and Moretz are the hero and heroine of Hugo, the director's first kids' movie. An adaptation of Brian Selznick's bestselling 2007 novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the 3D film tells the story of an orphan (Butterfield) living in the secret passageways of a Parisian train station in 1931.

His late, horologist father has bequeathed Hugo a love of clockwork and a broken mechanical man. The boy's endeavours to fix the automaton are aided by tools and trinkets he steals from the station toy booth, run by an old man (Sir Ben Kingsley) known to his goddaughter Isabelle (Moretz) as Papa Georges. Hugo, who is constantly on the run from the officious, Great War-damaged station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen), becomes friends with Isabelle – and they embark on an investigation into Papa Georges' mysterious past, and the very origins of cinema.

Scorsese has conjured an entertaining, wondrous children's adventure. Almost as entertaining is watching his young stars – clearly good friends, they spent nine months together in London's Shepperton Studios filming Hugo – bicker and score points. Moretz has the bigger international film career: she was the sweary, all-action Hit-Girl in the comic-book film Kick-Ass (2010), and the vampire in Let Me In (2010). Butterfield is best known for The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2008). Accordingly, she's beating the pants off him in the Twitter follower stakes. As of this morning's hotel meeting, she has 134,318 followers. He has 5,525. "Pretty good though," Moretz offers encouragingly, "seeing as he started Tweeting, like, at the end of Hugo."

Moretz – all extrovert and fashiony – has been acting solidly since she was six, her family relocating from Atlanta, first to New York then Los Angeles, in pursuit of her dreams.

Islingon-born Butterfield – quiet, fashiony only under photoshoot duress – has had a more gentle trajectory, and still attends a comprehensive in Hackney. She is, in many ways, miles ahead of him.

And you can tell. According to Moretz's Twitter feed, she's had a giddy few weeks of Katy Perry concerts, Teen Vogue covers ("A Star is Born") and swanky dinners with Chanel in honour of Pedro Almodovar. According to Butterfield's, he's been suffering from double-maths homework and a week of "not talking to anyone" while he and his cousin played the newly released computer game Battlefield 3.

"Wait!" chips in Moretz on hearing this news. "I beat Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 in one day."

"That's because," opines Scorsese's new leading man, "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is for pussies."

"Shhh!" gasps the great auteur's latest leading lady. "You can't say that in interviews. Oh my God, you're so not PC."

Scorsese makes his first children's film – and following Robert de Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, Sharon Stone and Cameron Diaz, you're his lead actors. How does that feel?

Moretz: "Special. It's a huge honour. We're still young, and a lot of people don't get to work with him ever. And I was the only American in the movie. So that was scary too."

Butterfield: "Pretty epic. Cos he's such a renowned director. But yeah, basically what Chloë said."

Describe the audition process for Hugo.

Moretz: "We heard that Martin Scorsese was making a kids' movie and he'd like to see me for it. I did my whole audition tape in a British accent. So the whole time he thought I was actually British, until we flew out to New York to do the 'chemistry' read together. At the end he was like, 'Ah, you're American!' 'I am! Good thing I fooled you!' And they called us on a weekend to tell us, which is huge. They never do that."

Butterfield: "I got pulled out of school by my mum and she told me I'd got it. Then I went and had a carrot juice."

What's Sacha Baron Cohen like?

Butterfield: "You expect him to be all cracking jokes, 'Ees nice', Borat-ish. But he's very serious. And he completely stays in the role. Even when the camera wasn't rolling, everyone would call him station inspector. He even had the calliper on his leg, hobbling around."

Are Hugo and Isabelle the embodiment of the young Scorsese, enraptured by movies and dreams and possibilities and escape?

Butterfield: "I think so. Chloë is the energetic, mystical side of the story. I'm the more mischievous, adventurous..."

Moretz: "...spontaneous piece of Marty. I definitely think we are Marty split into halves. This movie is a love-letter to cinema from Marty. And I think he put a part of his heart into it, especially for his daughter Francesca – she's 12 and it's one of his only movies she can actually see at her age."

Butterfield and Moretz suddenly realise that today is Scorsese's 69th birthday.

The only present the actor rustled up for his mentor was a card from the hotel gift shop. "But last year I did get him a Nerf gun." The actress baulks as, first, she realises she's bought him nothing and second, "My God, we've spent two birthdays with him!" After completing the long shoot on Hugo, Moretz stayed on in London to film – alongside Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter – Dark Shadows, Tim Burton's upcoming fantasy epic.

Butterfield's first on-screen appearance was in a 2006 Boxing Day TV drama, After Thomas, in which he played an autistic boy. Moretz started two years earlier, in a TV show called The Guardian, followed by The Amityville Horror remake. So why did they want to be actors?

Moretz: "My brother Trevor is theatrically trained. I used to watch him when I was younger and I was in love with it. It just seemed really fun to be someone else. So I begged my mom; she was hesitant, but she eventually allowed me. And it turned out well, I guess."

Butterfield: "I didn't at first. It was just something fun. But when I did The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, that's when I thought it could be a career opportunity. Not many people get to have such an experience."

How are you looking after your money?

Butterfield: "Good. I've got pretty much all of it. It's all in the bank and I can't access it till I'm 18. But my per diems I have on my bank card. I don't know what's on my card just now cos I just got a MacBook Pro, which I'm quite excited about cos it's arriving soon."

Moretz: "Mine is all locked up. I don't really use any of it. My mom gives me an allowance. She keeps me pretty tight-reined. The problem with me is, anything that's easy I will just overdo it. Especially with clothes. But I'm 14 – my mom is super-strict about that. And, annoyingly, tries to keep me very, very, very grounded. It's smart, I guess. But it's odd – most 14-year-olds don't get an income. It's not normal! So our parents are just trying to regulate it."

Butterfield: "At school, when we were doing life skills, they were talking about taxes. And the teacher said, 'When you get older you'll have to pay taxes – none of you have to do it yet.' And I'm like, ahem..."

And how are you spending your money?

Butterfield: "Apart from the MacBook, a projector and SurroundSound in my room. I recently went clothes shopping, down Selfridges and Harrods, and hated it."

Moretz: "WHAT? Oh my God, I have to take you to Bergdorf's, it's right here. It's the most genius store you'll ever go into. I love shopping."

How do your schoolfriends react to your work, and to your fame? Request autographs? Suck up? Wedgies?

Butterfield: "No wedgies. Few autographs. But they know I don't really talk about it outside the filming world."

Moretz: "No wedgies, just swirlies – when they put your head in the toilet and then they flush it, ha, ha, ha! But I [only] went to school till third grade. Then I was home-schooled. When I was in regular school, people got rude. A lot of teachers would get mad at me. One teacher gave me purposefully bad grades – even though my work was perfect – cos they didn't like me being an actress. They said I smiled too much. That was interesting when I was eight..."

We talk about the limits of what child actors can and should do. Moretz's mother wouldn't let her watch the 15-rated Swedish vampire movie Let the Right One In, on which Let Me In was based. But she was OK with her training with Navy Seals for Kick-Ass, and learning knife- and gun-handling. As to the film's infamous swearing – Hit-Girl says, "OK, you cunts, let's see what you can do now!" – she says that if she'd brought her potty-mouth offset, she'd have been in trouble.

"In my house if I ever cussed it would be really bad. But even though I was only 11, I was more mature than most 11-year-olds so I could understand that I was playing a character. That doesn't mean I can go home and shoot guns and kill people and cuss."

For the climactic moment in The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, in which Butterfield's character dies in a concentration camp's crowded gas chamber, the film-makers opted to shoot the scene at the very end of filming, to give the 11-year-old time to get used to the idea. Still, "It was pretty terrifying. I actually almost threw up at one time."

Little wonder. It must have been intense, shooting in a confined environment, surrounded by naked men... "Semi-naked," Butterfield interjects. "Everyone had trousers on."

"Oh Asa, ohhhhhh..." ribs Moretz. "You loved that scene."

Butterfield rolls his striking blue eyes and tuts. "You are so immature, Chloë."

In terms of role models, did Chloë look at where it went wrong for Lindsay Lohan, and right for Natalie Portman? "Yeah. Ever since I was a child I always had a dream to be Natalie Portman or Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly. I never wanted to stray. I have a really good family behind me. My mom's downstairs but my brother's listening to this. It's always one of them listening! I got spies all over."

Asa, when you grow up would you rather be Daniel Radcliffe or Robert Pattinson? "Um, Radcliffe. Well, I don't know, cos Dan, for a lot of his life he's gonna be known as Potter... I want to be myself. Pattinson's got all the girls chasing after him, and Dan's got all the geeks."

One final thing: why do Americans spell things funny?

Butterfield: "Cos they're retarded."

Moretz: "Oh my God, that's so PC of you."

Butterfield: "PC? You mean it's un-PC?"

Moretz: "That's sarcasm. You should know that, Mr British."

Butterfield: "They say Nootella! What is up with that? You don't say coconoot. Or hazelnoot. So why is it Nootella?"

Moretz: "You have UK English or American English."

Butterfield: "That's just to do with spelling."

Moretz: "Whatever..."

And there we must leave them. A red-carpet premiere awaits. And, probably, some more name-calling.

'Hugo' (U) is on general release from Friday

Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'