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The Hugo Movie Companion: A Behind the Scenes Look at How a Beloved Book Became a Major Motion Picture

Review

The Hugo Movie Companion: A Behind the Scenes Look at How a Beloved Book Became a Major Motion Picture

Brian Selznick begins this beautiful book with an explanation of how he became fascinated by the movies of Georges Méliès. Méliès worked his magic in the early 20th century when films were still in their basic infancy. Though not a great success during his lifetime, his movies today are considered to be some of the greatest in cinema history, far ahead of their times and still an inspiration to moviemakers today. Most especially, the film A Trip to the Moon was pivotal to Selznick, who writes that the more he knew about Méliès, the more intrigued he became.

"Bountiful full-color photographs enrich this lovely book, along with the haunting drawings of Selznick."

Discovering that the director owned a collection of automatons (sadly destroyed), Selznick’s obsession led him to other wonderful paths and great old-time directors. Like opening a box of treasures, Méliès served as the impetus that would eventually lead to the creation of Selznick’s beautifully illustrated and highly imaginative book, THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET. Renowned director Martin Scorsese then entered the picture. And that, my friends, is how history was made --- a million little connections, side trips to an incredible meeting of minds and spirit, and now the translation of all into Scorsese’s film,Hugo.

Selznick has set up THE HUGO MOVIE COMPANION in brief chapters, giving background and information on many of the important people who participated in the production of the film. So if you’re wondering how a movie is put together, here are some excellent insights.  

Scorsese talks about what attracted him to the world of Hugo Cabret and how he finally was able to start putting his plans on paper, meeting with his “creative team” and discussing how it would all come together. Being the director is obviously one of the biggest jobs of all because you have your fingers in all aspects of the movie --- not just the direction of the actors.

The production designer, Dante Ferretti, helped create the fantastic sets, such as the life-size train station where most of the action takes place. His work involved finding various spaces to work within, knowing how to pull all the pieces together to create the perfect atmosphere and transform the set into a living space. The props master, David Balfour, searched high and wide for the right “things” that comprise some of the vintage clutter, as well as very important items that are used by the characters. He had access to a warehouse that contained, among other things, “thousands of books, hundreds of suitcases, rows of walking sticks, clock parts, magic tricks, posters, furniture, toys, and vintage cameras…” One of his greatest challenges was creating the automaton and being able to make it as lifelike as possible. Altogether, 15 were made to get it right.

So many others played important roles in the making of the movie: the animal trainers, the producers, the screenwriters, the visual effects specialists, the casting director, the costume designer, and the cinematographer. They all describe their job and their role in bringing the film to life.

The actors --- including Asa Butterfield as Hugo, Chloe Moretz as Isabelle, Sir Ben Kingsley as Georges Méliès, Jude Law as Hugo’s father, and Sir Christopher Lee as Monsieur Labisse --- are also interviewed and discuss how they “became” the characters and what it was like working with Scorsese.  

Bountiful full-color photographs enrich this lovely book, along with the haunting drawings of Selznick. It’s obvious he had a lot of fun on the set talking with people and learning, along with us, about all the things that go into making his enchanting book a wonderful movie. This is, indeed, a perfect companion to the original novel and to the film, and a fitting tribute to all the work it took to bring the story to the big screen.

Reviewed by Sally Tibbetts on November 22, 2011

The Hugo Movie Companion: A Behind the Scenes Look at How a Beloved Book Became a Major Motion Picture
by Brian Selznick

  • Publication Date: November 1, 2011
  • Genres: Entertainment, Movies, Young Adult 10+
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press
  • ISBN-10: 0545331552
  • ISBN-13: 9780545331555