'Hugo' Q&A: James Cameron & Martin Scorsese

On Nov. 6, after a screening of "Hugo" at L.A.'s DGA Theater, THR sat down with a laudatory James Cameron, who was in the audience, and Scorsese for an exclusive discussion of the movie and its use of 3D.

On Nov. 6, after a screening of Hugo at L.A.'s DGA Theater, THR sat down with a laudatory James Cameron, who was in the audience, and Scorsese for an exclusive discussion of the movie and its use of 3D.

Marty, this is your first foray into 3D moviemaking. How did you use 3D to enhance the storytelling in Hugo?

Martin Scorsese: I found that the setting of the story lent itself to using the element of space and depth. It had a lot to do with the machinery of 3D, which creates something beyond itself, the movies that could bring people together. They create images that go up on the screen, and once they're experienced, they're gone. But the emotional impact stays with you.

James Cameron: I found the film to be very emotional. I felt like the audience was right there with the nuance of every moment.

Scorsese: What happened is that, rather than 3D being used in a way that I used to enjoy, too -- with the camera flying around -- I was trying to take the audience and put them in that world. And bring the children forward. Because seeing the kid [actors] every day first thing in the morning, I'd grab them and hug them and kiss them. And that's what I wanted the audience to feel like.

And you felt like the 3D would bring the audience in closer?

Scorsese: We discovered it. That's what we felt, saying, "Why's it better this way?"

Cameron: But the beauty of what you did is that you reacted to the 3D instinctively. You saw it and you said, "Oh, I can do this, and I can do that." You weren't waiting for some 3D guy to tell you what you can and can't do.

Scorsese: That was the key thing. It was [DP] Bob Richardson, and [3D stereographer] Demetri Portelli was really good on the I/O. Intraocular -- that's the lens for the right and one for the left. And if you take it too far apart, that hurts. You would hear me scream.

Cameron: We made up a term: "brain sheer."

Jim, were there things that you saw in Hugo that you felt the 3D really enhanced?

Cameron: It doesn't serve the film to talk about the 3D as if it's a separate thing. I mean, of course it's a lead story that a filmmaker of Marty's stature and pedigree is working in 3D. Because it's sort of breaking down this idea that 3D is for just hyper-commercial films. What you did was you integrated it with the color, with the composition, with the camera movement, with the acting. Everything. I would say it's like a 16-cylinder Bugatti firing perfectly on every cylinder. It's absolutely the best 3D photography that I've seen. It's constantly supportive of what you're doing artistically and never detractive.

Scorsese: The big stigma is the fashion to say it's a gimmick. You gotta understand, when moving images first started, people wanted sound, color, big screen and depth. The Lumiere films, two of them are in 3D. And Melies was already going there.

Cameron: Your film is about the very first days of the magic of cinema. And in its execution, the medium is the message. The movie is magical to watch. So you've exactly closed the ellipse in such an amazing, artistic way.

Scorsese: They were going there anyway.

Cameron: Can you imagine Melies today with digital tools? The guy would be going crazy.

Scorsese: Well, he was a genius. He was also a great magician. So he understood the illusion. And then he figured out how to do the illusion with film.

Cameron: It's all tricks.

Scorsese: It's all tricks.

Does Hugo bode well for more live-action 3D movies that are not in traditional genres?

Cameron: I've been saying for a long time that drama is being overlooked for 3D. People are thinking the obvious knee-jerk way that it should be action or science fiction. Something like this, where you have a great artist that's created this, I think it's gonna break some doors down in the minds of Hollywood of what's possible.

Scorsese: Every subject can encompass this medium. Really. Shakespeare in 3D. What Time Warner should do is take Dial M for Murder and make a transfer to digital. Remaster it into 3D. That'll show it's a dramatic film, it's 3D, and it works.

Is there a takeaway for the industry and other filmmakers?

Cameron: I can just tell you my reaction, which was it was a joyful film for me to watch to see a great artist embracing the new tools of 3D so perfectly. You're going to have to brace yourself for talking about 3D a lot now.

Scorsese: I like it! It's such an exciting chance for the medium to expand this way. Everyone's getting on board.