Martin Scorsese on "Hugo": A very personal film

Director Martin Scorsese, with actors Chloe Moretz and Asa Butterfield on the set of "Hugo."
Paramount Pictures

With Oscar Night exactly four weeks away . . . we're GOING HOLLYWOOD for these next few Sundays. We begin this morning with director Martin Scorsese, nominated for "Hugo," a picture unlike any he's done before. How his movie came to be is the story he tells Lesley Stahl of "60 Minutes":

Welcome to Hollywood East: Martin Scorsese's Manhattan office, where he edits his films, and screens old favorites. It's decorated with posters of works by such directors as Jacques Tourneur.

It's a wall-to-wall shrine to the greats of the past

"Yeah, I think for me it's, like, just trying to stay in touch with that initial creative impulse and say, 'Oh I want to do that. I want to do something like that,' the inspiration."

One inspiration, and the subject of "Hugo," is the pioneering film-maker George Melies.

"Melies actually was a magician," said Scorsese. "And so he understood the possibilities of the motion picture camera."

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"Hugo" is a tribute to Melies. In the film, Scorsese shows us just how the old magician worked his tricks. Melies, who directed more than 500 films between 1896 and 1913, was the inventor of special effects.

"He invented everything, basically, he invented it all," Scorsese said. "And when you see these colored images moving, the way he composed these frames and what he did with the action, it's like looking at illuminated manuscripts moving."

But by the end of World War I, Melies was a forgotten man - reduced to selling wind-up toys in a Paris train station.

Asa Butterfield in "Hugo." Paramount Pictures

The central character of "Hugo" is an orphan who lives in a Paris train station that he rarely leaves, viewing the world from behind a giant clock.

"This is what got me really interested in making the film: the way he's looking through the clock," Scorsese said.

In the film it is "Hugo" who rediscovers Melies and his films. In other words, it's a heartwarming children's movie with a happy ending.

"No stabbings, no shootings, no gunfire, no one gets whacked - is Martin Scorsese going soft on us?" asked Stahl.

"Have I mellowed, in a sense?" laughed Scorsese. "From 'Shutter Island'? The story for me was something that opened up a whole new way of approaching cinema. But primarily, it really is a connection with the children."

A sweet connection with children? Are we talking about Martin Scorsese?

Asa Butterfield and Chloe Moretz, two young actors who star in "Hugo," rattled off the list of Scorsese films their parents wouldn't let them see: "Raging Bull," "Mean Streets," "The Departed," "Taxi Driver," "Goodfellas," "Casino" . . .

At the Golden Globes where he accepted the critics group's Best Director Award for "Hugo," Scorsese explained why he made the film:

"I have to thank my love to my wife Helen, because we have a 12-year-old daughter Francesca, [and] she said to me, 'Why don't you make a film our daughter can see for once?' So we did!"

She was born when he was in his late fifties: "You know, it really is life-changing. I didn't quite understand. It's rediscovering the world through the kids."

This is such a different man from the one we first met in 1996 for a "60 Minutes" profile, when Stahl remarked to him, "Everybody says, 'You want to know Marty Scorsese, go see his movies, then you'll get him.' And your movies are so much about anger!"

"Yeah. Always, always," he replied. "I've been in a bad mood twenty five years!"

Back then he took us to his old New York City neighborhood, where he'd grown up a lonely and sickly child.

As a young boy he was so ill with asthma he spent a lot of time indoors at the movie theater. He couldn't go outside and rough-house with the other kids. He could only watch them from his window.

In "Hugo," the boy hidden in the train station also views the world looking through a window. Stahl suggested he'd made a movie about himself.

"That, I think, was the first connection," he said. "I loved the idea of a young person who's unable to join in, 'cause of me with my asthma and that sort of thing. But I was able to - that third floor front window was sort of like a panoramic image of life" to me.