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Asa Butterfield from The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Talks Upcoming Space Film

Former child actor Asa Butterfield, now 19, is beginning the transition to more adult roles with The Space Between Us, in which he plays a Martian visiting earth for the first time.EXPAND
Former child actor Asa Butterfield, now 19, is beginning the transition to more adult roles with The Space Between Us, in which he plays a Martian visiting earth for the first time.
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Asa Butterfield was at the Joule Hotel on Jan. 20 to promote his new film.

The Space Between Us is ambitious.

The film, starring Asa Butterfield from Hugo and Ender’s Game, is one part sci-fi, one part romance and one part road trip, with a little bit of action mixed in.

“I thought, ‘It’s kind of a weird mix of genres,’” Butterfield says of reading the script for the first time. “There’s a lot of things going on. ... I love this character of someone who’s never set foot on earth before. He has to experience everything for the first time. I thought, ‘How hilariously fun to play,’ and it was.”

Gardner Elliott, played by Butterfield, is a boy who grows up on Mars but travels to Earth for the first time at age 16.

Throughout the film, directed by Peter Chelsom and co-starring Britt Robertson and Gary Oldman, Gardner stomps around Earth because he’s unaccustomed to the weight of gravity. Butterfield says he wore ankle weights for 20 minutes a day while rehearsing and then watched the footage to determine what it looks like to carry around that much weight.

“We wanted it to be noticeable but not over-the-top,” he says. “So it was a key balance.”

The 19-year-old has been in more than a dozen films, perhaps most notably the 2008 film The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, a historical drama about the 8-year-old German son of a Nazi commander who becomes friends with a boy living in one of his father’s concentration camps.

While many child actors find the transition to acting as an adult difficult, Butterfield says that hasn’t been the case for him.

“I work and come home and just have a type of normal home life,” he says. “It’s what I’ve always wanted. I’ve never felt like I’m pressured into doing something and that I’ve got loads of responsibility.

“I do have people looking up to me, which is still kind of weird to me,” he continues. “I’m like, ‘Why? What have I done?’ The whole celebrity culture is super weird but I’m part of it for some reason and you kind of have to be as an actor to be successful.”

Butterfield says he would like to have a career like Daniel Radcliffe or Leonardo DiCaprio, both actors who have successfully broken out of the characters they played as children. However, DiCaprio clearly doesn't have the calm home life Butterfield enjoys.

“He’s mega, ultra famous and can’t do anything really normal without risk of being swamped, which I think wouldn’t be fun at all,” he says.

But what about the gaggle of models who flock around the 42-year-old Oscar winner? “[That] would be amazing. It would be so much fun,” he says, laughing. “Maybe it’s worth all of that. Just for the models and the parties.”

But as for right now, Butterfield is content to be a teenager playing another teenager on the big screen, and he hopes The Space Between Us will open the audience’s eyes to something bigger.

“I think it’s a very human story even though [my character is] a Martian,” he says. “It really highlights how lucky we are to be on such an incredible planet, how we can’t carry on taking it for granted.”

The Space Between Us opens Feb. 3 nationwide.

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