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Asa Butterfield

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Asa Butterfield
Asa Butterfield at TIFF 2014 portrait.jpg
Butterfield at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival
Born Asa Maxwell Thornton Farr Butterfield
(1997-04-01) 1 April 1997 (age 18)
Islington, London, England, UK
Occupation Actor
Years active 2006–present

Asa Maxwell Thornton Farr Butterfield /ˈzə/ AY-zə (born 1 April 1997) is a British actor. He is known for playing the main character Bruno in the Holocaust film The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2008), the young Mordred in the hit BBC TV Series Merlin, Norman in the 2010 film Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang, and for lead roles in both Martin Scorsese's 2011 fantasy Hugo as Hugo Cabret and in the 2013 film adaptation of the science fiction novel Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card as Ender Wiggin. He's also portrayed lead Nathan in Morgan Matthews's X+Y and Jude Keffy-Horn in Ten Thousand Saints.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Butterfield was born in Islington, London, and is the son of Jacqueline Farr and Sam Butterfield.[2][3] He was born with the middle names "Maxwell Thornton", but now uses the middle name "Bopp" on his passport instead (after Comet Hale–Bopp).[4]

Butterfield first started acting at the age of 7 on Friday afternoons after school at the Young Actors' Theatre, in his hometown. Later, he secured minor roles in the 2006 television drama After Thomas and the 2007 film, Son of Rambow.[2][5] In 2008 he had a guest role playing Donny in Ashes to Ashes.[6]

In that same year, aged 10, he played the lead role in The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Director Mark Herman said that they came across Butterfield early on in the audition process. He was on the first audition tape he received and he was the third hopeful he met in person. Herman thought Butterfield's performance was outstanding, but only decided to cast him after auditioning hundreds of other boys, "so no stone was left unturned".[7]

Producer David Heyman and director Mark Herman were looking for someone who was able to portray the main character's innocence, so they asked each of the children what they knew about the Holocaust. Butterfield's knowledge was slim and it was purposely kept that way throughout filming so it would be easier for him to convey his character's innocence. The final scenes of the film were shot at the end of the production period to prepare both him and Jack Scanlon for the dramatic ending of the film.[8] He beat hundreds of boys to the role and also successfully passed the auditions for a role in Mr. Nobody for which he auditioned at the same time. He elected not to pursue the latter role.[5]

In 2008, Butterfield appeared in the Merlin episode "The Beginning of the End"; he played a young druid boy sentenced to death by Uther Pendragon because he feels threatened by the boy's magic. Despite the Great Dragon's advice and the warning that Arthur cannot survive if the boy does, Merlin and Arthur, with the help of Morgana, help the boy escape to rejoin the Druids. When they are about to disappear into the forest, Arthur asks him for his name, which he says is Mordred,[9] an important character from the Arthurian legends who is supposed to kill King Arthur. Butterfield appeared as Mordred in a number of subsequent episodes; however the role has now been recast, with Alexander Vlahos playing Mordred as an adult character.

In 2010, he had a small part in The Wolfman.[10] He starred as Norman Green at the age of 12 in Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang (2010), working together with Emma Thompson. The film, and his performance, both received positive reviews. At the age of 13 he played the main and title character in Martin Scorsese's Hugo, adapted from the novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Hugo was filmed from June 2010 to January 2011, it was released on 23 November 2011, and achieved critical and box-office success. Butterfield played the title role of Andrew "Ender" Wiggin in the film adaptation of the Orson Scott Card novel Ender's Game, along with Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, and Harrison Ford which completed filming in the first half of 2012, and was released in 2013. After the shooting of Ender's Game, Butterfield was immediately cast in coming of age British drama, X+Y [11] as Nathan Ellis, a mathematical savant on the autistic spectrum selected to compete with other gifted children on a United Kingdom team in an internationally renowned mathematics competition. The film premiered on October 13, 2014 at the BFI London Film Festival and was released in UK cinemas on March 13, 2015. It premiered in September at the Toronto International Film Festival. Butterfield's performance received widespread critical acclaim,[12] and saw him nominated for the BIFA Award for Best Actor.

Later in 2013, Butterfield was reported to be in talks for a role in King of Kastle[13] and in May, he was cast in The White Circus with his fellow cast member from Hugo, Chloë Grace Moretz.[14] In early 2014, Butterfield was cast in a film adaptation of Ten Thousand Saints.[15] Shooting began on 27 January 2014 and the film was released on August 14 2015.[16]

He was most recently cast in two lead roles, as Jacob Portman in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children,[17] based on the novel of the same name, alongside Eva Green and as Gardner in The Space Between Us. Both films are scheduled for release in 2016.[citation needed]

Other work[edit]

Butterfield enjoys making and producing music, and released a mashup of the songs "Teenage Dirtbag" by Wheatus and "Making Plans For Nigel" by XTC in 2004.[18] In late 2012, Butterfield co-designed a turn-based video game for iPad with his father and brother called Racing Blind.[19] The game was released to the App Store on 7 April 2013.


Butterfield was nominated in the category "Most Promising Newcomer" of the 2008 British Independent Film Awards,[20][21] but he lost the award to Dev Patel from Slumdog Millionaire.[22] He was nominated for the NSPCC Award (Young British Performer of the Year) in the London Critics Circle Film Awards,[23][24] which was ultimately won by Thomas Turgoose for his roles in Eden Lake and Somers Town.[25] MTV Networks' named him one of the Breakout Stars to Watch for in 2011.[26]



Year Title Role Notes
2007 Son of Rambow Brethren Boy
2008 The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas Bruno Nominated – British Independent Film Award for Most Promising Newcomer
Nominated – Young Artist Award for Best Performance in an International Feature Film - Leading Young Performers (shared with Jack Scanlon)
2010 The Wolfman Younger Ben Talbot
2010 Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang Norman Green
2011 Hugo Hugo Cabret Las Vegas Film Critics Society Award for Best Youth in Film
Nominated – Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Young Performer
Nominated – Empire Award for Best Newcomer
Nominated – Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Performance by a Youth in a Lead or Supporting Role - Male
Nominated – Saturn Award for Best Performance by a Younger Actor
Nominated – Young Artist Award for Best Leading Young Actor in a Feature Film
2013 Ender's Game Ender Wiggin Nominated – Saturn Award for Best Performance by a Younger Actor
2014[27] X+Y[28] Nathan Ellis also known as A Brilliant Young Mind[29]
Nominated – BIFA Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a British Independent Film
2015 Ten Thousand Saints Jude
2016 Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Jacob Portman Filming


Year Title Role Notes and awards
2006 After Thomas Andrew Television film
2008 Ashes to Ashes Donny Episode #1.6
2008–09 Merlin Mordred 3 episodes


Year Result Award Category Work
2008 Nominated[20][21] British Independent Film Award Most Promising Newcomer The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
2009 Nominated NSPCC Award[verification needed] Young British Performer of the Year
2011 Won[30] Las Vegas Film Critics Society Best Youth in Film Hugo
2012 Nominated[31] Empire Awards Best Male Newcomer
Nominated[32] Broadcast Film Critics Association Best Young Actor/Actress
Nominated[33] Young Artist Award Best Performance in a Feature Film – Leading Young Actor
Nominated[34] Saturn Awards Best Performance by a Younger Actor
2014 Nominated[35] Saturn Awards Ender's Game
2014 Nominated[36] British Independent Film Awards Awards Best Actor X+Y


  1. ^ Sneider, Jeff (29 November 2011). "Asa Butterfield locks 'Ender's Game'". Variety. 
  2. ^ a b "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Production Notes". Miramax Films. 2008. Archived from the original on 31 January 2009. Retrieved 20 January 2009. 
  3. ^ Clarke, Cath (22 July 2010). "Act your age: the new wave of high-powered child stars". The Guardian (London, UK). 
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b "Star Interview: Asa Butterfield". Archived from the original on 22 January 2009. Retrieved 20 January 2009. 
  6. ^ Davies, Janet (23 October 2008). "Janet's Spotlight: "The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas"". ABC 7 News. Retrieved 20 January 2009. 
  7. ^ "The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas – Casting the characters". Last Broadcast. Archived from the original on 31 January 2009. Retrieved 20 January 2009. 
  8. ^ Carnevale, Rob. "The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas – Mark Herman and David Heyman interview". indieLondon. Archived from the original on 8 January 2009. Retrieved 23 January 2010. 
  9. ^ "Programmes: Merlin, The Beginning of the End". BBC One. Archived from the original on 31 January 2009. Retrieved 20 January 2009. 
  10. ^ Maher, Kevin (30 August 2008). "Meet the child stars of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas". The Times (London, UK). Retrieved 1 November 2008. 
  11. ^ "Asa Butterfield and Rafe Spall circle Origin Pictures' X + Y". Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
  12. ^ Profile: X+Y (film),; accessed 30 April 2015.
  13. ^ "Asa Butterfield Planning to Blackmail Clive Owen in ‘King of the Kastle’". Variety. Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
  14. ^ "‘Hugo's Asa Butterfield Reunites with Chloe Moretz in ‘The White Circus’". BBC America. Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
  15. ^ "Ethan Hawke, Asa Butterfield Join ‘Ten Thousand Saints’". Variety. Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
  16. ^ "Emile Hirsch joins Ten Thousand Saints". Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
  17. ^ "Jacob Portman". Retrieved 30 April 2015. 
  18. ^ Kraemer, Kristen (23 November 2011). "8 Things To Know About Hugo's Asa Butterfield!". Alloy Media, LLC (Los Angeles, California, US). Retrieved 4 April 2013. 
  19. ^ "Racing Blind - find out all about it". Sam Butterfield. 2012. Retrieved 16 April 2013. 
  20. ^ a b "Hunger dominates nominations for British Independent Film Awards". 28 October 2008. Retrieved 20 January 2009.  External link in |work= (help)
  21. ^ a b Foley, Jack. "British Independent Film Awards 2008: Nominations in full". IndieLondon. Retrieved 20 January 2009. 
  22. ^ Hoyle, Ben (1 December 2008). "Slumdog Millionaire wins at British Independent Film Awards". The Times Online (London). Retrieved 20 January 2009. 
  23. ^ Child, Ben (19 December 2008). "Slumdog Millionaire leads London critics' nominations". The Guardian (UK). Archived from the original on 22 January 2009. Retrieved 20 January 2009. 
  24. ^ "Nominations for London Film Critics' Awards held in aid of NSPCC" (Press release). NSPCC. 18 December 2008. Retrieved 20 January 2009. 
  25. ^ Thomas, Archie (4 February 2009). "londonloves 'Wrestler,' 'Slumdog'". Variety. Archived from the original on 6 February 2009. Retrieved 6 February 2009. 
  26. ^ Evry, Max (5 January 2011). "25 Breakout Stars to Watch for in 2011". Next Movie. Retrieved 11 April 2011. 
  27. ^ Adi Bloom (23 August 2013). "Film - Inside the secret world of teenage maths prodigies". Times Educational Supplement. Retrieved 25 August 2013. 
  28. ^ "X Plus Y announces cast". 18 July 2013. Retrieved 17 August 2013. 
  29. ^ "Toronto International Film Festival 2013". Bankside Films. Retrieved 1 September 2013. 
  30. ^ "2011 Sierra Award winners". Retrieved 15 March 2012. 
  31. ^ "Tom Hiddlestone (Thor) | Best Male Newcomer | Jameson Empire Awards 2012". Retrieved 2012-06-17. 
  32. ^ "17th Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards (2012)". Retrieved 15 March 2012. 
  33. ^ "33rd Annual Young Artist Awards". Retrieved 31 March 2012. 
  34. ^ Goldberg, Matt (29 February 2012). "Saturn Award Nominations Announced; HUGO and HARRY POTTER Lead with 10 Nominations Each". Collider. Retrieved 1 March 2012. 
  35. ^ Sele. "Asa Butterfield Online: Asa (and Ender's Game) nominated for Saturn Awards!". Blogger. Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
  36. ^ "The Moet British Independent Film Awards Asa Butterfield BIFA Nominations and Awards". BIFA. Retrieved 16 August 2015. 

External links[edit]