Michael Bergeron
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Asa Butterfield on “The Space Between Us”

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You could do a lot worse as a child actor who started appearing in films at the age of eight. Now approaching his 20th birthday on April 1, Asa Butterfield has worked with a who’s who of actors and directors.

Actors like Harrison Ford, Viola Davis and Ben Kingsley in Ender’s Game. Directors like Martin Scorsese (Hugo) and Tim Burton (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children). How does a performer get such lucky breaks?

“I sort of ask myself that same question all the time,” Butterfield says to Free Press Houston in a phone interview. “I’ve managed to stay grounded and not get caught up in the seriousness of it.

“I’m not saying to my agent ‘Get me into science fiction films.’ I look at the quality of the scripts and the character more than anything. Sci-fi is something I am interested in – I’ve always been a fan. The stories expand the boundaries we have with reality,” says Butterfield.

In his newest film The Space Between Us Butterfield plays Gardner Elliot, the first human born on Mars. His mom dies in childbirth and Gardner is raised by the NASA crew who lives on the Red Planet. Gardner grows into a teenager only dreaming about space travel.

When at age 16 he finally gets the chance to go to Earth, Gardner hooks up with Tulsa (Britt Robertson, Tomorrowland), an Internet pen pal, and together they go on a road trip so he can find his biological father. Due to the difference in gravity between the two planets Gardner’s organs start to fail. Meanwhile his NASA handler (Gary Oldman) races to find Gardner who is now on the run with Tulsa. Carla Gugino and B.D. Wong also co-star.

“One of the characteristics of the character is that when he comes to Earth the gravity affects him physically,” explains Butterfield. “It affects the way he walks, they way he does anything. I would put weights around my ankles and walk or jog while we were filming. Then I would watch the video and practice that way of moving without the weights. I wanted to depict the sense he has that everything is an effort.”

Another film Butterfield has coming out later this year, House of Tomorrow, deals with Buckminster Fuller. “He’s not a character, however he is consistently referenced. Both my character and my grandma played by Ellen Burstyn have built their lives around his philosophy. We live in a geodesic dome and tell people it’s the home of the future,” says Butterfield.

Working in the film industry with some of the best collaborators and artists has had an influence on Butterfield’s career.

“I would like to be behind the camera and be a cinematographer. I’m really interested in photography.”

The Space Between Us opens in area theaters this weekend.