Drawn To Movies

Film geek, illustrator, and bestselling author Brian Selznick pencils us in between a book tour and Hollywood première


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Brian Selznick hails from Hollywood royalty. 

“I’m distantly related to David O. Selznick who produced Gone with the Wind and King Kong. I grew up seeing my name at the beginning of all his movies and I’ve always loved old movies, so I think that might come from the fact that I had what I felt was this very personal connection to David O. Selznick… even though he’s from the Los Angeles, movie-making side of the family and I’m from the New Jersey dry cleaning side.”

But Brian Selznick never became a filmmaker. Instead, he turned to writing and illustrating children’s books and investing them with a very cinematic style. His first book was The Houdini Box in 1991. His most recent work is Wonderstruck, in which one story, set in 1977, is told entirely with words while the other, set 50 years earlier, is told only in pictures. 

“I’m always interested in the work that the reader has to do while reading a book,” Selznick says. “I like to think that the reader is actively engaged in the illustrations and in the reading.”

Meet Brian Selznick
Warwick’s Presents: Wonderstruck with Brian Selznick
Where: San Diego Natural History Museum
When: October 28, 6:30 p.m.
RSVP: Tickets are $40 through Warwick’s 

That’s why when he wrote The Invention of Hugo Cabret he included almost no description and very little action instead conveying that information through drawings. Selznick explains, “My goal was at the end of the book you wouldn’t remember what you had read and what you had seen but that it would all flow together into one single narrative.”

Selznick’s illustrations are meant to evoke the feeling of movies, yet he never thought any of his books would ever be made into a feature film. Then Martin Scorsese decided to adapt Hugo for the big screen.

“Scorsese’s one of the great film directors of all time,” says Selznick. “On top of that, he’s a brilliant film scholar and knows everything about the history of cinema itself. So to have an artist like him creating his vision of a story that I made up is really beyond anything that I could have ever imagined.”

Selznick, who divides his time between San Diego and New York, got to visit the set three times and has written a book on the making of the movie called The Hugo Movie Companion that just came out. For the book, he interviewed 40 people from the film, from the dog trainer to Mr. Scorsese himself. One of the questions he asked was what attracted Scorsese to the material.

Asa Butterfield, Martin Scorsese, and Chloë Moretz on the set of Hugo, from Paramount Pictures and GK Films.
Jaap Buitendjik © 2011 GK Films, LLC.  All Rights Reserved.

Selznick says that Scorsese liked “the fact that my story is about the history of cinema, which allowed him to touch on and examine the very earliest moments of the medium that he has spent his life working in. It’s also a story about a father and a son, and that’s something that he said is very close to his heart. In the interview I did with him, he talked about his dad, and going to the movies with his dad. And by great coincidence, the first movie that Scorsese remembers seeing was Duel in the Sun, which happened to be a David O. Selznick film.”

The film version of Hugo opens nationwide on November 23. 

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