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Two of America’s greatest living film directors are going British this holiday season. Both Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg have shot their new movies in England.

Scorsese’s Hugo, which is in theaters now, is a luminous, 3-D family film about an orphaned boy who lives in a Paris train station. While it’s an adventure tale involving mysteries of identity, the movie is also a love letter to the power of movies and a plea for film preservation, a cause long close to Scorsese’s heart.

The story may be set in Paris but Scorsese shot much of the film at Shepperton Studios in London,  and the cast is chock-full of blazingly British stars. Child actor Asa Butterfield (Nanny McPhee Returns) plays the movie’s young hero, while his co-stars include Sir Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jude Law, Emily Mortimer, Ray Winstone, Christopher Lee, Richard Griffiths, Frances de la Tour, and Helen McCrory (an actress noted for portraying Cherie Blair in both The Queen and The Special Relationship).

Spielberg’s War Horse, also a family film, tells the story of a young English farm lad whose beloved horse, Joey, is sold to the cavalry and shipped off to France in the early days of World War I. The youth (played by Jeremy Irvine, of the Life Bites British TV series) enlists as a soldier so that he can remain close to his four-legged friend.

The film was shot mostly in England, including at Twickenham Film Studios in London and Longcross Studios in Surrey, as well as on location in Devon, Hampshire, Surrey, Wiltshire and other sites. The cast includes such familiar U.K. stars as Benedict Cumberbatch, Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Peter Mullan and Tom Hiddleston. The movie opens on Christmas.

And what about Spielberg’s other holiday film, The Adventures of Tintin, the performance-capture animation tale that opens Dec. 21? Sorry to say, but it was shot in New Zealand, though it does star several British names, including Daniel Craig, Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg.


Are Hugo or War Horse on your must see list?


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By Leah Rozen