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"Yes, I do have this other life as a puppeteer, although all of the puppetry I've done has grown out of the genre of the toy theater, which was a 19th-century art form -- tabletop miniature theaters. I loved theater when I was in high school and college. I was an actor and wanted to design sets. Puppetry combined all these."

"Your puppet shows aren't intended for children. They are more like performance pieces."

"The puppetry is for adult audiences. My puppets don't have mouths that move...or look like Muppets. It's more about miniature worlds where doors or windows open to reveal something tiny inside. They are like miniature dioramas in which something moves. I did a puppet show about Christine Jorgensen, the first internationally famous male-to-female transsexual. And a piece about Walt Whitman, using a sequence of love poems he wrote to another man. That entire show took place inside a single suitcase with a 3- by 5-inch opening. A small video camera projected the tiny stage onto the wall behind it."

"You went to great lengths to research this book...for more than two years: reading histories, visiting locations, finding live models for the parts, blocking out the story with sketches, replacing descriptions in the text with pictures. It seems like a moviemaker's preparation. So many arrows point to film. And now you have Martin Scorsese interested in Hugo . He is, of course, a film historian himself and a filmmaker."

"That's thrilling, the idea of him directing a movie version. He so deeply understands and loves the early history of cinema. That would surely come through."

"Some of us are wondering where all this is going. We think you're going to wake up one morning to find you've won a MacArthur fellowship for being a genius. It really does seem to be building to some point. We just can't make out what. Like your miniature theater productions, your mute puppets, the drawings, the robots, the magic."

"It's thrilling that people are responding so well to the book now, but I didn't expect any of this to be happening. And it leaves me back at square one -- having to reinvent everything, another form. You can't just make Hugo Cabret again."

"You mean a children's book that defies convention, that's 533 pages long, with 300 illustrations, all black and white like the movies it's partly about, aimed at an audience that's somewhere between 9 and 90? It's so intriguing -- where you're headed." I pause, thinking. "Where are you headed from here?"

"I have no idea."

"None?"

"Well...one."

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