Asa Maxwell Thornton F. Butterfield (born 1 April 1997) is an English actor, best known for his role in the Holocaust film The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2008) and for his role as Norman in the 2010 film Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang.
Butterfield was born in Islington, London, the son of Jacqueline Farr and Sam Butterfield. He first started acting at the age of 7 on Wednesday 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. In 2008 he also had a guest role playing Donny in Ashes to Ashes. He is well recognized for his distinctive blue eyes.
In that same year he became known to the general public for his 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".
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. Contrary to common practice, 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. 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 chose not to pursue the latter role.
In the 2008 Merlin episode "The Beginning of the End", he plays a young druid boy who is hunted by Uther Pendragon who wants to sentence him to death 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, with the help of Morgana, helps the boy escape Camelot and returns him to the druids. When they are about to disappear into the forest Arthur asks him for his name. The druid boy identifies himself as Mordred.
In 2010, he appeared alongside Anthony Hopkins in The Wolfman.
He recently starred as Norman Green in Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang, working together with Emma Thompson. The film received great reviews along with his performance.
Asa has recently been cast as the main character, Hugo in Martin Scorsese new 3-D film Hugo, which began shooting in June 2010 and is planned for release on 23 November 2011. The filming ended in January 2011.
He has already been nominated for two awards. He was nominated in the category "Most Promising Newcomer" of the British Independent Film Awards, but he was beaten by Dev Patel from Slumdog Millionaire. He was also nominated for the NSPCC Award (Young British Performer of the Year) in the London Critics Circle Film Awards, but he missed out on this award too. It was won by Thomas Turgoose for his roles in Eden Lake and Somers Town. MTV Networks' NextMovie.com named him one of the 'Breakout Stars to Watch for in 2011'. Asa has an older brother,Morgan, who is a drummer for the English band "Oats," and a younger sister, Loxie.