Josh Hutcherson of 'Kids Are All Right' thrives in two movie worlds

by Robert W. Butler

McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

6 August 2010


He’s only 17, but Josh Hutcherson has seen both sides of the movie industry.

He has had his share of big special effects extravaganzas — check out “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and “Zathura.”

But he has also done small, intimate movies like “Bridge to Terabithia” and now “The Kids Are All Right,” in which he plays the sports-loving son of two lesbian moms (Julianne Moore, Annette Bening).

“Both sorts of movies have their challenges,” Hutcherson said in a recent phone call from Los Angeles. “It’s hard making a big CG” — computer generated — “movie because your imagination always has to be working overtime. Usually you’re acting against a green screen. All the fantastic stuff will be added later.

“With ‘Kids’ we had really deep characters, a hard-core story and incredibly great actors. So that’s a different kind of intimidating.”

Maybe, but Hutcherson has risen to the challenge. “Kids” — a comedy/drama in which a teenage brother and sister (Hutcherson and Mia Wasikowska) track down their anonymous sperm donor father (Mark Ruffalo) — has received some of the year’s best reviews.

Hutcherson says his best barometer for whether a film will succeed is the script. And when he first read the “Kids"screenplay by director Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg,“I couldn’t believe what I was reading. The dialogue felt real. The relationships were genuine. It felt like a real family.”

In fact, he said, Cholodenko (“High Art”) revealed to him that many of the characters and situations were drawn from her own life as a mother in a same-sex marriage.

“That’s why there’s so much heart in the film. It’s Lisa’s life. She and her partner went to a sperm donor to start their family. And she spent five years writing that script, living with these characters. No wonder they seem real.”

The product of a “really traditional” family from Union, Ky., Hutcherson said, “At first I didn’t get the whole double-mom thing.

“But I felt at home with the family Lisa had created for the movie because my family has that same feeling. You know — close-knit, dinner every night, a sibling.”

The low-budget “Kids” was filmed over 23 furious days.

“We were shooting six pages a day, which is a ton. But that’s kind of neat because you discover this no-time-to-think energy. There’s not a lot of time to stew about your character. You just dive in and go with your gut.”

Does he learn about his craft from the people he acts with?

“People always ask, ‘Did such-and-such an actor give you tips and pointers?’ Well, they never sat me down and lectured me. But I watch and I learn.

“Julianne and Annette are naturally great actors. It’s amazing to watch them jump in out of character. They can be incredibly intense while the camera’s running, but the minute someone yells ‘Cut!’ they’re back to being themselves. Here’s what I really love about them: They strive not only to be better actors, but to be better persons. They’re moms, they have families and kids. It was just so cool to be around them.

“You hear about actors who are divas and, yeah, there are some like that. But in my experience not many. Not the really good ones.”

This spring Hutcherson graduated from high school — a year early — and said it was a big relief not to have to spend half his work day with a tutor.

“It is so horrible when you’re filming and every time they break for smokes and Cokes you have to go study math,” he said. “So I decided a couple of years ago to just power through and get my degree as soon as possible.”

He says he’s considering college, but not right away.

“I don’t think I’m going to go soon. I’m busy with acting, which is what I’ve wanted to do all my life. Quitting now would be like throwing away my dream.

“But some day, sure. I wouldn’t go to film school. I’ll find something I’m interested in, like psychology. Something that would help me as an actor.”

Until then he’s keeping busy. Over the next few months audiences will see Hutcherson in the crime drama “Carmel,” a remake of the teens-vs.-Commies classic “Red Dawn” and a sequel to “Journey to the Center of the Earth.”

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