Most people will tell you that child stardom in Hollywood often involves toeing a very dangerous line, because of how much their need for growth in their personal well-being is often sacrificed for hours and hours of hard work. However, more child stars in this generation are beginning to emerge with some semblance of balance between a normal life and a major Hollywood career.
One is 15 year-old Josh Hutcherson. He has already starred in a string of family films including Zathura, RV, and Firehouse Dog.
Now Josh stars in what is arguably the most ambitious and technically groundbreaking family film to come along in some time. It is an adaptation of Jules Verne’s classic novel Journey To The Center Of The Earth, in 3D in which he plays Sean Anderson, the nephew of a volcanologist.
Hutcherson first discussed with us what motivated him to jump on board this particularly unique Journey.
“Actually, it really wasn’t bad for me at all,” Josh recalls, “I actually didn’t have to audition for this movie, which is really nice. A really nice change of pace, too, because I always had to audition for all my projects. But I read the script, I loved it, and I met with Eric [Brevig], the director, at Starbucks.”
“It was very L.A,” he continues, “We actually met at the Starbucks just as I had gotten done filming Bridge of Terabithia down in New Zealand, which was like the day I flew back. So it was great. Eric showed me a bunch of pre-viz stuff that he had worked out, like animated storyboards he showed me.”
Josh adds that it was this initial encounter that planted the seeds for a great rapport on set between him and director Eric Brevig.
“Eric is funny,” he says, “A really nice guy, great director, so we really hit it off right away. And it just kind of spawned my relationship and it just started all off. He challenged me and I was surprised about that though, because coming out of a background of extensive special effects work, you’re always wondering though, is he going to care too much about the visual effects and not too much about the acting.”
“He did and he was right on par with it and he gave me really great direction,” Hutcherson adds, “He was definitely in my head, as far as my mindset of the character and he really helped me established my backstory of the character during all the subtleties. He was really great.”
For a young actor like Hutcherson, he claims that the experience of working on a movie like Journey To The Century Of The Earth was not really what you would call “work” for him.
“Oh, man, it was great,” he says, “I love sports and I love getting to do any kind of activity, so getting to do these stunts was awesome for me. I had a field day with it. It was so great and the producers were really cool about letting me get to do most of them, so they didn’t have to worry too much about the safety of it.”
“So we did the floating rock scene,” Josh continues, “My favorite scene was actually when we dive under the water. And that was cool because we got to go to this Olympic pool and we had this 50 foot deep pool. Where they did like scuba training and we got to jump off this big scaffolding down the water. It was a lotta, lotta fun.”
While on the subject of favorites, Josh also shared with us what his favorite stunt was that he got to do.
“That and the floating rocks,” Hutcherson replies, “They and Eric, genius director, figured out how to do different set-ups for each rock. The one right where I jump kind of flips around and flips all the way over and the other one where I hit it and it kind of slides forward and stuff.”
“And he had different rigs,” he adds, “One was a pneumatic rig and the other one is on an inner-tube. The one is called a rotisserie, because on a rotisserie chicken, you just clamp on and go “Grrr” and it’s all over.”
We asked Josh what was the most difficult stunt he had to do in the film.
“The raft scene was actually really difficult, because it was really unbalanced and really kind of rocky,” Hutcherson replies, “You’re really using your body the whole time, so you had to keep your footings, so it was pretty tough.”
Hutcherson also claims he’s not much different from his character Sean in the film.
“Definitely not,” he remarks, “Total smart aleck, that’s definitely me. Just sarcastic with his family, that’s definitely who I am, so it wasn’t much of a stretch for me.”
However, despite his purported smart-alecky ways, Josh managed to enjoy working alongside Brendan Fraser, who plays Sean’s uncle Trevor in the film.
“Brendan is great to work with,” Hutcherson says, “He’s hilarious. Second of all, he’s a big kid. He’s really great., a really nice guy. He played Xbox with me, we hung out, he was just a lot of fun on set.”
A particular aspect of the film that Hutcherson was intrigued by was the film’s usage of digital 3D, implemented by Real D Cinema.
“It was great,” Josh claims, “The camera was so high-tech. They hardly ever did reloads, because they recorded it to a dry, basically. It was really great because with the 3D technology, the way they shot it, you could literally go to this little tent that they had set up on set and you can watch what we were filming live in 3D. Technology is so far past anything I’ve seen before. It’s amazing, just to be on the cutting edge of that, it’s really awesome.”
Despite Josh’s already appearing in several high-profile Hollywood movies, he still manages to be no less different than any other 15 year-old. He says much of that is credited to his Kentucky upbringing.
“I’m from Union, Kentucky,” Hutcherson says, “The population is like less than 10,000, I think, but it’s surrounded by a bunch of other cities and it’s like 15 minutes south of Cincinnati, OH. It’s a suburb. It’s like we’re in no man’s land, because when I go somewhere and people ask me where I’m from, I say Cincinatti, but I really live in Kentucky, but I don’t say I live in Kentucky, so I’m not really part of Kentucky, cause I disown it.”
“But at the same time, I say I am from Cincinnati, but Kentucky is da bomb,” he continues, “I love this state. It’s great, just to be able to like get away from Hollywood and stuff like that and go dirtbiking. There’s not very many places where you can go dirtbiking up the creeks and L.A. River is that wide.”
However, the young actor also claims that he doesn’t that much of a difference between Hollywood and Kentucky.
“It’s really funny, because there’s no glitz and glamour in Hollywood. It’s all down and dirty, I swear,” Josh remarks, “The movie business is held together by duct tape. I mean, seriously, it’s something as serious as that holds everything together.”
Josh says that what keeps him grounded is the love and support of his family and friends back home.
“My friends and family have always been really supportive of me,” he says, “They didn’t want me to get into it at first,” They were like, why don’t you just play teeball and be normal? But I was really persistent about it, so they’ve really helped me a lot in ways. They really did a great job in giving me the best of both worlds, being able to get back home and have a normal down-ho Kentucky life and then, switch it up and go make a movie.”
“But nevertheless, it’s not that big of a difference for me jumping back and forth,” Hutcherson continues, “I’m the same person in public that I am back home, so I don’t put on an act or anything like that. This is who I am and that’s just how I am when I am who I am.”
For this particular young actor, Hutcherson says he already knows the kind of career path he hopes to follow.
“I really like Jake Gyllenhaal. He’s one of my favorite actors,” he says, ” He’s really great. And he doesn’t choose roles based on their commercial success or high revenue or anything like that. He chooses roles based on, I think, the character arc and the story and all that and that’s how I want to go about my career.”
“And I definitely want to do these kind of movies, the big blockbuster, really high action movies and that’s the thing I love to do,” Josh continues, “But I also want to do, I did a movie called Winged Creatures, and that was definitely a lower-paced, darker, and more dramatic role and that was really fun for me as well.”
That career is one that he is continuing with new films on the horizon that will feature Josh, including Cirque Du Freak.
“I just finished filming in New Orleans,” Hutcherson says, “I did a film called Cirque Du Freak, which is a vampire movie and it was so much fun. It was great and that’s really going to be a kind of weird movie. It’s with Universal and it’s an amazing cast. It has John C. Reilly, Salma Hayek, William Dafoe, and Ken Watanabe. ”
“So it was like, whoa, what? Who’s in this?! So it was great,” he adds, “All the people in that shoat, shoot and show combined, were great. They were really fun and I had a really great time on it and there’s a lot of stunts on that one as well and it was really cool.”
However, even with the looming threat of a possible Screen Actors strike, this young actor insists he’s still sticking to his chosen path.
“With the possibility of the strike, it’s kind of slowed things down a bit, as far as commercial projects go, so it’s kind of been waiting around for the right one to do,” Josh says, “I never want to do a movie just for the sake of wanting to do a movie. I want to make sure it has the right thing behind it.”