From the beginning of his career as a child star, Josh Hutcherson has walked the fine line between independent film and Hollywood film. He has appeared in films as wide-ranging as American Splendor, The Polar Express, Kicking & Screaming, Zathura, RV, Bridge To Terabithia, and Journey To The Center Of The Earth.
Now, the 17 year-old comes of age with his latest role as Laser, a son of a lesbian couple who goes out to search for his parents’ sperm donor, in the independent comedy/drama role The Kids Are All Right. Hutcherson shared with us what drew him towards the film.
“The script was incredible,” Josh says, “It was unlike anything that I had read before. It was such a full adaptation of what a family means. I think that the characters are so well-written and the dialogue was so incredibly realistic that I knew that I wanted to be a part of it.”
“I met with Lisa, the director,” he continues, “And I was a fan of hers for a while from Laurel Canyon, so I think she did an amazing job with writing it, directing it, and everything and just to be part of that was an honor and it was awesome.”
Josh says he noticed right away that the tight-knit aspect to Laser’s closeness to his family is very similar to his own upbringing.
“That’s actually a very similar dynamic to my family,” Hutcherson says, “My family and I are very, very close, not only as a family, but as friends. I practically am with my mom 24/7 because she’s been on set with me since I was nine years old and so, I’m around her a lot. I just feel like I have a good friendship with my family. I think that’s very important because Laser’s family has a very strong mutual respect for one another. So Laser definitely does things sometimes and needs some parenting.”
“He’s definitely being disrespectful when they are playing ping-pong when he’s saying, ‘Shit, calm down,’ or whatever,” he adds, “And Annette says, ‘Don’t tell me to calm down, mister.’ I’ve heard that a hundred times from my mom and dad, so while that, yeah, they’re really good friends and they have a mutual respect for one another, they’re still the parents and Laser understands that.”
One thing Hutcherson says he appreciated about the film was that it did not stereotypically have the son feel he lacked a male role model in his life with two mothers.
“I think from the get go, this story was about a family and that they are the same sex is kind of a second-hand thing,” he says, “It’s not really the main moral of the story or the main point of the story. It’s almost like a B or C storyline that they are actually the same sex and I think because of that, Laser has just grown up with it. I don’t think there’s ever a point where he thought anything differently.”
“Obviously, he had seen kids who have a “regular family”, I’m sure,” Josh continues, “And I’m sure he knows that he knows that his family is not the typical type and he knows there’s controversy a lot of times around them. But I think that he’s beyond comfortable with it and the reason why he goes to look for his dad, I think, is because he’s curious to know what he’s like. I don’t think it comes from him needing to have a fatherly figure.”
Josh also shares the different relationships Laser has between the sperm donor Paul, played by Mark Ruffalo, and Joni, played by Mia Wasikowska.
“Well, I think that when Laser met Paul, he had this idea of what Paul was going to be like in his head and he wasn’t that,” he believes, “I think that Laser was expecting him to be this cool, sports guy and he was definitely not like that at all. I think it’s interesting. I like how it changed because Laser was the instigator and when they met, Laser became a little more apprehensive and Joni was the one that came into him more.”
“I think that because Laser did have an expectation and Joni went into it with her expectations,” Hutcherson adds, “But I think that’s probably why I feel like Laser’s read was the most genuine of everyone’s, when he’s all into himself and that whole thing. I think he’s the one who saw a little bit through Paul’s BS, I think.”
We asked Hutcherson if Cholodenko or her co-writer Stuart Blumberg ever explained to him just why his character’s name happens to be laser.
“No, they didn’t,” Josh replies, “It’s weird. I asked. Apparently, sort of, I kind of know. Basically, Stuart and Lisa, the writer and director, they both mutually knew somebody named Laser, but they both didn’t know that they knew the same person. And so, it was like a coincidence, like, oh, let’s name him Laser. I was like, it’s a pretty epic name and I feel like an American Gladiator.”
Josh says he enjoyed playing ping-pong with her co-star Julianne Moore, who plays Laser’s mother Jules in the film.
“I play a lot of ping-pong,” he says, “I’m not going to declare myself as the champ, but my character’s name is Laser and I play ping-pong. That kind of makes me the champ, I guess, but no, Julianne actually was good. I was surprise because she was pretending like she didn’t know what she was doing, but you could actually tell that she had the little forehand/backhand maneuvers going on. I can tell.”
Hutcherson says the feedback he has received for The Kids Are All Right have come from rather surprising places.
“I haven’t heard any feedback from same sex families, but I’ve heard feedback from straight and gay people and also single parents families,” Josh claims, “And they all have been very gracious to see a film depicting a family that happens to be same sex marriage. So I’ve actually been really happy with the response we’ve been getting. It’s been very, very positive and supportive of it.”
Josh says the film’s nonchalant attitude toward the idea that the parents happen to be two moms is a credit to the strengths of the film.
“Totally,” Hutcherson says, “I’m so happy about that, really. In a movie like this, even though this doesn’t have a political agenda, there’s kind of another stepping stone in that sort of becoming more and more a normal part of society.”
“In a movie like this, it’s job is to depict real life,” Hutcherson continues, “And the fact that it’s not bringing about a whole lot of controversy, it’s sort of going through as a normal movie is very exciting because that is just real life and that’s now becoming more and more normal.”
Hutcherson notes, however, that he felt he did not have to research into the lives of same sex families to understand his role.
“I didn’t,” he claims, “I didn’t actually and a lot of that was in the script because Lisa Cholodenko and her partner have gotten a kid through an anonymous sperm donor. So I think that they put a lot of that heart and soul that they know so well into the story. So a lot of it was in the script for me.”
“I think also, too, as I was saying earlier, Laser isn’t affected any differently than your technically normally raised child would be,” Josh adds, “So, for me, I didn’t want to over-think it too much. I’m going to play him as a normal kid because that’s exactly what he was to me.”