Though Jennifer Lawrence has stolen most of the spotlight in the months leading up to the release of The Hunger Games, Josh Hutcherson is the man of the moment. With Journey 2: The Mysterious Island hitting theaters this week (read my review here), the 19-year-old actor returns to a role that helped raise his profile enough to nab one of two male leads in March's Games, and this time around it's his show.
I recently got a chance to chat with Hutcherson while he was making the round promoting Journey 2, and we talked about everything from stunts and special effects to the core of his character Sean Anderson. Additionally, he says that his portrayal of Peeta Mellark, Katniss Everdeen's survival partner in Games, is faithful to Suzanne Collins' source material, and that he's very excited to get back to work on the inevitable follow-ups to both films.
Read on for a full transcript of the interview:
Hello Josh! How are you?
I’m doing great! How are you?
Good, good. Very good. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today.
Of course. No worries.
I think that when I was playing Sean in the first movie, his sense of adventure was coming from a younger, more immature place, in terms of—not really wanting to get in trouble, but just a little wide-eyed and bushy tailed. I think now his sense of wonder and adventure is coming from a place of wanting to discover something and share it with the world. I think that also, he has kind of had a tough time. He went to the center of the Earth. And since then, he’s been stuck in this other lifestyle that is not too exciting, back in Ohio. So, he’s been kind of itching to go out. And we pick up with him here, and he’s getting to go on another adventure, which he’s really excited about. His stepdad ends up coming along with him, and kind of cramping his style.
That’s exactly what I would call it. On the first film, Brendan [Fraser] was more or less…I don’t want to say “stealing the spotlight,” but more of it was on him. Obviously, he’s a very established star. But in this film, even with Dwayne Johnson, it’s really your show. I’m just wondering, what’s the hardest thing about carrying the torch from the original to the sequel, when you’re working with a new director, new costars? There’s a whole different feel to this movie.
It was. It is honestly like a whole other movie to me. While, obviously, we had the same kind of structure—as far as adventure goes—it’s a whole different cast, we’re going to a whole different place, new director. I mean, the producers and the studio are the people I kind of got to work with again. So for me, it didn’t really feel like it was a continuation of the last one. It kind of felt like its own story picking up.
Yeah. Absolutely. And watching the movie, it seemed as though you had a lot more physical work to do than in the first movie, but also than anybody else in the movie, including Dwayne, who is known for physical roles and that kind of activity. So, I’m wondering, were the stunts particularly difficult on you? And what kind of training you had to go through?
Yeah, there was a lot of stunt work. There was definitely a more significant amount in this than I’ve actually had in any other movie before. As far as the training goes, I just wanted to keep up my endurance ability. There’s a lot of running. A lot of running and jumping and yelling, and things of that nature. But it’s fun. I absolutely love doing my own stunts. I’m very athletic. I play a lot of sports in my downtime. So whenever I’m on a movie, it’s kind of like that sort of becomes my basketball or becomes my soccer, so I really enjoy it.
Are those kinds of movies, when you’re getting to get out there and run and jump and take spills, is that indicative of the kind of films you’d like to continue to make in the future?
For sure, yeah. For me, it’s not just that. I want to do a combination of movies. I love doing big action movies, because they are fun to shoot, and I love getting to film action sequences and whatnot. But I also like smaller, more intimate character stories. And, possibly, romantic things, and comedies. All sorts of stuff. I think for me, as an actor, my favorite thing is getting to play different types of roles and different walks of life.—
Awesome. And you have already. I’ve followed your body of work for some time, and it has definitely varied. And that’s great. Now, I know that you filmed on location in Hawaii. I’m not sure exactly how long you were there. There appeared to be a lot of really cool sets built. I got a kick out of the Atlantis stuff. But I’m curious as to how much green screen was used in the production, and whether or not that affected you doing your job.
Yeah, there was quite a bit of green screen. We actually shot about two-and-a-half months of the movie in Hawaii. There was quite a bit of green screen with the bee chases, the lizard chases and things like that. Working with green screen presents some challenges. You really have to use your imagination. I think one of the most important things is not holding back. You can’t really think about how goofy you might look when you’re doing these sequences. Because if you think about that, you’ll kind of mess it up. You have to trust the visual effects, and trust what the directors show you. The give you some images of what the lizard and the bees will look like. You’ve got to trust that that’s really what it’s going to look like so you can react fully to it.
Gotcha. What’s your take on 3D, now that you have done two pretty big 3D films? It’s obviously all the rage. And you beat Avatar to the punch with the first movie. What’s your take on the format?
I think it’s great. I think it has its place. I don’t think that one day, every movie will be 3D, because I personally would be annoyed if I went to go see, like, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and it was in 3D, or more character driven movies. But the movies like Journey and Avatar, where it’s kind of a whole other world and you need to be immersed into it, it’s interesting in that sense.
Both of the Journey films, and another tiny little film that you’re about to star in, were all based on novels. I’m just wondering how much you invest in the source material of any film you’re making when you’re preparing for a role?
It depends. Like, for The Hunger Games, I was very invested in the material; it was one of those things where the fans were diehard about it. And so much of the character was in the books. So that, for me, was important to be really familiar with that source material. With something like Journey, it was kind of based on the book, obviously, but my character wasn’t created from the book. It was an outside character that found the book. So that wasn’t as important for me as something like The Hunger Games.
Just to switch gears, how are you dealing with the massive, massive hype surrounding The Hunger Games? You can’t get away from it whatsoever—and we don’t want to get away from it! I’m just wondering, from the inside looking out, what is going on?
It’s a really exciting ride, honestly. To see that much anticipation leading up to the movie is unlike anything I’m familiar with. So it’s a very exciting roller coaster, and…I can’t wait for it to come out. To have that much anticipation before you even role the first frame of the film is very exciting. But honestly, once we got on the set, it was kind of like none of that really mattered. We were there to make our movie, all of us were there to do our jobs that we were all good at. It was sort of like we forgot about it for a few minutes. And now we’re reminded of it again every single day.
Would you call your performance as Peeta faithful to the novels?
Very much so, yeah. I think that was important for everyone in the movie—staying faithful to the novel. One of the things we had to be sure of is that Peeta never came across as wimpy or weak. At certain points, he’s pouring his love out for Katniss, and we didn’t want that to come across as too gushy. It’s important to make those moments stay true to the book, but also to have the strength that is needed in The Hunger Games.
For someone who is not familiar with the source material, who has not read the novels, is it going to be difficult for them to get into it?
No, not at all. Honestly, like the novel, half the movie is pre-Hunger Games. Before the games actually start. So it gives you a lot of buildup, a lot of backstory, a lot of explaining of what the world is. Much like the book does. It’s very similarly structured to the book, so it’ll all be there for the people who don’t know what the book is about to really get into it.
Sounds like the fans are really going to go nuts for it then.
[Laughs] That’s the plan.
Cool, cool. Are you ready for sequels to both of these franchises that you’re involved in? Because obviously, with The Hunger Games, you’re talking about three, possibly four movies. And at the end of Journey, it’s left open pretty obviously for a threequel. I’m just wondering if you’re excited to get back into Sean Anderson and Peeta for both of these things.
Yeah, definitely. I’m very excited. I was kind of surprised that we were doing a second Journey, because it has been so long since we did the first one. And when they told me, I was really excited about it, and curious to see where they were going to take us. And hopefully it won’t take as long to make a third, if that’s the case. [Laughs] And the same for Hunger Games. I love Peeta. He’s my favorite character I’ve ever played in a movie. And throughout the books, he gets more and more interesting in my opinion. I’m definitely on board and ready to go.
Can you also just tell me what else is coming up on the horizon? You have, it seems like, a tremendous amount of films in production that are supposed to release this year. Red Dawn I’ve been looking forward to for, like, seven years, it feels like. I’m sure you wanted to get it out there also. Do you know about when we’re going to be seeing Red Dawn, Carmel, any of these things?
Yeah. Red Dawn is going to be coming out in November of this year, which I’m very excited about. Finally! After MGM, everything they went through, it’s finally coming out. It’s great. I love the movie. I saw it a long time ago. They’ve made some adjustments since then, but it was a great movie. It had the heart of the first, with a new kind of style, action and effects. And then I have this movie Detention, which will be coming out sometime this year. I’m not sure when yet, exactly. And other than that, I’m just kind of looking forward to my next project. I have some time open in the spring and early summer before, possibly, Hunger Games: Catching Fire starts filming. So I’m kind of looking for another project to go in that time. Probably something a lot more on the indie scale. More of a character kind of role.