– Josh Hutcherson is a household name thanks to a little movie called The Hunger Games, but the 19-year-old actor’s rise to the top didn’t come out of nowhere. While other kids his age were playing little league, Hutcherson was honing his skils in films like The Polar Express, Bridge to Terabithia, and The Kids Are All Right.
His latest indie flick, Detention, is a high-energy, genre-bending thriller that mixes together elements of The Breakfast Club, Back to the Future, and Scream to create something wholly unique and a little undefinable. Hutcherson, who co-executive produced the movie, plays Clapton Davis, a music-obsessed skateboarding teen with a ’90s pop culture reference for every occasion.
Zimbio recently chatted with Josh about Detention, what he wants to do next as an actor, and whether he thinks he and Jennifer Lawrence have a chance to steal this year’s Best Kiss trophy away from Robsten at the MTV Movie Awards.
Detention is a fast-paced movie that mixes horror, science fiction, and comedy. What was that like for you as an actor?
It was a challenge sometimes. You know, you have scenes where you are jumping into a mascot bear to travel back in time and you’re trying to make that seem real [laughs]. But for me, I think that I’m a person who has a pretty wild imagination so I just let that run wild and did the best I could to not feel stupid. You kinda just gotta go for it and not hold back. Because once you start holding back or second guessing yourself, that’s when it will actually starts to look ridiculous.
What are some of your favorite pop culture things from the ’90s?
I was a huge boy band fan back in the day. Like N*Sync and Backstreet Boys and Hanson and all that stuff. I also liked the ’90s cartoons on Nickelodeon like Aaahh!!! Real Monsters and Rocco’s Modern Life. Those are some of my favorites.
Are you a skateboarder in real life or did you have to learn for the movie?
It helped that I had some skateboarding history for the film, but I definitely stepped it up quite a bit when it came to the film. But actually I also had to learn how to unicycle for the movie! There’s one shot where I unicycle down the hallway of the high school so I took a few weeks of really training hard to get that unicycle down pat.
What was it like to work as both an executive producer and an actor on Detention?
It was awesome for me. I’ve always kind of grown up on movie sets and wanted to get behind the camera, so for [director] Joseph [Kahn] to give me that opportunity was awesome. My biggest involvement was with the casting process at the beginning, as well as nailing down the story stuff and on set just helping with the logistics of things and making sure everything ran smoothly. So it was cool and for me it was something that I would like to do a lot more of.
Did you ever get detention?
Well I stopped going to school in 5th grade — I was home schooled after that so I didn’t really have much opportunity, but I’m sure I would have been in detention very often. Probably for talking more than anything. [laughs] I was actually expelled once from elementary school. It was a big miscommunication in all honesty. There was this kid who was a friend of mine who was in the boy’s bathroom and these two kids were bullying him and it looked like they were going to beat him up so I stepped in and I was like, ‘Don’t worry guys, I’ll take it from here’ — trying to be all badass at the age of 10 — and so they left and as they were leaving I pushed the kid up against the wall to make it look like I was actually going to hurt him. And then he ran off and told the principal so I got expelled from school. But I wasn’t — I was trying to help the kid but it was just a miscommunication, that’s all.
You’ve done a lot of different kinds of films. Is there any genre of film you’re looking to explore further or parts that you are itching to play?
For me I just want to do different types of movies and Detention definitely falls into that category. I want to do movies that people haven’t really done before or things that people haven’t seen before and then challenge myself as an actor. So anything that’s different than what I’ve done before is what I’m into doing next. As an actor, one of the most important parts of having a long career is being versatile and changing the kinds of roles you can play. I just want to keep on switching it up.
You said you were home schooled. If you had gone to a regular high school, what would have been some of the things that you would have liked to do?
Let’s see, if I were in high school… I think that something that’s really important to me and really important to a lot of people in high school are gay/straight alliances. I think if I was in high school I would try to be heading gay/straight alliances to give people a safe place to come and talk about who they are as people. Also I would try to be Prom King because I think that would be the coolest.
Since Detention is a horror film, what scares you?
I hate spiders. I’m pretty good at being not afraid of almost everything except for spiders. They just scare the crap out of me [laughs].
Your character Clapton is really into music. What kind of music do you personally like?
I listen to everything. Literally. I love dub step and electronic music and ’60s rock and roll and hip hop and indie rock. I literally listen to every genre that exists. I’m pretty much all over the place. Schizophrenic, more or less, in the music department. Right now I’m listening to this song called “Promises,” it’s a Nero/Skrillex remix song and it’s so good. It’s so catchy. The beat is just absolutely incredible.
Do you think that you and Jennifer Lawrence are going to dethrone Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart in the Best Kiss category at the MTV Movie Awards this year?
[laughs] It was a good kiss, I’m not gonna lie. So we’ll see what happens.
Any highlights of your Hunger Games tour?
The mall tour was absolute madness. Seeing all the fans firsthand and how passionate they were. That was definitely the highlight for me.
As someone who is sort of becoming a cultural icon of our generation, what do you think when people say, ‘Oh Generation Y or the Millennials have a short attention span and they can’t focus.’ Or that we’re not as good as other generations?
I think it’s a double edged sword. I think our shorter attention span does two things — I think we can obviously be a little scatterbrained, but at the same time I think we have the ability to focus on multiple things at once and our level of understanding and comprehension is growing. I think that now more than ever we’re more bound to other people and I think we’re more compassionate because the world is so small. Because through one tweet someone in Africa can talk about their life and you can learn about it. So while I think that there are downsides to [technology], where you have less human to human interaction, I think that in a way it’s making us more compassionate as people. [laughs] I don’t think we’re all a waste. I think we’ll be okay.
Detention is currently in limited release nationwide.