In this interview in support of the film's theatrical release, Hutcherson - currently impressing audiences as 'Peeta' in the blockbuster hit, The Hunger Games - talked about taking on the lead role in Detention and his job as executive producer on the project. He also talked about skateboarding, being homeschooled, figuring out how to ground his character in reality while crazy things happen around him, and, of course, even a little bit about one of 2012's biggest films, The Hunger Games.
Interview with Josh Hutcherson:
Were there any references in the movie that you think audiences might not get?
Josh Hutcherson: "There were definitely some references that are very specific. There are a few that I myself didn't get and that, I think, is what makes this movie really unique. I think there are a few people out there that will get them, and that will make it even more special for them. The important thing is that a lot of it is references that people will get, and then for those special few out there, they get bonus references on the side."
Detention has the potential to be a horror comedy version of The Breakfast Club. What are your thoughts on that?
Josh Hutcherson: "I think it definitely references The Breakfast Club, for sure. I think this movie has so many different things happening in it - pretty much every genre that exists. To me, it's like Back to the Future mixed with The Breakfast Club mixed with Scream. Those are kind of three that I feel this movie is represented by."
There are so many pop culture references in the movie. What are some of your favorite pop culture things from the '90s?
Josh Hutcherson: "Oh man, I was a huge boy band fan back in the day. Like 'N Sync and Backstreet Boys and Hanson and all that stuff."
Are you an avid skateboarder in real life or did you just do that for the movie?
Josh Hutcherson: "I don't really do it much. I can. It apparently helped that I had some skateboarding history for the film. But I definitely stepped it up quite a bit when it came time to film. But I actually had to ride a unicycle for the movie; there's one shot where I go down the hallway in the high school and I took a few weeks to really train hard to get the unicycle down pat."
You are also an executive producer on Detention. What was that like and did it affect at all the process of being an actor?
Josh Hutcherson: "It was awesome for me. I've grown up on movie sets and wanted to get behind the camera, so to get that opportunity here was awesome. You know, for me my biggest involvement was in the casting process at the beginning as well as just nailing down the story stuff and on set just kind of helping with the logistics of things and helping things run smoothly, just because Joseph and most of his crew comes from a music video/commercial-oriented background. Me, coming from the film world, it was kind of helpful to bring the knowledge of that to the set. It was cool, I think. For me, it's something I want to do a lot more.
As far as how it affected my performance, I don't think it really got in the way. Most of my producorial duties were before we even started shooting. But even the stuff on the set, I don't think it took away anything at all from my acting."
How was Detention a new or different kind of acting experience for you?
Josh Hutcherson: "Well, I’ve never read a script anywhere near as crazy as this. So for me, it was about trying to find a way to make all these different elements together. As far as an actor, it was important to try to convey the scenes in a very solid way, even though sometimes it was very high-concept, far-fetched type of material. I think as an actor that was probably the biggest challenge for me and something that was most important for the film."
Some of this film takes place while the characters are in detention. Did you get in trouble in school?
Josh Hutcherson: "Well, I stopped going to school in the fifth grade. I was homeschooled after that so I didn't have much opportunity. I'm sure I would have been in detention fairly often, probably for talking more than anything else. I was actually expelled once from elementary school based on a miscommunication, in all honesty. There was this kid who was a friend of mine and he was in the boys bathroom and these two kids were bullying him. They were going to beat him up - actually fight him - so I stepped in and said, 'All right, guys, don't worry. I'll take it from here.' Trying to be all bad-ass. So, they left and as they were leaving, I pushed the kid up against the wall to make it like I was actually going to hurt him, and then he went off and told the principal so I got expelled from school. But I was trying to help the kid and it was just a miscommunication is all."
Detention is an indefinable film in terms of genre, yet somehow the story still holds together. Why do you think that is?
Josh Hutcherson: "I think it’s all based on the script. I think Joseph did an amazing job at colliding about 25 different genres into one film, and yet somehow making the characters solid enough that you kind of track along with them as they're going through the experience. I think a lot of it was also done with the editing. It’s a very fast pace but still maintains the story through kind of the way it was shot, I feel. I just go back to the script on that one; Joseph did a great job of finding that balance with making something extremely ADD and fast-paced but yet still make sense."
As an actor, what were the challenges of keeping the character centered while all the crazy stuff happens around you?
Josh Hutcherson: "It was a challenge at times. I mean, you have scenes where you’re jumping into a mascot bear to travel back in time, and you try to make that seem real. For me, I’m a person that has a pretty wild imagination, just kind of letting that run wild and sort of just doing the best you can to not feel stupid. I think that it's very easy in that situation to feel like, 'Okay, what am I doing? This is ridiculous!' But you just kind of have to go for it and not hold back, because once you start holding back or second-guessing yourself, that’s when it will actually start to look ridiculous."
Why haven't you done a horror movie before and are you a fan of the genre? What scares you?
Josh Hutcherson: "I haven't been avoiding the genre, I just don't think the right thing had come along yet. I think that there's never really been a project that I wanted to do that was in the horror genre. Nothing had come across my table yet [before this].
As far as what I'm afraid of, I hate spiders. I'm pretty good at being not afraid of almost anything, except for spiders. They just scare the crap out of me."
In addition to skateboarding, you also bowl in Detention. Are you a good bowler?
Josh Hutcherson: "I used to be a really good bowler. I used to be in a couple of leagues and my high score was like a 272, which I think is pretty spot-on. But I haven't done it a lot lately so I'm a little out of swing. But, yeah, I could probably throw a few strikes here and there if I went to a lane now."
This cast is made up of a lot of newcomers. Did anyone look to you for advice, since you've been doing this for so long?
Josh Hutcherson: "I think that even though everybody was new, they definitely knew what they were doing. I don't know how, but they did. I think that everybody brought something so interesting to the project. I think for me what was cool about these people that hadn't been in the business for a long time was that they weren't jaded by it. They thought it was exciting and cool - and it is exciting and cool. Sometimes people get so blasé about making a movie because they've done it so many times, to kind of have that energy of being a newcomer again it kind of made me feel like it was my first movie. It was exciting and very energizing and nostalgic, in a weird way."
Detention sort of mirrors the perceived shortened attention spans of teenagers and young adults now. What do think when people say that your generation can't focus?
Josh Hutcherson: "I think it’s a double-edged sword. I think there's two things: one, obviously, we can be a little scatterbrained but at the same time we can focus on multiple things at once. I think our level of understanding and comprehension is growing, as opposed to what it was in the ‘90s and ‘80s and so forth. I think that now more than ever, we’re more kind and I think we're more compassionate because the world is so small. Through one Tweet someone in Africa can talk about their life and you can learn about it. I think that while there obviously are the downsides of it, where you have less human-to-human interaction, at the same time, I think in a way it’s making us more compassionate as people - and smarter.
[Laughing] I don't think we're all a waste. I think we'll be okay."
Between The Hunger Games and Detention you've done a lot of fighting for your life recently onscreen. Have you picked up any real life skills?
Josh Hutcherson: "Oh yeah, for sure. I learn something new with every single role. I think that with Detention I learned that in high school although there's different types of people and cliques and whatnot, I think that everybody has their problems. So, many not so much about survival but I definitely learned more about myself as a person."
Josh Hutcherson: [Laughing] "I don't know anything about that. It was a good kiss, I'm not going to lie. We'll see what happens. I'm not sure."
What were the highlights of your Hunger Games tour?
Josh Hutcherson: "I mean, the traveling has been crazy. The mall tour was absolute madness. Just seeing all the fans and just seeing how passionate they were, that was definitely a highlight for me."
And you've got 7 Days in Havana coming out later this year. What was it like filming in Havana?
Josh Hutcherson: "It was amazing. Laurent Cantet was our director and he's an absolute madman and so much fun to work with. It was incredible. Going to Cuba is a place where Americans can't go, so that for me was very exciting. I think the coolest thing about being there was seeing these people who, even though they literally are not allowed to leave their country and are pretty much suppressed by the government, they still are so passionate and happy and live very exciting lives."