Josh Hutcherson would like nothing more than to watch the No. 1-ranked Kentucky Wildcats pursue their eighth men’s basketball national championship in this month’s NCAA tournament, but the 19-year-old Kentucky native and Wildcats season ticket holder is busy with other commitments.
Hutcherson is currently on a global tour promoting “The Hunger Games,” which is expected to be one of the biggest blockbusters of the year.
“Dude, it’s killing me,” Hutcherson said, his feet up on the sofa at his River North hotel earlier this month. “There’s no way out. I have to do this. I’ll be in London and Paris when they’re playing in the tournament.”
“The Hunger Games” is based on the best-selling books by Suzanne Collins and is set in a future where children are selected to compete in an annual televised battle to the death. The sci-fi movie — in theaters across the U.S. Friday, the same day the Wildcats face the Indiana Hoosiers in the tourney’s Sweet 16 — broke the record for first-day advance ticket sales on Fandango.com.
Why all the hype?
“There’s definitely a large fan base for the ‘Twilight’ and ‘Harry Potter’ movies that need their next fix,” said Hutcherson, who plays “Hunger Games” competitor Peeta. “We’ve seen the structure and model for it before. That plays into it.”
Hutcherson is no stranger to blockbusters. He starred in 2008’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” and 2012’s “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,” which made more than $500 million combined at the worldwide box office. Still, some believe the “Hunger Games” trilogy will be the movies that make Hutcherson and co-stars Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth household names — much like the “Twilight” films did for its three young stars.
Hutcherson said he accepted the potentially life-changing role without hesitation, unlike Lawrence, who has said she at first was reluctant due to the fans and fanaticism that could come with it. He knows that fame comes with the territory. On the other hand, he said he could do without it.
“I hate fame. I’ve never liked the idea of fame. I don’t like being treated differently,” said Hutcherson, who refuses to believe success will ever get to his head. “… I know how I’ve been raised. My friends and family will never let me get like that. I’ll never let myself get like that.”
Before appearing in the “Journey” films and 2011 best picture Oscar nominee “The Kids are All Right,” Hutcherson was auditioning for the lead role in the 2002 made-for-TV movie “Home Alone 4.” Hutcherson was one two finalists for the role of Kevin McCallister, made famous by Macaulay Culkin, but eventually lost out.
He called it his “first letdown” in Hollywood, but not his last.
“I really wanted (the upcoming) ‘Spiderman’ reboot,” Hutcherson said (the lead role went to “The Social Network” star Andrew Garfield). “At first, they weren’t interested. Then, ‘Hey, we want you to screen test.’ I felt really good about (the audition). I felt I nailed it. And then I didn’t get it. I was bummed. It was an emotional roller coaster. But I’m the same person who thinks you’re either right for a role or you aren’t.
“It worked in my favor. I didn’t get ‘Spiderman,’ but I did get ‘Hunger Games.’”