It’s hard to imagine that Hutton scored his first major break in the now classic Ordinary People 27 years ago. Now, at a youthful 47, Hutton prefers to spend time with his family, rather than just pick anything.
Despite scoring positive reviews for the short lived TV series Kidnapped, Hutton is back on the big screen in the charming sci-fi drama The Last Mimzy which world premiered at the recent Sundance Film Festival. Here he plays a father of two young children who suddenly become geniuses after they find a mysterious box of toys. Soon the kids, their parents, and even their teacher are drawn into a strange and sometimes terrifying world. Paul Fischer caught up with Hutton at the Sundance Film Festival.
Question: How do you feel about the recent cancellation of Kidnapped?
Hutton: It was a very strange experience to work on that and to have it just kind of disappear like that. I mean it was taken off the air but we had 8 more shows that we that NBC was obligated to make because of their deal with foreign. Sometimes if they, if you’re taken off the air they just stop production, now that would have been abrupt of course but it was very strange doing 8 more shows. It was sort of like doing a play when there’s no audience.
Question: You’ve been in this business along time so you must be very philosophical about the ups and downs of the industry but does it give you a sort of cynical perspective?
Hutton: No no it didn’t make me cynical about it, it made me realise though that it’s a very tough place for a show to succeed, everything has to wind up perfectly; you have to be in the right slot, people have to have an awareness of the show going into it.
Question: What draws you to a project?
Hutton: The script first, the director, right up there with the script but you know, I think for everybody it starts with material and you read it and it just kind of takes you in like a great book or something and you realise “wow, I’d like to be a part of this.”
Question: Is good material, for you, the older you get, harder to come by or are you being simply more selective?
Hutton: Perhaps more selective not willing to go to the far corners of the world unless it’s something really special. I remember, if I just think back on conversation with the agent when the agent calls, perhaps 15 years ago one of my first questions would be where’s it shooting.
Question: So if it was Australia you’d say yes I’m going to do it?
Hutton: Well no, if it was Australia and it was a good script and…
Question: Now it would have to be Australia and a damn good script.
Hutton: Yeah because I have kids now and one of them is in college very near where I live and the other is 5 years old just starting up with school….
Question: Why this particular script of Mimzy?
Hutton: I liked the script when I read it, I felt like it had a lot of kind of great old fashion structure to it.
Question: It’s a bit warm, it reminded me a little bit of a very Twilight Zone-ish but yet at the same time modern and uh, old fashioned yet contemporary at the same time.
Hutton: Yeah it is and I think that it’s different in that a lot of movies that have kids in them as central characters tend to be just you know, filled to the brim spilling over with special effects and this one just lays out nicely like a great old fashioned plot with these amazing magical metaphysical things that happen during the course of the film and it was just very appealing.
Question: How do you define your character, I mean, what do you do to try and make this father a little bit more interesting?
Hutton: Well he’s interesting on the page but I think that you look at a character like that, you say “okay I’m playing the father of these 2 kids and something happens to them and I’m one of the last people to kind of accept that something’s happening, my wife is trying to tell me that something strange is going on and I keep saying to her no they’re just very gifted kids, we should be proud of them, so little bit, the character’s a bit behind the audience. The audience of course knows what’s going on so that’s a tricky thing to do because you don’t want to look like an idiot so you kind of realise, make a decision in your mind okay, he’s a workaholic he’s obsessed with his work so that’ll help justify why he’s not really noticing it and he’s not around much and everything but playing the father of these 2 kids had an interesting ark to it. At first he’s in denial about what’s going on and then once he accepts it he makes this huge decision and stops working so he can be there with his wife and help out and try and figure out what’s going on with the kids and I think, I think that his relationship grows stronger with his wife and his kids as a result of this thing that happens.
Question: Do you draw on your own paternalism to play a character, play a dad like this?
Hutton: Perhaps subconsciously but certainly not consciously, I don’t go into it thinking “well if this had happened to Noah or Milo how would I handle it?” I think you’re driven by sort of subconscious instincts, but you kind of look at the specific situation and circumstances of the script, of the characters and figure out what hopefully is an interesting way, or interesting take on it.
Question: You’ve been acting now for a long time. How has the industry changed and how have you changed with it?
Hutton: Well I guess the best example I could give of that is that I don’t think that Ordinary People would be made by a studio today.
Question: Yean, it would be an independent film wouldn’t it? It would be at Sundance.
Hutton: And it might be at Sundance or something but it wouldn’t have the cast that was selected by the director because the director would be told you can only make it with these certain people.
Question: And in those days; Sutherland, yourself, Mary Tyler Moore were not necessarily “bankable”.
Hutton: Exactly, exactly and Redford was a first time director and you know but Redford could have cast it anyway he wanted and I remember that Anne Margret was strongly considered for that role Tony Franciosa was strongly considered for the father, Marie Osborne was strongly considered for the Elizabeth McGovern role so to cast an unknown in the part I played, would be unheard of these days.
Question: Do you look back at that movie and what do you see, is it like a home movie, is it simply a period of time that has lapsed?
Hutton: It’s sort of this amazing kind of chapter or period of time, it feels like it’s almost in a capsule somewhere in the back of my head and when I do uh interviews and what not…
Question: People sort of remind you about it.
Hutton: It sort of comes out…
Question: So what are you doing next?
Hutton: I just finished a film with John Krasinski Rainn Wilson’s colleague on The Office, he directed it called Brief Interviews with Hideous Men and then I went into another film that I just finished called The Alphabet Killer, they kind of overlapped, a true story of a serial killer from Rochester New York.