Josh Hutcherson exists in the perfect nexus between heartthrob and nostalgia that few stars do, regardless of fame and bankability as a star. At the heart of this, however, exists an actor who grew up in the whirlwind of childhood fame and came out the other side a humble, quiet guy who blushes at the mention of his fervent fanbase who’s stuck by his side all these years. Part of this may be because he was also one of those kids, growing up in the 2000s with those very same movies, only he was the one making them. Now, following the massive success of Five Nights at Freddy’s, which stands as the highest-grossing horror film of 2023, Josh Hutcherson is leaping into high-octane action with 2024’s The Beekeeper.
There’s a sort of parasocial relationship that exists, to varying degrees, between all people and their favorite actors. But when you’re a kid, another kid on your TV screen really can feel like a friend. And on the other side of the screen, Hutcherson grew up too, with films like Zathura, Bridge to Terabithia, and of course, The Hunger Games franchise. The Beekeeper, however, apart from being a more traditional action thriller, sees Josh Hutcherson in a role that his fans aren’t used to seeing him play: the main villain. Directed by David Ayer, known for films End of Watch, Fury, Suicide Squad, and more recently The Tax Collector, and written by Kurt Wimmer (Equilibrium, Expend4bles), The Beekeeper puts Hutcherson up against none other than action star Jason Statham, which is the last thing anyone would expect.
In The Beekeeper, Josh Hutcherson plays Derek, the tech bro ringleader of a crime syndicate that defrauds people, most often the elderly and most vulnerable, via online scams targeting their bank accounts and resulting in one victim’s death. This victim (played by Phylicia Rashad) is discovered by Statham’s Adam Clay, who’s a former operative of a clandestine organization called “Beekeepers.” Clay pledges vengeance upon those responsible for her death, leading him down a bloody trail with Derek waiting at the end of it. Even Oscar-winner Jeremy Irons gets in on the action as Wallace Westwyld, an overqualified handler who often has to deal with Derek’s pompous ego as his second-in-command.
Derek’s braggadocious, petulant attitude not only runs decidedly parallel to Statham’s steely killer instinct but also plays directly against Josh Hutcherson’s type. It’s a turn that is wickedly fun on its own, with the awesome bonus of seeing the scooter-riding kiddo from Little Manhattan cause some chaos. This action thrill ride is just the next gear shift for the beloved actor, following his dive into horror with Five Nights at Freddy’s. As he tells us in our exclusive interview for The Beekeeper, hopefully, this won’t be the last we see of Hutcherson’s darker or villainous side.
Exclusive Interview with Josh Hutcherson for The Beekeeper
It’s funny, two friends of mine who are super fans of yours recently reminded me about Little Manhattan. This got me thinking about films like Bridge to Terabithia and Zathura and how many of us grew up watching your movies, but you grew up making them. When you look back on your career, I’m curious as to what film stands out to you as the most meaningful, be it personally or professionally?
Josh Hutcherson: (Laughs) Oh wow! That’s a great question. Oh man, you know, when you’re young, you live everything so presently and it’s such an important moment. When I was a kid, one summer felt like an entire lifetime, you know? So, I have all these memories of shooting Little Manhattan. I lived here in New York City where I’m at right now. I was here for like three months shooting that movie when I was 10 years old. That felt like an entire lifetime to me. It was super impactful. And that happened time and time again, like with Zathura, which we shot on the Sony lot for five months. That felt like my home at the time.
All of these movies that I made, they’re such important pieces of my growth as an actor, obviously, but also as a young kid growing up around creatives and filmmakers and a lot of adults really. I do think Little Manhattan was a big one for me, personally, because that was a really fun movie to make. The director/writer team, Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett, were husband and wife and were so fantastic with me. It was such a good time. And being in New York in the summer? It was really special.
Audiences have gotten to know you as a protagonist and the hero but in The Beekeeper, you’re playing against type, so to speak, as a villain. I’m wondering what that’s like for you, getting to play someone that feels pretty different?
Josh Hutcherson: It’s very different. I loved it. It was great getting that freedom to just really go for it and step outside of my comfort zone and push myself. David Ayer was super supportive and we did the work of creating the base of my character, Derek, that was truthful and honest. And then from there, let his issues and his traumas and his insecurities and everything explode in these wild ways.
It was really freeing because once you create the base of the character, you have the freedom to just do whatever as long as you’re being truthful. I trusted David to kind of guide me, like let’s maybe try this or that, and I always felt very comfortable to send it and make it happen.
Looking forward now at your career, what are you hoping to do as an actor and what is a space that you haven’t gotten to work in yet that you would like to?
Josh Hutcherson: The space that I got to work in here is definitely a direction that I would like to explore more of. You know, The Beekeeper is obviously heightened and it’s very over the top in many ways, but we tried to make Derek grounded and I’m curious to try to find things that have these complex character arcs. For Derrick, I justified his actions in my mind when I was playing him and how he gets to that place. I like any kind of role that challenges me with the mental gymnastics of justifying behaviors. So, exploring stuff in that world I think would be a lot of fun.