Of the three young actors headlining the acclaimed teen phenomenon “The Hunger Games,” Josh Hutcherson boasts the most industry experience. Acting since he was 11, Hutcherson has appeared in more than 20 films. But none of those projects — including Oscar-nominated drama “The Kids Are All Right” and the action-packed “Journey to the Center of the Earth” pics — prepared him for the cultural impact of starring opposite Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games.”“It was a bit of a challenge to physically embody the role,” he says of playing Peeta Mellark. “But my biggest mission was to do the best I could in the movie. I hoped by doing so fans would be OK with it.” Given the critical and commercial success of the first film, it’s safe to say Hutcherson’s nuanced portrayal of Peeta won over skeptical book fans who didn’t think he looked the part. In fact, before “Hunger Games” premiered, Hutcherson was told to prepare for a possibly overwhelming amount of fan attention. So far, however, Hutcherson says passionate Peeta ‘n’ Katniss fans haven’t unduly crimped his day-to-day life. “Honestly, it hasn’t been absolutely crazy like people told me it would be. It’s nice that I’ve been able to maintain a private life,” he says. With three more “Hunger Games” films to go, Hutcherson plans to escape the Peeta mold by appearing in independent films. Last year, he starred and produced high-school horror comedy “Detention.” “I don’t ever want to be seen as just one role. That’s why I haven’t done TV. It can be amazing, but you can definitely be typecast as that one role,” he says. Hutcherson, who cites such versatile thesp as Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Gosling as his industry role models, hopes to continue producing and to begin directing as well. “I’m dying to get into more behind-the-scenes work. I want to produce and direct and create whatever I want some day.”
Impact: Starred in “Journey 2,” then massive teen hit, “The Hunger Games.”
Next: Three more “Games” pics, a “Red Dawn” remake, and the animated adventure “Epic.”
Causes: Active in Straight But Not Narrow (SBNN), the gay-straight alliance for youth, founded by actor friend Avan Jogia.