The Stunning Transformation Of Josh Hutcherson

Josh Hutcherson last appeared in a wide-release film all the way back in 2017. That year, he played Philip Haldiman in "The Disaster Artist," director James Franco's comedic retelling of the behind-the-scenes production of the famously awful "The Room." In the years since, Hutcherson has been in a number of smaller films and has appeared on a few television shows. "Five Nights at Freddy's," out September 2023, brings the charismatic star back into cinemas. Understandably, fans can't wait. Alongside screencaps from the horror movie's trailer, one fan tweeted, "Josh Hutcherson enjoyers, we are so back."

Hutcherson's career in Hollywood stretches back more than two decades — and he's only in his early 30s! The star of films like "Journey to the Center of the Earth" and "The Polar Express" has gone through several major phases in his career, and his leading-man good looks took time to develop, too. But to hear him tell it, this was always going to be his life path. 

"I always loved entertaining people," he told FemaleFirst. "I always loved being the center of attention with everybody laughing around me." If you, too, are a Josh Hutcherson enjoyer, read on for a look back at the stunning transformation of the "Hunger Games" star.

Josh Hutcherson always knew he wanted to be in movies

Joshua Ryan Hutcherson was born in 1992 in Union, Kentucky. His father worked for the EPA and his mother worked for Delta Air Lines, and from an early age, Hutcherson knew that he wanted to act. "I was a little kid, like 4 years old," he told His family wasn't supportive at first. He told Entertainment Weekly that he felt like "the black sheep in the family" because they'd never had any connection to the industry. Perhaps understandably, his parents worried about signing him up for showbiz too early. "My parents would never let me because they'd heard all the bad stuff about being in the business as a young actor," he told Kidzworld.

Eventually, Hutcherson decided to take matters into his own tiny hands. "I called an agency in a phone book when I was 9 years old in Kentucky," he told Yahoo. "I basically saw movies, and then somehow ... at 9, I could understand that okay, as a job, you can make movies." The agency was in nearby Cincinnati, and when his parents relented, they signed him.

His new agents had an idea: they wanted Hutcherson to go out for pilot season. His parents weren't having it, he told Kidzworld. "I begged and begged and begged," he said, "and they finally agreed to take me out to California." Everything changed. "[I] had some auditions and got some great parts," Hutcherson recalled, "and it just went from there."

He was home-schooled as a child actor

When Josh Hutcherson was just starting out, he was still a public school student back home in Kentucky. "When I went to public school I was pretty much in the middle. I was a jock to a degree, but how much of a jock can you be in elementary school?" he joked to Gone with the Twins. As his career began to take off — a role on "E.R.," a movie called "Miracle Dogs" — his budding fame unfortunately made him stand out, and he caught flak from the other kids for his acting ambitions. Hutcherson said, "I [got bullied] when I started acting though because they made fun of me for that, which hurt, because I really loved making movies."

As a result of his increased on-set schedule, Hutcherson was home-schooled for the rest of his education. He later told Entertainment Weekly that he valued learning this way, explaining, "I didn't have like a normal childhood. But what I gained from being on film sets was invaluable and extremely rare."

Even though he wasn't attending public school, Hutcherson still made friends with kids his age. He told Kidzworld in 2007, "I'm on a soccer team at home. I'm a pretty normal kid, except for the fact that I happen to make movies." His friends, he said, often asked him questions about the actors that he worked with, thinking that his acting was cool ... a nice change from being bullied, no doubt!

Bridge to Terabithia made a whole generation cry

After voicing the boy in "The Polar Express," Josh Hutcherson went on an impressive run of successful live-action films. He acted opposite Will Ferrell in "Kicking & Screaming"; anchored "Zathura," a sci-fi update of "Jumanji," alongside Kristen Stewart; and starred in "RV" as the son of Robin Williams. Then came "Bridge to Terabithia," an adaptation of an infamously devastating novel. Hutcherson's co-star was AnnaSophia Robb, and while the subject matter might have been difficult, the two young stars struck up a fast friendship off set that helped offset the emotional material. "We went on some little road trips around New Zealand. We went to the beach a lot. Go swimming in the water," Hutcherson told FemaleFirst. "That was a lot of fun, and we watched a lot of movies too."

"Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin" star Bailee Madison played Hutcherson's character's younger sister in the film. She revealed to MTV News years later that she had a massive crush on her co-star. She wrote him a love letter, which got passed around set. "He was so sweet, he just hugged me. He took such good care of me," Madison said. "I love him with all my heart."

In 2020, Hutcherson told Entertainment Weekly that he still hears from fans of the film about how it affected them when they were younger. He said, "I have a lot of people, even to this day, tell me they cried so hard at that movie." 

How Josh Hutcherson bulked up for The Hunger Games

In 2011, the trajectory of Josh Hutcherson's career changed forever. The Los Angeles Times reported that he had been cast in "The Hunger Games," an adaptation of Suzanne Collins' bestselling novels about a near-future world where teenage "tributes" compete in a battle to the death. The young actor known for comedies like "Miracle Dogs" and "RV" was suddenly going to be a blockbuster action star, and that meant his diet and exercise regimen needed some studio help.

Hutcherson told a press junket all about his impressive transformation from occasionally awkward teen to film hero. First came the diet. "I had to put on a lot of weight, so I was in the process of eating chicken, eggs, and protein and all that fun stuff," he said (via Us Weekly). To add muscle, Hutcherson teamed with a trainer named Logan Hood. "He was this ex-Navy Seal guy who just kicks a**," Hutcherson said. Hutcherson and his co-star Liam Hemsworth trained together, and Hood had them beating punching bags with baseball bats and tossing tires around. "It was so unconventional, and you're working muscles you didn't even know you had," Hutcherson said. "You're like, 'How am I possibly this sore?'"

The transformation was successful. By the time "The Hunger Games" hit theaters in 2012, Hutcherson no longer looked like the kid who wept over AnnaSophia Robb in "Bridge to Terabithia." Josh Hutcherson, hunk, had arrived.

Josh Hutcherson struggled with his newfound fame

Josh Hutcherson was in a number of successful movies before he was cast to play Peeta Mellark. However, he'd never been in a movie with a fanbase as rabid as the one that surrounded the "Hunger Games" franchise. The blockbuster movie role, it seems, came with a whole bunch of baggage that the young actor wasn't sure how to handle. In particular, Hutcherson told The Independent after a few sequels that he was often confused by the reactions fans displayed when they met him. "It's weird when people cry," he mused. "Tears falling down their cheeks and you're like, 'I'm sorry, I don't want to make you cry. Shall I go now?' I don't know what to do." 

Nowadays, Hutcherson says he has mixed feelings about being involved in the series. Looking back on the superstardom that followed his casting, he told Entertainment Weekly that he has misgivings about what "The Hunger Games" did to his career. "It's like a double-edged sword," he reflected, noting that he appreciates being offered more roles than he was getting before the YA films made him super-famous. He added, "When I set out to become an actor at 8, being famous and being recognized was not on my radar. I just wanted to make movies."

He's not even sure he would do it all over again if he could. "If that opportunity came up again," Hutcherson said, "I would have to think about it more."

He loves tattoos

By 2013, Josh Hutcherson had multiple tattoos, and he excitedly showed them off in a cover story for Seventeen. He was still a teenager when he had the Libra sign inked on his wrist, so his mom had to go along with him to get it done. 

"She's a very cool mom," he bragged. He also revealed an anchor tattooed on his side, which he got for a good reason: it's a classic! "I've just always liked the classic old-school sailor tattoo," he said. Finally, he's got a back tat as well. "I have a similar one that's a ship sailing into a sunset with classic birds and lavender clouds on my back."

All that being said, the "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" star told Us Weekly that he understands too much of a good thing might affect his future prospects as an actor. "If I weren't an actor, I would have tattoos covering every inch of my body," he said. The outlet reported that Hutcherson's tats meant an extra 90 minutes in the makeup chair on days when he had to film shirtless scenes for "The Hunger Games." Seems the tributes from District 12 weren't walking around with astrological signs on their wrists!

Josh Hutcherson is an ally

In 2010, Josh Hutcherson starred in "The Kids Are All Right," about a lesbian couple parenting teenagers. He told Entertainment Weekly that the film represented a departure in his filmography, which until this point was mostly comprised of movies for children. Furthermore, he said, this film had a message. "That one felt like I was a part of something that would actually make a difference," he said.

Soon after, Hutcherson cofounded an organization called Straight But Not Narrow. The group was meant for celebrities to show their support for the LGBTQ+ community whether or not they identified as part of it, and celebs like Avan Jogia and Cory Monteith made videos. ("We're guys talking to guys about guys who like guys," Monteith said in one video). Hutcherson told Out that he considered himself "mostly straight," reasoning, "Who knows? In a f***ing year, I could meet a guy and be like, 'Whoa, I'm attracted to this person.'" 

The actor's support came at a pivotal time for the queer community, sandwiched right between the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (in 2011), which prevented out gay people from serving in the military, and the nationwide legalization of marriage equality (in 2015). Attitudes were changing, but Hutcherson was frustrated by holdouts. "Sometimes it's frustrating to comprehend how people are not okay with it," he said.

He fell in love on a movie set

In 2014, Josh Hutcherson's career took a new turn. He coproduced the movie "Escobar: Paradise Lost," starring Benicio Del Toro as the legendary drug kingpin. The fictional story is about a surfer (played by Hutcherson) who falls in love with a girl named Maria (Claudia Traisac), only to learn that she's Escobar's niece. He told Teen Vogue that it was a rewarding experience, considering they didn't have a studio breathing down their neck while they made the movie. "Studios are run by a corporation," he said. "For an indie, you're making it with people that want to make this movie for art."

The movie seems to have offered another, more unexpected reward for Hutcherson: He fell in love. He and Traisac struck up a romance on set in 2013, and they confirmed their relationship two years later in a 2015 interview with E! News. "It's pretty good. Distance is hard, but we make it work," he said. Traisac chimed in, "I'm really happy."

Hutcherson and Traisac have been together ever since. They were photographed yukking it up at a Clippers game in 2016 (per Just Jared), and on vacation in 2021, they frolicked on a beach in Ibiza together (per The Daily Mail). In late 2022, celebrating Traisac's birthday, the same outlet reported that the couple were seen tooling around Madrid on a moped. Ah, young love!

Josh Hutcherson's Celebrity Basketball Game

For a number of years, Josh Hutcherson hosted "Josh Hutcherson's Celebrity Basketball Game" to raise money for Straight But Not Narrow. The events took place in downtown Los Angeles, at a basketball court outside the Staples Center, where the Lakers play. Hutcherson and his celebrity friends, who included Clark Gregg and Kyle Massey, hooped it up to raise funds for the organization. The first year, Hutcherson even turned up blonde for the game, likely in the middle of filming a "Hunger Games" sequel.

By the third annual event, Hutcherson wasn't just a pro on the court; he was a pro at handling interview questions about his charity of choice. "The fact that people are persecuted for who they fall in love with, and things like that, I think is horrible," he told On The Spot Interviews in 2014.

Straight But Not Narrow continued hosting events like the basketball game, even after marriage equality was legalized nationwide in 2015. A few months after that landmark court case, Hutcherson told E! News that his org would host a celebrity volleyball game at the ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball. "I hope one day in my lifetime we get to close the door on this group," he said, "but there's a lot more work to do."

He's a proud dog dad

Josh Hutcherson doesn't have any children, but he does have multiple dogs. The oldest, adopted when he was just a teenager, was named after one of Hutcherson's favorite movies. He told Us Weekly, "I'm obsessed with the movie 'Drive,' and Ryan Gosling's character was named Driver. I always thought it was a good name for a dog so it just kind of worked out." The dog is a pitbull, rescued from an animal shelter. He told E! News that the dog was very well-trained despite being very young. "For a puppy, he doesn't chew things up," the "Firehouse Dog" star bragged. "He's already almost housebroken."

A few years later, in 2016, Hutcherson announced on Facebook that he had added another pup to the family. This one, named Manchi, is another pitbull. "Pits are fantastic, loyal dogs and there are lots out there that need your help!" he wrote alongside several adorable photos of himself holding his furry friends. Furthermore, Hutcherson tried to use his platform to encourage his fans to follow in his footsteps. 

Tagging the Bullies and Buddies Rescue, where he found Manchi, he wrote, "Please help rescues when you can." As fans shared rescue stories in the comments section, one summed up the general mood well when they wrote, "All dogs are beautiful and deserve a loving forever home, no matter their background."

He made his directorial debut in 2017

Josh Hutcherson has always been fascinated by directors. While promoting "Bridge to Terabithia," he told Gone with the Twins, "I really want to work with a lot of directors. Working with actors is a great experience, but the directors really have a lot of passion and emotional drive for the movie."

Speaking with in 2010, he shouted out one director he'd always admired. "Ron Howard's awesome and he started out as a young actor as well, so it would be cool to talk to him and do a movie with him as well," he said, complimenting the director of films like "Apollo 13" and "The Da Vinci Code." He got that chance in 2015, when he starred in and produced a short film called "The Rusted" for a contest helmed by Howard. "It was surreal to work with him," he gushed to People.

In 2017, Hutcherson struck out on his own and directed "Ape," a short film that was included as part of a project called "The Big Script." He told Collider that he had always wanted to make a short film first, before directing a feature, but he was always nervous to just go for it. This project, however, paired Hutcherson with funding and mentors to get the film made, giving him the confidence to direct. "Until you're actually there, in the hot seat, that's when you find out what you're made of," he said. "Ape" is available to watch on YouTube.

He led the cast of Future Man

"Mockingjay: Part 2" hit theaters in 2015, closing out that chapter of Josh Hutcherson's life. Two years later, he popped up on television, starring in the Hulu series "Future Man." Hutcherson played a character fittingly named Josh Futturman, a burnout who learns that he holds the fate of the space-time continuum in his hands. Seth Rogen was involved in the show, both in front of and behind the camera, and Hutcherson told Young Hollywood that he and his comic co-star got along great. 

"It's so hard sometimes to not start laughing," he said, explaining that Rogen would sometimes toss out suggestions while directing. Speaking to the show's unique tone, Hutcherson described "Future Man" as "a hard genre, hard-R comedy. ... We did things that you shouldn't put on screen."

The show went to some wacky places over the course of its three seasons, requiring new things from Hutcherson as an actor. He told GoldDerby that the show was given an unusual amount of creative freedom, and what they decided to do with that freedom asked a lot of him personally. "In all three seasons at some point I had to attach a penile prosthetic to myself," he explained of his character's frequent nude scenes. "Something I never dreamed I would do coming into this business. ... It's a pretty unique experience that I'm happy to never have again."

He sold two homes during the pandemic

Stuck at home during the early days of COVID-19, Josh Hutcherson appeared on "Live with Kelly and Ryan" with an unusual problem. There was a smell in his house that he couldn't get rid of. "It's like rotting fruit and vegetables that have been sitting in a garbage can," he said. However, no matter where he looked, he couldn't find the source of the stench. He said: "I'm cleaning so much right now. Like, I don't deserve this."

That same year, Hutcherson sold off two properties in California. First to go was his Hollywood Hills home, according to The Los Angeles Times. He unloaded it two months before the interview about the stench, so this home wasn't the culprit. The property was once owned by Heath Ledger; while Hutcherson picked it up in 2012 for a reported $2.5 million, he sold it in 2020 for $2.9 million. Next to go was his Studio City home. The Los Angeles Times reported that the property was sold for $1.899 million to songwriter Billy Walsh, who has written hits like Post Malone's "Circles."

Never fear, though; this malodorous mystery has a solution. Hutcherson also owns property in Silver Lake, which he purchased for $1.9 million in 2019. Photos posted by Variety reveal an archway and window suspiciously similar to the one visible in the "Live with Kelly and Ryan" interview, suggesting Hutcherson stayed in the stinky home. Here's hoping he's since stocked up on Febreze!

Five Nights at Freddy's brings him back to theaters

"Five Nights at Freddy's" is a video game about a haunted children's restaurant. Think Chuck E. Cheese, if the animatronics came to life at night and murdered anyone in sight. The film version, released October 2023 in theaters and on Peacock, features Josh Hutcherson as a security guard named Mike. Unlike the video game, Mike in the movie also has a sister (Piper Rubio), which director Emma Tammi explained to Empire was a necessary change that gave the story some thematic depth. "They're both dealing with past traumas in different ways," she said. "Throughout the course of the movie, they rediscover each other." 

Hutcherson hasn't been able to promote the film himself due to the SAG-AFTRA strike, but producer Jason Blum has been talking it up. In an interview with IGN, Blum — the producer behind modern-classic horror franchises like "Insidious" and "Paranormal Activity" — explained that some of his peers scoffed at the idea of adapting the video game. Finding the right storyline took a lot of work, Blum explained. "We finally made the movie. And as you can hear by my voice, I'm extremely proud of the movie that we made together," he concluded.

While Hutcherson has understandably remained mum about the movie, his fans are more than happy to promote his return to the big screen. On X, formerly known as Twitter, one fan summed up the excitement well when they exclaimed, "Josh Hutcherson's renaissance is finally happening."