Timothy Hutton Interview, The Last Mimzy

Posted by: Michael

MoviesOnline recently caught up with actor Timothy Hutton at the Los Angeles press day to promote his new film, The Last Mimzy, based on the acclaimed sci-fi short story by Lewis Padgett. The film tells the story of two children who discover a mysterious box that contains some strange devices they think are toys, including a stuffed toy rabbit called Mimzy that communicates telepathically. The fantastical tale directed by Bob Shaye also stars Chris O’Neil, Rhiannon Leigh Wryn, Joely Richardson, Rainn Wilson, Kathryn Hahn, and Michael Clarke Duncan.

After winning an Academy Award, Golden Globe and Los Angeles Film Critic's award for his performance in Robert Redford's Ordinary People, Timothy Hutton went on to star in numerous films, including Taps, Daniel, Falcon and the Snowman, Made in Heaven, Q&A, General’s Daughter, French Kiss, Beautiful Girls, Sunshine and Kinsey.

With Taps , Hutton received his second Golden Globe Award nomination. Hutton was seen in Columbia Pictures' Secret Window, based on the novella by Stephen King, directed by David Koepp and starring Johnny Depp and John Turturro. Most recently he co-starred in Last Holiday opposite Queen Latifah and Robert DeNiro’s The Good Shepherd.

As a member of New York's Circle Repertory Company, Hutton originated the lead role in the Broadway Production of Craig Lucas' "Prelude to a Kiss” and starred in "Babylon Gardens” with Mary Louise Parker. In addition, Hutton appeared in the Los Angeles stage production of "The Oldest Living Graduate,” opposite Henry Fonda, which was later broadcast live on NBC. Hutton also directed Nicole Burdette's "Busted” for the New York-based theatre company, Naked Angels.

On television, Hutton produced and starred in Showtime's "Mr. & Mrs. Loving,” written and directed by Oscar-nominated Richard Friedenberg (A River Runs Through It), starred as the title character in the acclaimed "Aldrich Ames: Traitor Within,” also for Showtime, and the docudrama WWIII for the Fox Network. After starring in A&E's highly successful "Nero Wolfe: The Golden Spiders,” the network went back to Hutton, who agreed to executive produce, direct and star in several additional Nero Wolfe adaptations. These highly acclaimed films premiered in Spring 2001 on A&E, with a repertoire of actors who co-star with Hutton and Maury Chaykin, and ran for two years.

Working behind the camera, Hutton has directed a number of music videos, including "Drive” by the Cars, "Not Enough Love” by Don Henley, and the Neil Young concert film "Freedom,” as well as an episode of Steven Spielberg's "Amazing Stories,” entitled "Grandpa's Ghost," from a story he wrote.

Hutton's feature film directorial debut, Digging to China, premiered at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival to standing ovations. This off-beat coming-of-age story starred Kevin Bacon and Mary Stuart Masterson, and introduced 10-year old Evan Rachel Wood; the film was released in 1998.

Timothy Hutton is a fabulous guy and we really appreciated his time. Here’s what he had to tell us about his latest film, The Last Mimzy:

Q: So what was it like on the set?

TIMOTHY HUTTON: All of us got along great and had fun playing jokes on each other. We had to, a lot of the movie you’re in a room and, for instance, there’s a scene where the sugar rises and comes over to me, so of course there’s no sugar there and you all feel just so goofy because the direction is, ‘Stare at the bowl, okay, one, two, three, eyes go up,’ and Bob Shaye is telling us, ‘Eyes go up, oh it’s really amazing, it’s swirling, it’s swirling,’ so we’re all kind of all going like this (mimics being amazed) and then, ‘Cut,’ and then they playback and we all go around the monitor, and we all look so stupid, and everyone’s doing it in different directions, one person’s looking over here, and it’s not going to work, so it just made for, as you can imagine, a crazy time.

Q: Would you be inclined to support your child if they told you some crazy, magical story, or would you tell them, ‘Okay, enough, time to get back down to earth?’

TIMOTHY HUTTON: You know, I thought about that because in that scene I actually thought about it before I did that scene because I wondered, you always go through a little bit of what would I do here being a father? And I thought that my dialogue with the little girl was harsh, it’s been lessened in the final movie, but I really kind of lay into her and say, ‘Put that rabbit away, enough of the rabbit, that’s it, what’s wrong with the family?’
 
It’s been toned down, so now you can see that I want that to happen but I’m not as harsh with her. But no, I’ve got a nineteen year-old and a five year-old and my thing was, of course they never found this box washed up on the shore so I don’t know how I would do it then, but anytime there was some fantastical story or secret friend, or that sort of thing, I always felt that it’s good to just kind of go along with it, and watch for psychotic behavior, and then you step in.

Q: Did you read the short story before or after you made the film, because this is so different from the short story?

TIMOTHY HUTTON: I actually read it before a long time ago because my mother’s in the business of making miniature books, she’s a book binder and all that sort of thing, and in the miniature book world there are a couple of things that sell particularly well, one is beautifully bound books that contain stamps, the collectors really love those, and then the other is anything having to do with Alice Through the Looking Glass or Alice in Wonderland, or anything by Paget, Carroll, Jabberwocky, so she did a Jabberwocky book and she gave me the Padgett story, Mimzy Were the Borogoves, and then we all read it again. And I must say, as I was reading it I thought, okay, there’s this and there’s the script, but it has the same spirit.

Q: At sometime in your life could you identify with his workaholic life and not knowing what his kids were up to because he’s going to work all the time?

TIMOTHY HUTTON: Yeah, definitely. There were times when I was away doing a movie and my son was Captain of the Varsity basketball team and he still is a jazz drummer, and he would have these concerts, so that’s sort of on the event side, and then there were times when he might have been going through something, I was away so I would try to work it out before the arrangements were even made to go do the film.
 
I learned as the years went on that the best way to handle this is to look at the schedule before committing to the film, tell them that there’s a week that you need to go and do this, that there’s a tournament happening, or there’s a jazz concert happening there, and then even more on a general level, just to be able to come back to New York and be with them and take them out to dinner and check in with them. So I was very concerned about it, probably because I didn’t have that so much with my dad who was an actor. We would come to the set once in awhile, but rarely would he come to where we were, which was Boston, so I think I – I don’t want to say overcompensated, but it certainly was on my mind.

Q: So that worked really well for your character?

TIMOTHY HUTTON: Yeah, because I’d definitely experienced that with my son Noah, I’d been away and his mom’s telling me that there’s something going on and that it would be good if I also got involved so that both of us could kind of figure it out together, and I would say, ‘Oh, I’m sure he’s fine,’ that kind of thing, which I say in the film quite a bit. But again, it’s a different kind of thing, there wasn’t really anything extremely extraordinary that had to be dealt with like there is in the movie.
 
I remember when I read the script I thought, ‘Oh God, I’m the last guy to know what’s going on here.’ The babysitter’s just seen the swirling things, and I say, ‘Don’t you want to get paid?’ And then the very next scene is, I say, ‘I’ll call her in the morning, I’m sure she’ll be fine.’ And Joely’s freaked out and I say, ‘Look, we have two bright kids, I think we should be very lucky.’ So when I finally got to do the scene where I come home and I say, ‘I’ve taken a leave of absence,’ I was much more into playing that part of it, and not being so behind the curve.

Q: What do you have coming up after this film?


TIMOTHY HUTTON: Let’s see, after we did Mimzy I went to work on filming the Kidnapped shows for NBC, and the third show – we were filming, I think, the fourth show, three had already aired, when we got the news that it was cancelled, and it was being taken off the air. But because of the structure of the Sony/NBC deal, and foreign territories and various arrangements, the rest of the shows, the total 13 had to be filmed. So that lasted all the way through the fall. And it was very strange going and working on the shows knowing that they wouldn’t be on the air.
 
Eventually there would be DVDs, perhaps they’d been shown in certain territories, but I said to a friend, it’s a bit like having a commitment to do a play, eight shows a week, and somehow the management of the theatre has said there can’t be an audience in the theatre, but you have to do the play eight times a week. It sort of had that kind of feel to it. So that finished and then I did this really interesting project called Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, based on the David Foster Wallace Story, that John Krasinski from The Office, Rainn Wilson’s colleague, directed and did the adaptation. Myself and Julianne Nicholson and Bobby Cannavale and Max Minghella, Will Forte, Krasinski’s in it himself, it’s a great ensemble. And that was in New York, and then I went up to Rochester to do a movie about this unsolved case, the person they called the Alphabet Killer. He would go after women that had double initials, Amanda Aims, that sort of thing.

Q: Are they TV or theatrical?


TIMOTHY HUTTON: Theatrical, both Brief Interviews and Alphabet Killer are theatrical. So that was up in Rochester, and I finished that. Right now I’ve just finished up rehearsals in New York yesterday, and starting on Tuesday a film called Multiple Sarcasms. It’s kind of a cool title, and it’s Mira Sorvino, Mario Van Peeples, Tom Skerritt, Dana Delany and I. It’s a story of a man who – I play an architect who wants to completely give up his career as an architect and become a playwright, and just decides I’m going to write a play and I’m going to risk everything, and in the process of doing that, his best friend Mira Sorvino is really the only supportive one in his life, and his marriage kind of falls apart a little bit. So he causes a lot of damage to his personal relationships, but he actually writes a play and gets it put on. It’s kind of an interesting story of the choices you make and what you sacrifice along the way.

Q: Can you talk a little about working with the kids in this? They were exceptionally good I thought, and they didn’t have a lot of experience.

TIMOTHY HUTTON: No, no I think, now I’m forgetting which one, one of them never –

Q: I think it’s the boy –

TIMOTHY HUTTON: The boy, yeah that’s right, because she’s done a couple of things, she’s got brothers and sisters who are also in the business and have agents and all that. But the boy who they found in Denver, and Margery Simkin did the casting. It’s obviously critical to the movie that the kids worked, it’s really about them of course, so – working with them was amazing, and it isn’t always. But these two kids were great, and I think it was the preparation. We had a rehearsal beforehand so they kind of knew what it took, and the degree of focus that was required.
 
And both of them were just very easy to connect with. I think all of us, Joely and I especially, Rainn as well because he plays the teacher, but we really made a point of spending time with them, and hanging out with them on weekends, and having lunches with them, and going for walks around Vancouver, taking them to the park, and that sort of thing. It became clear that they were comfortable with us, and Bob Shaye was great about if we were in a scene with the kids and he was over there watching, we could say, we got into this kind of shorthand where just with a signal like that meant keep the camera rolling, and then I would, or Joely would, or Rainn would, lean into one of them and say, ‘Say that line faster,’ –

Q: So some on set coaching?

TIMOTHY HUTTON: Yeah, just a little, just every once in awhile in the beginning it was.

Q: What about the supernatural aspects of this movie? Do you believe that anything in the movie is possible?

TIMOTHY HUTTON: I would say that to believe means really to be invested in it, to give thought to it and somehow be behind it. So to take you literally, I can’t say that I’m there yet, that I believe it, but I’m very intrigued by it, and I do think that there are so many things that are out there that we just don’t know that are right in front of us, certainly many signs that might support this kind of thing, but I haven’t quite become the nut that walks around.

Q: But you’ve been in similar territory, you did the Dark Half?

TIMOTHY HUTTON: Yeah, but there’s something about going into a Stephen King film, it’s all quite suspended and you go for the reality of what he’s created, and don’t make the association that somehow applies to real life. On the other hand, you are trying to make it as realistic as possible.

Q: What’s it like being directed by the boss of the studio?

TIMOTHY HUTTON: Well, the first thing you realize is it’s going to get released. You know that you’re going to be having a movie come out in a considerable amount of theatres and that there’s going to be a very thoughtful ad campaign and certain monies will be spent for that. I don’t think any of us as time went on, after the first couple of days of rehearsal, it wasn’t Bob Shaye, head of New Line anymore, it was the director and he was really great about that, because he would ask us questions about what we thought of this scene, or how we felt it was going, that kind of thing.

Q: This movie has a warm heart like ET or Close Encounters – did you like those movies when you were younger or do you think those have to be in the past because they are too sweet for the way kids are nowadays?

TIMOTHY HUTTON: I think those movies are just so amazing, ET, Close Encounters, and then on a more adult level 2001, but it would be interesting to see how those movies would be received now if they came out without – not a remake, but say nobody knew ET, would the movie look the same or would they have to amp up the special effects, because of videogames like Myst and other games. The movie studios have to compete with what the kids are playing on their Playstations, and the special effects and certain key explosive moments, emotional or otherwise, have to happen in a shorter period of time.
 
They used to have all these rules, like for comedies every eleven minutes there has to be a real huge joke, and in action movies every whatever has to be this, and all that has kind of been compressed because of all the available entertainment. What’s cool about Mimzy though, The Last Mimzy effects are that they really – you don’t feel like suddenly you’re in an effects movie the first time you see an effect. It all kind of blends in and feels right. I think the first effect you see is when he picks up the crystal thing and it’s green and then he hands it to the mom and suddenly it’s nothing, and it just sort of works. When he whacks the golf ball is a neat thing.

TIMOTHY HUTTON: Did you see the film with a lot of people in the audience?

Q: We saw it in a screening room with kids.

TIMOTHY HUTTON: That’s good. We saw it at Sundance with mostly kids, and then in Berlin with – a section of the Berlin Film Festival called Generation, and they packed this theatre with these kids and they just loved it. The things they laughed at took us all by surprise, so it was neat.

"The Last Mimzy” opens in theaters on March 23rd.

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