LOS ANGELES, June 11 (UPI) -- Former child actor Josh Hutcherson says the transition to more adult roles in Hollywood movies has been peppered with highs and lows.
The 19-year-old Kentucky native is best known for his work in the family films "Little Manhattan," "Zathura," "RV" and "Bridge to Terabithia," as well as "Journey to the Center of the Earth" and its sequel "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island." He also co-starred in the celebrated 2010 independent comedy "The Kids Are All Right" and was part of the ensemble for the recent blockbuster big-screen adaptation of the post-apocalyptic novel "The Hunger Games."
"It's hard … you're not going to get a role unless you invest your whole heart into it, but then you also don't get a lot of them. So, it's a lot of little letdowns over time," Hutcherson told reporters in Los Angeles before "Journey 2" and "The Hunger Games" hit theaters earlier this year.
He confessed he was particularly apprehensive waiting to see if he got the part of Peeta in "The Hunger Games."
"I said out loud that if I didn't get that, I didn't know what I was going to do," Hutcherson recalled. "I didn't know what that meant because I had no idea what I was going to do. I was going to keep acting, obviously, but I had never read a role that I felt I connected with as much and that I felt like I was more right for in my life. So, if I didn't get it, I was like: 'What am I? Just a bad actor then?' Because if that's so much who I am, how can I not even play myself?'"
Fortunately, he was a shoe-in to reprise his role from 2008's "Journey to the Center of the Earth" in "Journey 2," an adventure flick in which his character Sean, his stepfather, his grandfather and a helicopter pilot and his daughter find themselves in the bizarre tropical location believed to have inspired Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island," Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels" and Jules Verne's "Mysterious Island."
Hutcherson said he was happy to return to the franchise, but so much time had passed since he starred in the original, the sequel seemed totally new.
"There was such a big gap between the two. It felt like an entirely different movie. It was nice. When I heard the cast, I was really excited. You'd never think we'd be in a movie together, but we are. It was a blast. Luis Guzman, Michael Caine, Dwayne Johnson, myself and Vanessa Hudgens. It's like: 'Wait! What is this?'" Hutcherson said.
Asked what real-life challenges he faced in shooting the movie in the jungles of Hawaii, the actor replied: "The bugs definitely were a little much at times, for sure, especially when you're sitting there and all of a sudden you're like: 'Oh, there's an ant. Oh, my gosh, it's an anthill,' and there are like 9 million ants crawling all over you. It was a little scary at times, but I'm a man."
He confessed filming an underwater scene in a huge tank was uncomfortable and nerve-wracking, too.
"The tank was tough," he said. "It was tough because there was one point where Dwayne and I were actually down there for almost an hour without coming up to the surface once. Everybody else had scuba gear on and we didn't. So, literally, we'd do the take on like one breath. And they'd cut and we would blindly fumble over to our little thing and get some air. And that was pretty challenging … Because you're sort of like, 'I don't have a breathing apparatus and I'm not made to be underwater this long, so this is kind of strange.' That was pretty challenging. They had to use chlorine and whatnot in the pool to keep it from being dangerous for us to be in, so it was kind of hard to open your eyes at times. So, they have a guy hand you a -- what do they call it? A hookah! So you can breathe."
Also demanding -- yet fun -- were special effects-laden scenes shot against a green screen requiring the actors to rely on their imaginations to conjure up beasts and other assorted perils.
"I think that there are a lot of times when you're on set and you have a green screen you're working with where you'll pretend there's a giant lizard chasing you when there's nothing there," Hutcherson explained. "You kind of have to go for it. In order to sell it to the audience, you can't really hold back. I think that was the biggest thing for me. Being shown the images of what the creatures were going to look like and then having to react to them realistically without feeling like you're a crazy person. So, in that sense, making a fantastical world real is a bit of a challenge, for sure.
"As far as making it real, I think that, in a story like this, the emotional journey is so important because it is such a fantastical world, but human emotion is something that everybody can connect to. So, when you have the emotions of Sean getting to warm up to his stepfather, Dwayne's character, and Kailani, Vanessa's character, getting to trust Sean, you have those character elements. That kind of brings it down to reality for sure."
"Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" is on DVD now. "The Hunger Games" is set for home-video release Aug. 18.