Doug Hutchinson: The X-Factor On Are You Scared Yet?
RECENTLY, Filmink spoke with screen great and renowned character actor Doug Hutchison about a career that has spread over thirty years. From nearly being cast as Willard to playing Eugene Tooms in X-Files and of course, his most synonymous role to date - the chirpy vindictive prison warden Percy Whetmore opposite Tom Hanks in The Green Mile. Hutchison also tells us about what he has next from filming with Michael Madsen to starring opposite Bill Moseley, Roger Ward, Courtney Stodden and Lauren Grimson in the Dane Millerd home invasion thriller Are You Scared Yet?
FILMINK: When was the first time you realized you wanted to act/ get into film? Who or what inspired you?
DH: I was cast as Max Schmidt [The Head Gnome] in a 4th grade elementary school stage production of "The Day Santa Lost His Beard". I took liberties, improvised, and basically acted like a little mischievous shit-head in the play. The audience ate it up. The applause at curtain call was deafening. At that moment, it dawned on me that I could "pretend play" and receive a standing ovation. It was probably then that the seed was planted. Add to that my high school drama teacher, Denny Swanson, who consistently stalked me after graduation and insisted that I was born to be an actor. Dubious and more interested in pursuing my dreams of being a rock star, I avoided Swanson at all costs! He refused to give up. Swanson insisted that I audition for the top acting conservatories in the U.S. Juilliard, Yale, Washington State, A.C.T. San Francisco, and Suny Purchase NY. In an effort to get him off my back, I agreed. To my surprise, I was accepted into all of them. I chose Juilliard because I was enchanted by the idea of living and studying in New York City. It just seemed that every time I brushed up against acting, there were positive results ... so maybe that nutty drama teacher was on to something ...
FILMINK: Do you have a creative family background?
DH: Not really. My mom -- as a young girl -- played piano ... but other than her, I'm unaware of any "creative genes" in my family history. No actors. Directors. Musicians. Dancers. Film-makers. I guess I was the first Hutchinson crazy enough to get into the entertainment industry!
FILMINK: What was, in your eyes, the turning point/ big break?
DH: Gosh. That's a hard question to answer because this whole adventure -- in retrospect -- is never linear ... it's serpentine. Kind of like ripples in a pond. Every turn, every decision, every opportunity, leads to the rest of your destiny. If I had to pin-point the defining point in my career, though, it would probably be "The Green Mile" -- but that was at least 15 years of pounding the pavement before that dream was eventually manifested.
FILMINK: Many artistic people have numerous creative interests - do you? What else can you do?
DH: I play guitar and sing. I've been in and out of bands. I direct. But my infinite passion is in writing. I love writing -- screenplays, short stories, essays, poetry, etc. I'm also currently writing my memoirs reflecting my adventures in Hollywood over the past 25 years.
FILMINK: Being a Delaware boy, was the move to the West Coast daunting? How were the early years as an aspiring actor?
DH: Actually, I was born in Dover, Delaware, on an air force base, but then my family immediately moved to Detroit, Michigan, where I grew up and spent the majority of my childhood. My parents divorced in 1977 when I was seventeen and a junior in high school. My mother moved to Minnesota with her then-second husband. I eventually moved there as well and graduated from Apple valley High School [under the tutelage of that stalker-drama teacher of mine, Denny Swanson, who pushed me into acting!]. After moving to NYC, I dropped out of Juilliard after only five months [rebel that I was] and worked my ass off working job-jobs to pay the rent, pounding the pavement for acting work, finally roped an agent, and started doing a hell of a lot of theater -- off-Broadway, off-off Broadway, off-off-off Broadway and several plays at regional theaters across the States. I was broke most of the time ... but then -- in 1987 -- I was cast in a meaty supporting role in a movie called "Fresh Horses" [starring Molly Ringwald, Andrew McCarthy, Ben Stiller, and Viggo Mortenson]. It was my first film experience.
FILMINK: What was the one role you missed out on that you wish you had been cast for?
DH: Hmmm ... good question. I was originally cast as the title role in the remake of "Willard" in 2003 [directed by Glen Morgan who I worked with on several projects]. To his credit, Glen pushed me like crazy for the role. We even shot a screen test. But New Line wanted a more of a "named" actor, so Crispin Glover snagged it. As disappointed as I was, I have to admit, Crispin was probably the better choice. He's just so innately creepy [he even kinda looks like a rat!], so I think New Line made the right decision despite my let-down.
FILMINK: What is the best role you think you've played? Why?
DH: Probably Percy in "The Green Mile". I'm not sure why. All the pistons were firing. I think I was just born to play that role for some reason. It was an effortless effort.
FILMINK: Many know you as not just a great character actor but a strong on-screen villain. Who was your favorite villain/ character to play in film and TV and why?
DH: Well, I suppose based on your last question, the obvious answer would be Percy, but I'd have to say that my favorite villain is probably Eugene Tooms in "The X-Files". I don't know why, but -- it was at this point in my career -- where I was experimenting with Stillness. And since I didn't hardly have any dialogue as that character, I needed to create an antagonist who "appeared" innocent -- until, of course, we discover the truth of his malevolent nature.
FILMINK: You've worked with a plethora of amazing people - any favorites? Why?
DH: Tom Hanks. Hand's down. He taught me generosity and humility. Not only a consummate actor, but lovely human being to boot.
FILMINK: Any career regrets or things you may have done differently?
DH: Absolutely nothing. No regrets. Looking back, I'd do nothing differently.
FILMINK: Your career spans 40 films and three decades - how long do you think you will keep going?
DH: 'Till the day I die. The perk of being an actor is that you really never have to retire [if you don't want to]. There will always be parts to play from ages 10 -- 90 and beyond!
FILMINK: Best advice to aspiring actors and creatives that you've received?
DH:Never give up.
FILMINK: If you weren't acting what would you be doing?
FILMINK: Any tips for up and coming actors on what not to do?
DH: Yes. There's only one rule: That there are no rules.
FILMINK: Who would you love to act with that you are yet to share a screen or stage with and why - male and female?
DH: Ray Winstone. One of my favorite actors. Lauren Grimson. An amazing actress.
FILMINK: Who do you want to work with generally? A specific director, producer etc?
DH: Well, I wouldn't turn down working with Guillermo Del Toro and Martin Scorcese.
FILMINK: In a city where 1/10th of the population identify as being actors/ entertainers but never do it, what jobs did you have to do before you got your break?
DH: OMG! Are you kidding? It would take an entire novel to list all of the job-jobs over the years I worked before making a living as an actor. Let's see ... just to name a few ... a baker at Winchell's Donuts, a grocery bagger, a burger-flipper at McDonald's, construction worker, assembly worker, cook, dishwasher, pizza deliverer, giant Citibank ATM card in Times Square handing out fliers, street musician, run waiter on Wall Street, telemarketer, Green Peace employee, janitor, car washer, retailer at a music store ... and 1000 more I could name!
FILMINK: Any actors, directors or creatives you'd like to work with again? Why?
DH: I'd work with Tom Hanks, David Morse, Frank Darabont, Antoine Fuqua, D.J. Caruso, Sandra Bullock, and Lexi Alexander anytime.
FILMINK: What creative plans do you have on the horizon that you can tell us about in this forum?
DH: I wrote, am co-producing, and starring in a horror movie called "Are You Scared Yet?" [with Aussie film-maker and good friend, Dane Millerd]. I'm also in the process of writing another horror/thriller collaboration with Dane called "Pick-Up". I'm playing a main character in the new game-play franchise, "Far Cry 5", and am co-starring in a movie in July/August called "The Bend" with Michael Madsen. Also -- as I mentioned -- working feverishly on my memoir.
FILMINK: "Are You Scared Yet?" is touted as one of your next film projects which you also wrote and are co-producing, what drew you to the concept?
DH: Dane Millerd sent the concept to me -- about a horrific home invasion. I was intrigued by the idea, but felt that the screenplay needed to be fleshed out. I offered to write it. Dane agreed. I hammered out a script that I believe is compelling to Dane's original idea, but also adds even more thrills and chills. We're looking forward to making an unforgettable film with an amazing cast.
FILMINK: What excites you most about the film?
DH: Many things. To work with Dane who I think can knock it out of the ballpark. To co-star with my wife, Courtney Stodden [as the two antagonists]. To work with Lauren Grimson as well as veteran Bill Moseley. We have an exciting cast and concept. I don't want to give too much away, but -- I'll give you a clue: Creepy Clown Sightings.
FILMINK: What is the biggest challenge facing the film industry at the moment?
DH: Investment, Cable-TV, and the rift between Big Box Office and Indie. It's challenging to find investors willing to put up their money. That's why low-budget horror continues to attract -- because there's always an audience for it and one can shoot a horror movie on a shoe-string budget [which is appealing to investors and the studios]. Cable-TV is the new wave -- Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc. If you can jack into a compelling series concept and sell it to Netflix -- you're gold. Otherwise, it appears that superhero movies are paramount. Marvel rules. Either you make a gazillion dollar-budget superhero movie [like "Wonder Woman"] or you take a chance on an indie that may [or may not] make a killing at the box office based on it's palatable budget.
FILMINK: Lastly, if you could change one thing about the industry what would it be and why?
DH: I wouldn't change a thing. The industry -- via internet -- is evolving in diverse ways. Think about it. A filmmaker can now make a movie and post it on Youtube. That's amazing! It's the same will all creative endeavors. Audition for a role. Post it. Compose a song. Post it. Dance. Post it. Recite your poetry. Post it. This is the new era of creation: DYI [Do It Yourself]!
Written By: Dane Millerd