For a long time, Josh Hutcherson was the teen fantasy star with legions of fans. Now, years after the success of The Hunger Games, the revered actor is turning to the dark side, and he’s having a bit of fun with it.
In the new blockbuster, The Beekeeper, Hutcherson stars alongside action legend Jason Statham, in a role that differs vastly from his previous work. This time around, the 31-year-old actor plays Derek Danforth, a trust-fund baby with a penchant for peroxide and an innate ability to be the most annoying person in the room. Coddled by his power-hungry mother and over-qualified handler, Danforth is the kind of wealthy elite you hate to see succeed. Hutcherson, an accomplished actor with a string of hits under his belt, couldn’t be further from his on-screen counterpart.
The former Journey to the Centre of the Earth star credits his foray into the dark and twisted world of cinematic villainy to director David Ayer. As he explains, it was the Fury and Training Day filmmaker who pushed him to make the character more unlikable and out of touch, something that Hutcherson ultimately described as ‘freeing’.
“Derek’s absolutely unhinged, and for me to get to step into somebody that’s as wild and out of touch with reality as him was challenging in ways, but very freeing in many as well,” he tells me. “And for David (Ayer), our director, to see the potential of me to play that kind of guy is something that I wouldn’t have seen necessarily if I were him, but I’m really happy, and I loved getting to jump in and do something this wild.”
Waking the Beekeeper
Admittedly, The Beekeeper is not a complex film. A straightforward revenge tale played out in full (often brutal) detail, the film centres around Jason Statham‘s ex-special forces operative Adam Clay, who is forced out of retirement following the death of a close friend. Blaming Derek’s illegal data mining operation for the tragedy, Clay makes it his mission to exact vengeance and his target is fixed firmly on the spoiled rich kid’s bleach-blonde head.
A brutal mercenary, Clay’s slightly warped sense of justice sees him bludgeon and beat his way to the top in an assortment of grotesque and, at times, ridiculous ways. As Hutcherson explains, it might not have worked, had it not been for the steely intensity of lead actor Jason Statham.
“One of the special things that Jason does as an action star is, the stuff that he pulls off in movies as his characters are things that you wouldn’t believe anyone else really getting away with, and some kind of nugget of realism,” Hutcherson tells me.
“I feel like in The Beekeeper, you watch this guy come out of retirement and just rip heads and go crazy, and you just believe that he can do it. It’s not like a stretch in a way. He’s just the movie star. He’s got the face, the voice, the presence, and he’s just a badass through and through.”
The Rise of Tech Bro Trope
Watching the film, you can’t help but notice a strange undercurrent, particularly with Hutcherson’s role. Derek Danforth is the latest in what has steadily become Hollywood’s favourite trope; the tech bro supervillain. What started with hyper-intelligent characters like Hannibal Lector quietly evolved into caricatures of modern enterprise, such as Edward Norton’s enigmatic Miles Bron in Glass Onion or the turtlenecked phone developer Peter Isherwell in Don’t Look Up. Even Superman adversary Lex Luther has copped a crypto-boy refresh in recent years, but it’s not simply a case of writer fatigue.
With Elon Musk causing internet chaos seemingly daily, Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes facing jail time for defrauding investors, and Sam Bankman-Fried’s spectacular fall from grace, the tech-bro trope is very much playing out in real life. As Hutcherson explains, why not have a bit of fun with it on-screen?
“We’re at a point where obviously we’re just seeing massive consequences and impacts of what technology can do, and people who have infinite money and access and power, what that can look like,” he says. “I think that it was destined to happen, and now is the era of the tech bro villain. It’s fun. I like it.”
The Beekeeper premieres in Australian cinemas on January 11. Directed by screen legend David Ayers, the all-out action blockbuster stars Jason Statham, Josh Hutcherson, Jeremy Irons and Minnie Driver. You can watch the full trailer above.
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