Oscar-winning actor’s long and storied career proves he’s not
“It feels like it has flown by,” actor Timothy Hutton
tells me. He’s referring to his experience on Leverage, his
current hit series on TNT, now in its fifth season and moving its
action from Chicago to Portland. Yet he may as well be talking about
his long and amazing career, which stretches back to the late
Seventies. Today, he seems as young and fresh as when he was just
starting out as a teen hottie/serious young man, in TV movies like
Friendly Fire with Carol Burnett and Young Love, First
Love with Valerie Bertinelli.
In 1980, at age 20, he became the youngest thespian ever to win an
Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. His portrayal of a
troubled, suicidal youth in the
Robert-Redford-directed film Ordinary
People poked the nerve of an entire generation. Based on the bestselling novel
of the same name, it dealt squarely with the uncomfortable subjects
of death, grieving and coldly dysfunctional families.
“It was a pretty intense time,” he says of being a part of that film
and being acclaimed at such a young age. “It was a wonderful time.
It’s just that everything happened so fast. I never imagined
anything like that. I was nineteen-years old and I was working on
this amazing film. Then the film came out and suddenly I had all
these opportunities to do other films.
“I feel very fortunate that things happened that way. But it was
quite challenging to stay levelheaded and try to keep my feet on the
ground. It can really grab you by the neck. It forces you to have
some kind of perspective. I really needed to be aware that it wasn’t
always going to be like that, that this is a rare, exceptional
situation. And I think that kind of helped me over the years. I
certainly didn’t think that every film was going to have that kind
of impact or success.”
He was right on
that count. Although his next film, Taps (with newbie Tom
Cruise) was a hit, a string of films afterward did not bang the gong
as loudly: Turk 182, Daniel, and Made in Heaven
were not box office or critical successes. He scored again with the
classic The Falcon and the Snowman with Sean Penn, along with
Everybody’s All American with Dennis Quaid.
His current role on TV, in Leverage, casts him as a former
insurance investigator who leads a group of thieves against a
crooked and dishonest world (all in the name of good, of course
— think Robin Hood).
How do you keep it fresh in season five?
“You look at the stakes of the characters,” he explains. “You look
at the opportunity you have with the storytelling. My character,
instead of thinking about what has happened to him, thinks about
what can happen. He has taken responsibility for the safety
of the team. He has come to a point where he genuinely trusts each
of them. And it allows for a betrayal of that trust. And that’s a
hint at what might possibly be coming up. The writers have been
very successful at keeping it fresh by coming up with first-rate new
storylines, character development and interpersonal relationships.”
As a kid, he had dreams of playing baseball and building bridges.
(“Being an actor was not something that I set out to do. I even feel
to this day sort of surprised that that’s what I do.”) However, his
beloved actor father, Jim Hutton, inspired him to try the family
trade. The senior Hutton, lanky and funny, is best known for comedic
roles in Where the Boys Are and The Horizontal Lieutenant.
He died at the age of 45 in 1979, only a short time before Tim won
On his father’s
career potential, Tim says, “He was never really given enough
opportunity to be regarded as a dramatic actor. He was seen as more
of a comedic actor. There were a few exceptions. He did that movie
with Jane Fonda, called Period of Adjustment, which Tennessee
Williams wrote and George Roy Hill directed. That was an exception.
He was a wonderful actor. He was a wonderful screen comedian. And he
died too young. He was just starting to move into a different area,
around the time of [his 1975 NBC TV series] Ellery Queen.
When Ellery Queen finished, I think he maybe started to feel
that people maybe would not think of him as just the funny tall guy
in Where the Boys Are, but instead as a more dramatic actor.
I wish he had the opportunity to do more dramatic work.”
With his current series on firm footing, Hutton continues to look
forward as his TV series evolves.
“It’s going to be, by far, the best year,” he says.