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Josh Hutcherson's Wild Journey from The Hunger Games to Five Nights at Freddy's
According to FNaF director Emma Tammi, the versatile actor was "so excited about the franchise and the animatronics."
SPOILER WARNING! Spoilers for Five Nights at Freddy's within!
Even in times of murderous rampaging at a haunted pizzeria, Josh Hutcherson knows how to pull on your heartstrings. In Five Nights at Freddy’s (now in theaters and on Peacock), the former The Hunger Games heartthrob stars as Mike Schmidt, a sympathetic and overwhelmed security guard who fends off animatronic killers Freddy, Bonnie, Chica, Foxy, and their creepy crew.
Though the new movie is steeped in horror and thrills, with the famously unhinged animatronics stealing the spotlight, Hutcherson brings a depth that helps prevent Five Nights at Freddy’s from being a one-note movie.
How Josh Hutcherson Provides the Heart of Five Night at Freddy's
Perhaps that’s not a surprise with such a versatile actor as Hutcherson in the lead role, walking that fine line between fun thrills and serious drama. He got his start as a teen star in critically acclaimed movies like Little Manhattan and Zathura, and has turned out impactful and affecting performances ever since, perhaps most notably as Peeta Mellark in the epic futuristic franchise The Hunger Games. Equally comfortable in thoughtful dramas, epic action adventures, comedies, and horror, Hutcherson is known for earnest and emotionally generous performances.
“He was so excited about the franchise and the animatronics and the really fun elements of Five Nights at Freddy's,” director Emma Tammi told NBC Insider. "But he was also engaged on a deeper character level and did such an authentic job of portraying Mike.”
Hutcherson's character Mike has a tortured backstory, which immediately pulls in viewers: sunk in grief, he acts out in ways that make nothing better. When Mike was a kid, his brother Garrett was abducted during a camping trip, and the case remained unsolved. Piling tragedy on top of trauma, his parents subsequently died, leaving Mike as the primary caregiver for his younger sister, Abby (Piper Rubio). Still mourning the loss of his loved ones, he witnesses a kidnapping, and his violent reaction gets him fired as a mall security guard. At his new job at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, he and the psycho animatronics are thrust together in many exciting, pulse-pounding scenes.
But it is Mike’s relationship with his little sister Abby that forms the heart of the movie. “He’s really struggling when we meet him and really has a great heart but is tormented by his past and fighting to take care of his sister and keep custody of her," Tammi said. "So we really meet him at an emotional low, and through the journey of trying to survive Freddy’s, he really connects with his sister and is able to finally put the past to bed.”
Aside from the paranormal hijinks, he grapples with the everyday struggles of raising a child. There is much for adults to grab onto with Mike’s character, from childcare conundrums to feeling ignored. We all feel some pangs of sympathy when he describes his little sister in the film: “She talks to air more than she talks to me. I could drop dead tomorrow, and she’d be too busy drawing to even notice.”
Mike’s intriguing dream life is another clever way the filmmakers added depth to the plotline. The souls of murdered children inhabit the animatronics, and they communicate to Mike through dreams, taunting him with a horrible Faustian bargain: If he lets his sister Abby become one of them — a soul trapped in an evil plush animatronic — they will reveal the truth about his brother who vanished so long ago. Luckily, Mike chooses to live in the present, saving Abby from this terrible fate. In the end, while the tragedies of the past still haunt him, the audience sees that Hutcherson's character is finally growing and moving forward — a surprisingly rich subplot for a movie with a flying pink cupcake.