Timothy Hutton Interviewed – ‘The Last Mimzy’

     March 21, 2007

Opening this Friday is New Line Cinemas The Last Mimzy. If you’ve been reading the site for awhile you’ll think hasn’t Frosty already interviewed Timothy for this film at Sundance and didn’t he post a video interview? The answer is yes, and if you happened to have missed it you can check it out here.

Since the good folks at New Line are trying to get the word out on Bob Shaye’s return to the director’s chair, they held a press day for the film here in Los Angeles and I decided to attend the event and support the film.

If you are not familiar with the movie here is the synopsis (from the studio):

Based on the acclaimed sci-fi short story by Lewis Padgett, The Last Mimzy tells the story of two children who discover a mysterious box that contains some strange devices they think are toys. As the children play with these “toys,” they begin to display higher and higher intelligence levels. Their teacher tells their parents that they seem to have grown beyond genius. Their parents, too, realize something extraordinary is happening. Emma, the younger of the two, tells her confused mother that one of the toys, a beat-up stuffed toy rabbit, is named Mimzy and that “she teaches me things.” Emma’s mom becomes increasingly concerned. When a mysterious blackout shuts down the city and the government traces the source of the power surge to this one family’s house, things quickly spin wildly out of their control. The children are focused on these strange objects, Mimzy, and the important mission on which they seem to have been sent. When the little girl says that Mimzy contains a most serious message from the future, a scientific scan shows that Mimzy is part extremely high level electronic and part organic! Everyone realizes that they are involved in something incredible…but exactly what?

Timothy talks a lot about the making of the film and what it’s like to keep filming a TV show after it’s already been cancelled as he was on the show Kidnapped. Overall he goes over a lot of stuff that we talked about during the video interview at Sundance but it was cool to see him again.

If you would like to listen to the interview you can download the MP3 here, otherwise the transcript is below.

And if you want to watch the trailer before reading the interview click here.

The Last Mimzy opens this Friday at theaters everywhere.

Timothy comes in and recognizes me and says ….

A friend of my son’s found something on the internet of the interview that we did and forwarded it to him and then he forwarded it to me, it was very funny. Rainn and I –

Question from the room: You battling it out?

Battling it out.

What are you guys talking about?

We were at Sundance and anytime Rainn was doing an interview he’d be very serious, or I was very serious doing an interview, we would sabotage the other person, we would just kind of come in on it, and start talking about –

Frosty: When he was going Rainn started throwing cards at him, and when Rainn was on camera he came over and stood in front of the camera, and then it was a co-interview. (to see it watch the video interviews above)

So was it like that a lot on the set?

It was. It was like that on the set every day all of us got along great and had fun playing jokes on each other. We had to, a lot of the movie you’re in a room and, for instance, there’s a scene where the sugar rises and comes over to me, so of course there’s no sugar there and you all feel just so goofy because the direction is, ‘Stare at the bowl, okay, one, two, three, eyes go up,’ and Bob Shaye is telling us, ‘Eyes go up, oh it’s really amazing, it’s swirling, it’s swirling,’ so we’re all kind of all going like this (mimics being amazed) and then, ‘Cut,’ and then they playback and we all go around the monitor, and we all look so stupid, and everyone’s doing it in different directions, one person’s looking over here, and it’s not going to work, so it just made for, as you can imagine, a crazy time.

Would you be inclined to support your kid if they were telling some crazy, magical story, or tell them, ‘Okay, enough, time to get back down to earth?’

You know, I thought about that because in that scene I actually thought about it before I did that scene because I wondered, you always go through a little bit of what would I do here being a father? And I thought that my dialogue with the little girl was harsh, it’s been lessened in the final movie, but I really kind of lay into her and say, ‘Put that rabbit away, enough of the rabbit, that’s it, what’s wrong with the family?’ It’s been toned down, so now you can see that I want that to happen but I’m not as harsh with her. But no, I’ve got a nineteen year-old and a five year-old and my thing was, of course they never found this box washed up on the shore so I don’t know how I would do it then, but anytime there was some fantastical story or secret friend, or that sort of thing, I always felt that it good to just kind of go along with it, and watch for psychotic behavior, and then you step in.

Did you read the short story, because this is so different from the short story? Did you read it before or after?

I actually read it before a long time ago because my mother’s in the business of making miniature books, she’s a book binder and all that sort of thing, and in the miniature book world there are a couple of things that sell particularly well, one is beautifully bound books that contain stamps, the collectors really love those, and then the other is anything having to do with Alice Through the Looking Glass or Alice in Wonderland, or anything by Paget, Carroll, Jabberwocky, so she did a Jabberwocky book and she gave me the Padgett story, Mimsy Were the Borogoves, and then we all read it again. And I must say, as I was reading it I thought, okay, there’s this and there’s the script, but it has the same spirit.

At sometime in your life could you identify with his workaholic thing, not knowing that the kids were up to because he’s going to work all the time?

Yeah, definitely. There were times when I was away doing a movie and my son was Captain of the Varsity basketball team and he still is a jazz drummer, and he would have these concerts, so that’s sort of on the event side, and then there were times when he might have been going through something, I was away so I would try to work it out before the arrangements were even made to go do the film. I learned as the years went on that the best way to handle this is to look at the schedule before committing to the film, tell them that there’s a week that you need to go and do this, that there’s a tournament happening, or there’s a jazz concert happening there, and then even more on a general level, just to be able to come back to New York and be with them and take them out to dinner and check in with them. So I was very concerned about it, probably because I didn’t have that so much with my dad who was an actor. We would come to the set once in awhile, but rarely would he come to where we were, which was Boston, so I think I – I don’t want to say overcompensated, but it certainly was on my mind.

So you got that for the character really well.

Yeah, because I’d definitely experienced that with my son Noah, I’d been away and his mom’s telling me that there’s something going on and that it would be good if I also got involved so that both of us could kind of figure it out together, and I would say, ‘Oh, I’m sure he’s fine,’ that kind of thing, which I say in the film quite a bit. But again, it’s a different kind of thing, there wasn’t really anything extremely extraordinary that had to be dealt with like there is in the movie. I remember when I read the script I thought, ‘Oh God, I’m the last guy to know what’s going on here.’ The babysitter’s just seen the swirling things, and I say, ‘Don’t you want to get paid?’ And then the very next scene is, I say, ‘I’ll call her in the morning, I’m sure she’ll be fine.’ And Joely’s freaked out and I say, ‘Look, we have two bright kids, I think we should be very lucky.’ So when I finally got to do the scene where I come home and I say, ‘I’ve taken a leave of absence,’ I was much more into playing that part of it, and not being so behind the curve.

So apart from this, what’s on your plate?

Let’s see, after we did Mimzy I went to work on filming the Kidnapped shows for NBC, and the third show – we were filming, I think, the fourth show, three had already aired, when we got the news that it was cancelled, and it was being taken off the air. But because of the structure of the Sony/NBC deal, and foreign territories and various arrangements, the rest of the shows, the total 13 had to be filmed. So that lasted all the way through the fall. And it was very strange going and working on the shows knowing that they wouldn’t be on the air. Eventually there would be DVDs, perhaps they’d been shown in certain territories, but I said to a friend, it’s a bit like having a commitment to do a play, eight shows a week, and somehow the management of the theatre has said there can’t be an audience in the theatre, but you have to do the play eight times a week. It sort of had that kind of feel to it. So that finished and then I did this really interesting project called Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, based on the David Foster Wallace Story, that John Krasinski from The Office, Rainn Wilson’s colleague, directed and did the adaptation. Myself and Julianne Nicholson and Bobby Cannavale and Max Minghella, Will Forte, Krasinski’s in it himself, it’s a great ensemble. And that was in New York, and then I went up to Rochester to do a movie about this unsolved case, the person they called the Alphabet Killer. He would go after women that had double initials, Amanda Aims, that sort of thing

TV or theatrical

Theatrical, both Brief Interviews and Alphabet Killer are theatrical. So that was up in Rochester, and I finished that and right now I’ve just finished up rehearsals in New York yesterday, and starting on Tuesday a film called Multiple Sarcasms, it’s kind of a cool title, and it’s Mira Sorvino, Mario Van Peeples, Tom Skerritt, Dana Delany and I, and it’s a story of a man who – I play an architect who wants to completely give up his career as an architect and become a playwright, and just decides I’m going to write a play and I’m going to risk everything, and in the process of doing that his best friend Mira Sorvino is really the only supportive one in his life, and his marriage kind of falls apart a little bit, so he causes a lot of damage to his personal relationships, but he actually writes a play and gets it put on. It’s kind of an interesting story of the choices you make and what you sacrifice along the way.

Can you talk a little about working with the kids in this – they were exceptionally good I thought, and they didn’t have a lot of experience.

No, no I think, now I’m forgetting which one, one of them never –

I think it’s the boy –

The boy, yeah that’s right, because she’s done a couple of things, she’s got brothers and sisters who are also in the business and have agents and all that. But the boy who they found in Denver, and Margery Simkin did the casting, it’s obviously critical to the movie that the kids worked, it’s really about them of course, so – working with them was amazing, and it isn’t always. But these two kids were great, and I think it was the preparation. We had a rehearsal beforehand so they kind of knew what it took, and the degree of focus that was required. And both of them were just very easy to connect with. I think all of us, Joely and I especially, Rainn as well because he plays the teacher, but we really made a point of spending time with them, and hanging out with them on weekends, and having lunches with them, and going for walks around Vancouver, taking them to the park, and that sort of thing. It became clear that they were comfortable with us, and Bob Shaye was great about if we were in a scene with the kids and he was over there watching, we could say, we got into this kind of shorthand where just with a signal like that meant keep the camera rolling, and then I would, or Joely would, or Rainn would, lean into one of them and say, ‘Say that line faster,’ –

On set coaching

Yeah, just a little, just every once in awhile in the beginning it was – (his phone rings and interrupts him – all say how we love his old telephone ring) Isn’t that a good ring? Old school ring. Sorry about that.

What about the supernatural aspects of this movie? Do you believe that anything in the movie is possible?

I would say that to believe means really to be invested in it, to give thought to it and somehow be behind it, so to take you literally I can’t say that I’m there yet, that I believe it. But I’m very intrigued by it, and I do think that there are so many things that are out there that we just don’t know that are right in front of us, certainly many signs that might support this kind of thing, but I haven’t quite become the nut that walks around.

But you’ve been in similar territory, you did the Dark Half.

Yeah, but there’s something about going into a Stephen King film, it’s all quite suspended and you go for the reality of what he’s created, and don’t make the association that somehow applies to real life. On the other hand, you are trying to make it as realistic as possible.

What’s it like being directed by the boss of the studio?

Well, the first thing you realize is it’s going to get released. You know that you’re going to be having a movie come out in a considerable amount of theatres and that there’s going to be a very thoughtful ad campaign and certain monies will be spent for that. I don’t think any of us as time went on, after the first couple of days of rehearsal, it wasn’t Bob Shaye, head of New Line anymore, it was the director and he was really great about that, because he would ask us questions about what we thought of this scene, or how we felt it was going, that kind of thing.

This movie has a warm heart like ET or Close Encounters – did you like those movies when you were younger or do you think those have to be in the past because they are too sweet for the way kids are nowadays?

I think those movies are just so amazing, ET, Close Encounters, and then on a more adult level 2001, but it would be interesting to see how those movies would be received now if they came out without – not a remake, but say nobody knew from ET, would the movie look the same or would they have to amp up the special effects, because of videogames like Myst and other games, so the movie studios have to compete with what the kids are playing on their Playstations, and the special effects and certain key explosive moments, emotional or otherwise, have to happen in a shorter period of time. They used to have all these rules, like for comedies every eleven minutes there has to be a real huge joke, and in action movies every whatever has to be this, and all that has kind of been compressed because of all the available entertainment. What’s cool about Mimzy though, The Last Mimzy effects are that they really – you don’t feel like suddenly you’re in an effects movie the first time you see an effect, it all kind of blends in and feels right. I think the first effect you see is when he picks up the crystal thing and it’s green and then he hands it to the mom and suddenly it’s nothing, and it just sort of works. When he whacks the golf ball is a neat thing. Did you guys see it last night?

Everyone says earlier in the week.

And did they have a lot of people in the audience?

We had kids last night and they stayed in the auditorium, but there was a big line up at the bathroom as soon as it was over.

That’s good. We saw it at Sundance with mostly kids, and then in Berlin with – a section of the Berlin Film Festival called Generation, and they packed this theatre with these kids and they just loved it. The things they laughed at took us all by surprise, so it was neat.

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