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Timothy Hutton – Leveraging His Future

Updated: Jul 6, 2023

Timothy Hutton

Leveraging His Future

by Ronald Sklar

The Oscar-winning actor’s long and storied career proves he’s not ordinary people.

“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 his Oscar.

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.

Copyright ©2012 All rights reserved. Posted: September 18, 2012.

Photo Credits:

#1 © 2012 Eric Heinila. Courtesy of TNT. All rights reserved.

#2 © 2012 Eric Heinila. Courtesy of TNT. All rights reserved.

#3 © 2012 Eric Heinila. Courtesy of TNT. All rights reserved.

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