Josh Hutcherson Secretly Starred In $314 Million Hit Christmas Movie From 19 Years Ago (& Shared The Role With Tom Hanks)


  • Josh Hutcherson acted alongside Tom Hanks in The Polar Express, providing motion capture for the character of Hero Boy.
  • The Polar Express is recognized as the first all-digital capture film.
  • Hutcherson was not the voice of Hero Boy, as Tom Hanks and Daryl Sabara provided the voices for the adult and young versions of the character, respectively.

One of Josh Hutcherson‘s first jobs in Hollywood was in a $314 million Christmas movie 19 years ago that also starred Tom Hanks. Before he became a huge movie star, Hutcherson was a young actor in the early 2000s looking for his break, and it happened to come alongside one of the most famous actors in the world. Since that time, Josh Hutcherson has done plenty besides starring in the Hunger Games franchise. He starred in Journey to the Center of the Earth and, most recently, starred in the popular Five Nights at Freddy’s movie adaptation.

In 2002 and 2003, Hutcherson landed a couple of small parts in television and one small movie role, but perhaps his big break came in 2004 when he was asked to join the eventual Christmas classic movie The Polar Express, which was already starring Tom Hanks as the voice of adult Hero Boy and the train conductor as well as Daryl Sabara as the child voice of Hero Boy. While his voice was never heard, Hutcherson would be instrumental in bringing a vital character to life through motion capture.

Josh Hutcherson Acted For The Motion Capture For Hero Boy In The Polar Express (Alongside Tom Hanks)

Still an unknown actor at the time, Josh Hutcherson provided additional motion capture for Hero Boy for The Polar Express. He was not the original choice to provide the lifelike motion for Hero Boy because the initial plan was for Tom Hanks to do as much of it as possible. Despite the character being a child, Hanks wanted to see if he would be able to provide what director Robert Zemeckis needed for Hero Boy but eventually ended up sharing the motion capture credit with Hutcherson.

The Polar Express is recognized by Guinness World Records as the first all-digital capture film.

In the early 2000s, Zemeckis helped convince Tom Hanks, who owned the movie rights to The Polar Express book, that an animated version of the film would work best and would keep the costs of the film reasonable. While there was thought a live-action The Polar Express would be better, the two compromised on motion capture, a new method of film-making that would allow for Hanks’ mannerisms to still be portrayed in the film. Hanks originally believed that he could provide the motion capture for most of the roles in the film, but it was concluded that a different and smaller body would help Hero Boy seem more childlike.

Why Josh Hutcherson Wasn’t The Voice Of Hero Boy In The Polar Express

Daryl Sabara and the Hero Boy in the Polar Express

In The Polar Express cast, there are two versions of Hero Boy throughout the film. The adult version was voiced by Tom Hanks, one of six voice roles he is credited for in the film. The young voice of Hero Boy was played by Daryl Sabara, who was well-known at the time for starring in three Spy Kids movies as well as a Spy Kids television show. Those in charge of The Polar Express thought Sabara would be a friendly, recognizable voice for the Hero Boy character, and he was brought in after it was decided that Tom Hanks trying to voice every role would be too taxing for him.

At the time of the movie’s development, Sabara was also working on Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over and filming an episode of Friends. Sabara’s schedule would not allow him to do all the lengthy motion capture work, and the producers already knew Tom Hanks would not be able to do everything. For work that required the movements of a shorter body, it was decided that someone smaller was needed to round out the motion capture of Hero Boy. Josh Hutcherson was given the part and the exposure to The Polar Express, plus working with a huge talent like Tom Hanks would go on to propel the rest of Hutcherson’s career.