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Young film star calls Northern Ky. home

HERALD-LEADER CULTURE WRITER
In Firehouse Dog, Northern Kentuckian Josh Hutcherson stars opposite a dog, Rexx, actually played by four canines. Josh, also starring in Bridge to Terabithia, has worked with Will Ferrell and Robin Williams. Photo by Bruce Macaulay | Regency Entertainment
Photo credit: Bruce Macaulay
In Firehouse Dog, Northern Kentuckian Josh Hutcherson stars opposite a dog, Rexx, actually played by four canines. Josh, also starring in Bridge to Terabithia, has worked with Will Ferrell and Robin Williams. Photo by Bruce Macaulay | Regency Entertainment

For Josh Hutcherson, there aren't many downsides to making movies, but one would be there's no Skyline Chili in Hollywood.

With a rapidly growing film résumé, the Northern Kentuckian hasn't had much time to be around his beloved chili. In the past two years, his film credits have included Zathura, RV and this year's The Bridge to Terabithia. Josh's latest, Firehouse Dog, opens Wednesday.

When he's not floating through space, traveling cross-country with Robin Williams or communing with mythical creatures, Josh is home in Union, hanging out at Florence Mall, and eating Graeter's Ice Cream and Skyline chili.

"I love being there, being home and getting to do normal kid things with my friends," says Josh, 14. "When I'm not filming movies, it's pretty nice."

Audiences first saw Josh in 2002, appearing in TV projects such as an episode of ER. He quickly moved over to feature films with American Splendor in 2003 and The Polar Express in 2004.

"It's kind of weird to think about it," he says. "It's like, 'Whoa, I never thought I'd get this far.'"

It's a fairly broad slate of movies, from the straightforward Kicking and Screaming to CGI spectacles such as Polar Express,Zathura and Terabithia.

Of course, Firehouse Dog had another variable: a dog.

In the story, Rexx, a movie-star dog, gets lost while doing one of his fantastic stunts. When Shane, Josh's character, meets Rexx, the dog is a bit beaten up and doesn't look like his celebrity self. Rexx settles into the unhappy firehouse Shane's dad runs, and they turn the place around.

There actually were four dogs playing Rexx and, Josh says, "It's difficult because they require so much attention and maintenance."

Josh had two weeks of "bonding with the dogs," but "it was more like a business relationship," he says.

When Josh just wants to play with a dog, he has Diesel, his 2-year-old boxer.

"Diesel is nuts, he's crazy," Josh says. "He loves to go to the dog park, but if you throw a ball, he won't chase the ball. He'll chase whatever dog is chasing the ball."

In addition to playing with Diesel, Josh loves going to the movies with his friends.

"Talladega Nights was so funny," he says. "I saw it five times in theaters."

Of course, Josh is the one who can tell his buddies what it's like to be on a set with Talladega Nights star Will Ferrell, having worked with him in Kicking & Screaming.

"It's funny, because you'll see things and say, 'Oh, that's Will. He did something like that on the set.'"

Moments like that can take the edge off Skyline withdrawal.

Hutcherson