A young Hutcherson expresses an interest in acting, prompting his mother Michelle to move to L.A. with her aspiring thespian. Hutcherson – whose father Chris works as an EPA analyst – quickly attracts interest in Hollywood, landing guest spots on ER and The Division.
After nabbing a small part in 2003's American Splendor, the 10-year-old wins the lead role opposite Tom Hanks in 2004's The Polar Express. The experience of working with Hollywood heavyweights doesn't faze Hutcherson, who says, "I should feel intimidated, I know that, but I just feel like they're normal people too and they do the same thing I do."
Hutcherson nabs his first lead role as lovesick grade-schooler Gabe in the indie romance Little Manhattan, which earns the young star critical praise. "Mr. Hutcherson emerges as a child actor worth watching," the New York Times says of the 12-year-old actor. He soon lands in other kid-friendly films, including Zathura: A Space Adventure (with Kristen Stewart) and Bridge to Terabithia. "It's kind of weird to think about it," the Kentucky native tells the Lexington Herald-Leader in 2007 of his growing fame. "It's like, 'Whoa, I never thought I'd get this far.'"
Modern family dramedy The Kids Are All Right premieres, and Hutcherson steals scenes as Laser, the teen son of a lesbian couple who is desperate to find his birth father. Loved by audiences, the critical hit ultimately earns four Oscar nominations. "It's not a normal family," Hutcherson says of the film's premise. "And that's cool to see that there's still a real family dynamic there."
After filming Journey 2: Mysterious Island, Hutcherson, 18, is spotted canoodling with costar Vanessa Hudgens, 22. The two are linked throughout the spring and attend the Coachella Music Festival together in April. By June, the romance fizzles and Hudgens makes it clear to PEOPLE: "I'm single!"
Hutcherson lands the role of a lifetime, starring alongside Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth as lovesick baker's son Peeta Mellark in the film adaptation of the best-selling young adult trilogy The Hunger Games. "I don't want to be that actor who's like, 'Yeah, man, the role is so me,' But it is!" Hutcherson tells EW. "I am Peeta."
The Hunger Games rakes in more than $251 million during its first 10 days at the box office. Of Hutcherson's performance, leading lady Lawrence tells EW, ''Josh is so charming, and when you read the books about Peeta being able to manipulate anybody ... I mean, Josh could get – well, I don't know a metaphor except for dirty ones.''
Hutcherson reprises his role as Peeta for The Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire, in which his character is forced to compete in the Hunger Games for the second time alongside on-and-off love Katniss. Upon its release, the film breaks box office records, grossing nearly $300 million in just 10 days.
BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): Sebastian Artz/Getty; Everett; Regency Entertainment; Everett; Ramey; Murray Close; Marco Ravagli/Barcroft Media /Landov