RANDY PENCH / rpench@sacbee.com

Max Rutherford, 11, of Elk Grove with his mother, Julie Rutherford. Max has a role in Woody Allen's new film "Blue Jasmine," which opens in Sacramento on Aug. 16.

Elk Grove boy gets big-screen treatment in Woody Allen's new film

Published: Tuesday, Jul. 23, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1D
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jul. 23, 2013 - 3:13 pm

Elk Grove resident Max Rutherford hasn't seen any of Woody Allen's 44 movies. But the 11-year-old will see Allen's 45th. At the red-carpet premiere. In Hollywood.

That's because he's in it.

Max plays actress Sally Hawkins' son, Johnny, in Allen's latest movie, "Blue Jasmine," which opens in Sacramento on Aug. 16.

On Wednesday, Max will fly to Los Angeles with his mother, brother and grandparents on a friend's private jet to attend the movie's premiere.

There, they'll walk the red carpet among "Blue Jasmine" stars such as Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Louis C.K. and Peter Sarsgaard. They might even splurge on a limo.

It's all been a whirlwind since Max auditioned for the part in the summer of 2012.

"I really didn't think I got it," Max said, remembering multiple callbacks in San Francisco, where the movie is partially set, as well as a private meeting with Allen.

Max looks like an average kid, but he certainly has the performance gene. After his mom, Julie Rutherford, received compliments about Max's photogenic face, she helped him secure an agent.

He appeared in print ads and later was an extra in the 2011 thriller "Contagion." But a speaking role in a Woody Allen film is his biggest gig to date.

For Rutherford, a teacher at Carroll Elementary School in Elk Grove, her son's role provides some welcome relief.

Two years ago, both her husband and father fell ill. Her husband passed away at age 42. Her dad, 67 and a war veteran, contracted non-Hodgkin lymphoma as the result of Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam, she said. He recently recovered after a stem cell transplant.

"We were just going through a lot at the time," Rutherford said. "When the movie came up, it was a good little break."

A character-driven drama, "Blue Jasmine" is a departure from Allen's recent lighthearted works such as "Midnight in Paris" and "To Rome With Love," and has more in common with moodier fare such as 1989's "Crimes and Misdemeanors" and 2005's "Match Point."

San Francisco has been kind to Allen in the past. His directorial debut, 1969's "Take the Money and Run," and 1972's critically acclaimed "Play It Again, Sam" were both filmed there.

"Blue Jasmine" stars Blanchett as Jasmine, a New York socialite whose life has fallen apart. She moves to San Francisco, seeking solace with her sister Ginger (Hawkins) while disapproving of Ginger's "loser" boyfriend (Bobby Cannavale) and lifestyle.

Jasmine drinks, pops pills and begrudgingly takes a receptionist job she feels is beneath her. And the more she refuses to see the truth of her situation, the further she falls.

In a preview of "Blue Jasmine," a disheveled Blanchett says while in a pizzeria: "There's only so many traumas a person can withstand until they take to the streets and start screaming."

Who is she talking to? Two kids – and Max is one of them.

This was Max's favorite scene to shoot, he said. In the warmth of Gaspare's Pizza House & Italian Kitchen in San Francisco's Richmond District, he marveled as pizzas – needing to look identical for the camera – rolled out over six hours of shooting.

"It was probably the most fun because I could eat while I was filming," he said.

For two weeks last summer, Max was on call for the film. He and his mom trekked back and forth from Elk Grove to San Francisco.

"Sometimes we'd get home at 10 p.m. and had to leave the next morning at 6 a.m.," Rutherford said. "It was a lot."

But it was worth it, Max said. In addition to missing the first week of school as a fifth-grader and a receiving a check for nearly $6,000, the young actor got the star treatment. He even had his own trailer.

"It wasn't like the big actors," he said. "It was just a little room with a small couch."

Max spoke in similarly modest terms about the whole experience. He said he found his fellow actors to be nice and described Allen as friendly and "small."

While "Blue Jasmine" is a major break for Max, he's not particularly eager to head out to more casting calls. His mother recently mentioned another opportunity and he declined in favor of a sleepover.

"I don't want to move to Los Angeles," he said, when asked about future acting plans. "All my friends are here."

Max is more likely to be found playing video games than working on his monologues – his first big purchase with his "Blue Jasmine" earnings went to a laptop specifically for gaming.

"He's just a normal kid," Rutherford said.

Call The Bee's Janelle Bitker, (916) 321-1027. Follow her in Twitter @JanelleBitker.

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