It’s been said the definition of success is hard work plus determination. Alumnus Mike Hatton has both in spades. He’s been grinding it out in the news and entertainment industry since he was at State and recently landed a role in the upcoming film, “Green Book.”
Filmed in Louisiana late last fall, “Green Book,” is inspired by the true story of a New York bouncer Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen), who is hired as the driver of Jamaican-American classical pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) on a tour of venues through the 1960s American South. Hatton stars as George, a bass player in the Don Shirley Trio.
“As they go on the adventure, I was fortunate to be a part of it,” Hatton said.
The screenplay was written by Lip’s son Nick Vallelonga and directed by Peter Farrelly — half of the Farrelly brothers duo. Hatton describes Peter as a modern master.
“When you look at the core of every movie he’s done, ‘Dumb and Dumber’ or ‘Shallow Hall,’ his movies have heart,” Hatton said. “(Green Book) is really a ‘dramedy’ — not jokey-comedy, but life-comedy. I think people are going to see a new side of Peter Farrelly.”
“Green Book” opens nationwide on Nov. 16. The film is already racking up the nominations and awards, including the Toronto International Film Festival People’s Choice Award.
“I’ve worked alongside some great talent, but this experience is a whole new level,” Hatton said. “To have the opportunity to work with these guys and see their process was really incredible. I’m so grateful to be a part of it.”
For “Green Book,” Hatton tapped into his pre-State days when he played bass for his garage band, Chocolate Thunder. One minor complication was the fact Hatton plays the electric bass, not an upright like in the story. He trained for two months to master it.
“Tom Wolfe, the music supervisor, and composer Kris Bower were really happy with me and thought I was trained on the upright,” Hatton said.
A fan of David Letterman, Hatton, a native of Hobart, Ind., initially enrolled at the comedian’s alma mater to follow in Letterman’s footsteps. Life took over and brought him to Terre Haute, and he transferred to Indiana State as a radio/TV/film major and started working at WTHI.
It was very nearly all work and no play until Hatton joined Sigma Phi Epsilon. “The fraternity gave me this place where there was always something to do,” Hatton said. “It gave me a second purpose. Everything improved from that point. My grades got better, and I got more involved in campus.”
Juggling studies and work at the news station, Hatton’s career goal was to be an anchor. After graduation, he realized he wanted to be a movie actor.
Hatton wasn’t about to abandon his Midwestern sensibility while chasing is dreams on the West Coast. He found a full-time job in Palm Springs, Calif., helping launch the CBS affiliate there. He started out with camera work and eventually became an entertainment reporter covering Hollywood’s playground.
“It was great and a lot of fun. It gave me a taste of working in entertainment,” he said. “It’s been an interesting road to get here, but I was always looking at the same destination.”
No stranger to hard work, Hatton started taking weekend acting classes at the Second City in Hollywood while working at the news station. That’s when he started booking small roles and commercials.
“People are just starting to hear about me because of this major movie, but I’ve had a lot of other roles,” he said. “I’m what you’d call a 10-year overnight success.
“Indiana State is very near and dear to me. I never thought I’d have such an incredible experience,” Hatton added. “I’m where I am because of my experience.”