LOS ANGELES—Law enforcement officials confirmed Monday that a journalist on assignment for People magazine has been taken hostage by a violent group of extremists who worship veteran film and television actor Timothy Hutton.
Witnesses at the Sunshine Café said that a heavily armed faction calling itself the "Ordinary People's Front" entered the restaurant shortly before 10 p.m., abducted entertainment reporter Ryan Swanson, and fled the scene in a hail of gunfire.
A videotape made by the Hutton zealots, who are devoted to such motion pictures as French Kiss and The Last Mimzy, arrived at the magazine's headquarters early the next morning.
"If the cowardly dogs at People do not soon pay tribute to the magnificence of character actor Timothy Hutton, then their colleague shall surely die," said a masked OPF member on the tape, which showed a severely beaten Swanson bound and gagged in front of a poster for the 1981 film Taps. "The American media must recognize the unique talents of this Oscar-winning performer, who is also known for his directing. Unless our demands are met, the streets of North Hollywood shall run red with the blood of all nonbelievers."
"Praise be the one, true Hutton," the extremist added before firing a semiautomatic weapon wildly into the air.
The terrorist network, which is believed to contain more than a thousand Hutton sleeper cells nationwide, first formed in 1985 following the poor box-office performance of Turk 182!, an event Hutton fanatics still call "the Great Injustice." Since then, the radical organization has been linked to a number of highly coordinated and deadly attacks, including the bombing of an E!television studio in late 2002.
"It is the policy of People magazine not to negotiate with groups such as this," editor-in-chief John Huey said in a statement yesterday. "As concerned as we all are for Ryan and his family, we cannot let fear and intimidation from militant Hutton sects determine the activities of America's favorite celebrity news magazine."
"We made that vow after publishing a six-page spread on Benjamin Bratt in 2001," Huey added.
The abduction of Swanson marks the third incident of Hutton-related violence in the past eight months. The OPF has already claimed responsibility for the torture and hanging of Access Hollywood producer Donald Klein earlier this year, as well as the gory beheading of Us Weekly film critic Sue Banks following her negative review of Secret Window in 2004.
In addition, law enforcement officials believe that a car bombing during the 2000 Golden Globes may have been in retaliation for the award show's failure to recognize Hutton for his work in The General's Daughter.
"These are criminals, plain and simple, and they need to be stopped," said Los Angeles police chief William Bratton, who believes the Hutton extremists train somewhere deep in the hills of Hollywood. "Rest assured, we will hunt down this group, and all groups like it, until every last Hutton operative from Burbank to Studio City is destroyed."
The kidnappers have reportedly sent a list of demands insisting that People magazine print a half-page feature on Hutton's New York restaurant venture P.J. Clarke's, provide them with a suitcase containing $500,000 in unmarked bills, and include the actor "without fail" in the next People.com "Who Looked Hot?" web column.
"If we do not receive what we have asked for, then thousands will be terminated as cruelly and mercilessly as Timothy Hutton's overlooked detective series, The Nero Wolfe Mysteries," read an accompanying note, scrawled in blood.
Moderate Timothy Hutton followers have responded to the attacks with shock and outrage.
"The crazed extremism of a select few should not tarnish the beliefs of those who admire Mr. Hutton for his boyish good looks and offhand charm," Hutton moderate Patricia Cook said. "True followers of The One know that he would never condone the act of murder."
Actor Timothy Hutton is currently filming a new season of the TNT drama Leverage and could not be reached for comment.