Tom is featured in the new issue of AARP.
Star of ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’ writes about the friends who changed the course of his life
Tom Hanks is in a new movie called A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. It’s a story about the life-changing friendship between Fred Rogers, the beloved children’s-show host, and a skeptical journalist. We asked Tom if he would write about the importance of friendship in his own life, and here’s what he wrote for us — and for you.
In 1978, when I was completing my second season with the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival in Cleveland, with all of two leading roles on my yet-to-be-created résumé, I was in the company of peers who had been assembled from theaters all across America and talent grown right there in Cleveland.
I had gone from being an unpaid member of the intern program to a place in the professional company. Being in an ensemble of actors — “The actors are come hither, my lord!” — is to breathe rarefied air, to be in a family of artists that, at times, can be dysfunctional to the point of warring factions. Sure, we had some creative fireworks, but six shows to mount and eight performances a week from July to Thanksgiving had us laughing more than fuming. Much of the laughter came from two members of the professional company: George Maguire and MichaelJohn McGann.
In my first production the previous summer, Hamlet, I had been cast as the servant Reynaldo, who has a single scene with Polonius (usually cut from productions). I also carried a torch, waved a sword and marched in shadow as a soldier of a passing army. George was Guildenstern (I understudied Rosencrantz), while MichaelJohn was the Player King. From our first Hamlet rehearsal in May 1977 to our final performance of The Two Gentlemen of Verona in November 1978 (me, Proteus; George, Thurio; MichaelJohn, the Duke of Milan), these two actors shared their joyful lives and professional passion with all of us in the company. When I was around them in the dressing room, in the wings, at the bar after the show or taking in the Feast of the Assumption in Cleveland’s Murray Hill, they were the professionals I admired, examples of the kind of actor I wanted to be — and the kind of human being I hoped to become.
With a freshly printed Actors’ Equity union card in my thin wallet, I had a Rubicon to cross. I was an unemployed actor. I had spent two seasons playing shoulder to shoulder with actors from all over the regional-theater map, from Minneapolis’ Cricket Theatre to repertory companies in Missouri, Indianapolis and Milwaukee. I had never been out of California before getting the job in Cleveland. The comfort of the West Coast was calling me back to find what work I could in San Francisco or Berkeley, near where I grew up, or to woo the Harsh Mistress of Showbiz, who reigns over Los Angeles — to gamble against the odds like so many had before. I could go anywhere. All of my worldly possessions fit in my 1970 VW Beetle. So I asked around: Where should I go?
George and MichaelJohn made quick work of telling me: I would go to New York! Just as they had! New York City is where actors and artists go to test their talent and their wherewithal! In New York City, I would be a part of the grand community of Players, learning as much from the pulse of the city as from any performance I’d ever given! With the luck of serendipity, I’d audition for off-off-Broadway and off-Broadway and Broadway! And movies and TV and commercials and industrials! For cruise ships, for dinner theaters! For every professional theater in America! I would sell my car to bankroll the move to the City That Never Sleeps!
OK! That’s what I did! MichaelJohn and I drove east on I-80 together, from the Cuyahoga to the Hudson, delivering a transported car to the docks of Port Elizabeth, New Jersey. I slept on his couch for too many weeks, in the apartment he shared with a playwright and actor who didn’t know me from Adam but made me laugh all day. MichaelJohn typed up my résumé on his battleship of a Royal typewriter (which he has since given me). When I finally found a horridly dark and busted-up fourth-floor walk-up in Hell’s Kitchen, he cosigned the lease for me — a moment of risky generosity I will never, ever forget. The New York City winter was new to me, so cold that a walk outside made my jaw hurt. I did not have winter clothes. George gave me a jacket. He also came by with milk to go with the Entenmann’s blackout cakes that MichaelJohn would bring by. George gave me his old portable black-and-white TV (with coat hanger antenna), a pair of chairs with broken cane seats, and a kitchen-size table that was nuts to have in a fourth-floor walk-up. MichaelJohn showed me the ropes of the Actors’ Equity lounge, with its casting board and credit union. In the depths of February, the three of us met at George’s ground-floor studio apartment, just off Central Park West, the walls covered with the 8-by-10s of so many of his actor friends, and we did our taxes as a snowstorm howled outside. I had never done my taxes before. When these two pros showed me how to file my return so I’d get a refund from the IRS for nearly $600, the first moment of solvency in my adult life, I thought I had won the lottery.
And I had. They were, and are, my friends. You would not be reading these words otherwise.
Sony recently hosted a SAG-AFTRA screening of “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” the Marielle Heller-directed drama starring Matthew Rhys as a magazine writer who befriends Fred Rogers, played by Tom Hanks.
While the screening didn’t include a guild Q&A with cast or the film’s creative team, the audience was greeted with a video message from Mister Rogers’ widow, Joanne. “The film is a wonderful tribute to Fred’s life. But more than that it’s incredibly timely. With so much conflict going on in the world, I think people are hungry for kindness,” she said. “Fred’s legacy reminds us to be kind and to be neighborly, to try and forgive those who have hurt us and to see the innate goodness in all people.”
The theater, a full house of about 200 people, was immediately filled with “awws” and “aahs.”
“Fred used to say that the space between the television set and the person watching it was holy ground,” Rogers continued. “I believe that’s true in this theater today, and may I add that I know Fred would be thrilled to have Tom Hanks representing him on the
big screen.” More “awws” and “aahs” were heard as the film began.
Who better to play the revered children’s television host than Hollywood’s most beloved actor, Tom Hanks? Who better to give her stamp of approval than Mister Rogers’ wife?
Well played, Sony.
It didn’t take long after the film’s premiere at the Toronto Film Festival for Hanks to become an awards season favorite for supporting actor (Rhys will be put up for lead). It’s been 19 years since Hanks was last nominated for an Academy Award for “Castaway” and 25 since he won his second for “Forrest Gump.”
His performance in “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” could earn him another Oscar nomination and possibly a win.
In his review of the movie for Variety, Owen Gleiberman wrote: “In ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,’ Hanks isn’t just good — he’s transporting. He takes on Mister Rogers’ legendary mannerisms and owns them, using them as a conduit to Rogers’ disarming inner spirit. He makes you believe in this too-nice-for-words man who is all about believing. ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’ is a soft-hearted fable that works on you in an enchanting way. When the film comes out (at Thanksgiving), there won’t be a dry eye in the megaplexes of America.”
Not only is it a feel-good film, but one can never underestimate the power of nostalgia to get out the vote. In this case, it doesn’t matter how old you are: Mister Rogers is the ultimate throwback to a time when the world was — or at least appeared to be — much nicer and simpler. In fact, the final episode of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” aired on Aug. 31, 2001, just 12 days before the world changed forever on Sept. 11.
And unlike comic book franchise blockbusters, where superheroes with capes are needed to save the world, Mister Rogers made us all feel safe and secure simply by putting on his red sweater and asking us to be his neighbor. The warm feelings conjured by the film could go far with Academy voters.
Not that Hanks doesn’t have significant competition. Early favorites for supporting actor also include Brad Pitt (“Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”), Willem Dafoe (“The Lighthouse”), Jamie Foxx (“Just Mercy”), Anthony Hopkins (“The Two Popes”) and Al Pacino (and possibly Joe Pesci) for “The Irishman.” Sterling K. Brown (“Waves”) and Foxx’s “Just Mercy” castmate Rob Morgan also might be contenders. And the list could perhaps include Taika Waititi for his work as a ridiculous Adolf Hitler in “Jojo Rabbit” as well as young “Jojo” newcomer Archie Yates, although they’re likely long shots.
Hanks is currently shooting Paul Greengrass’ historical drama “News of the World” for Universal, so his appearances on the awards circuit may be limited. However, just two days before Oscar nominations voting closes on Jan. 7, Hanks will receive the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes. The adoration from the audience — expect a standing ovation — and his speech could help secure enough votes to earn him his sixth nom.
Indeed, the Oscars on Feb. 9 could be quite a beautiful day for Mr. Hanks.
A well deserved honor! Congratulations Tom!
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) announced that eight-time Golden Globe winner and 15-time nominee, Tom Hanks, will be honored with the coveted Cecil B. deMille Award at the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards. The highly-acclaimed star of such legendary films such as Big, Forrest Gump, Saving Private Ryan, Cast Away, and the upcoming release of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood will accept the honor at Hollywood’s Party of the Year® on Sunday, January 5, 2020 airing LIVE coast-to-coast from 5-8 p.m. PT/8-11 p.m. ET on NBC.
“The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is proud to bestow the 2020 Cecil B. deMille Award to Tom Hanks,” said HFPA President Lorenzo Soria. “For more than three decades, he’s captivated audiences with rich and playful characters that we’ve grown to love and admire. As compelling as he is on the silver screen, he’s equally so behind the camera as a writer, producer, and director. We’re honored to include Mr. Hanks with such luminaries as Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Martin Scorsese, and Barbra Streisand to name a few.”
Chosen by the HFPA Board of Directors, the Cecil B. deMille Award is given annually to a talented individual who has made a lasting impact on the film industry. Honorees over the decades include Jeff Bridges, Robert De Niro, Audrey Hepburn, Harrison Ford, Jodie Foster, Sophia Loren, Sidney Poitier, Steven Spielberg, Denzel Washington, Robin Williams, and many more.
Hanks’ complex and moving performances have earned him the honor of being one of only two actors in history to win back-to-back Best Actor Academy Awards®, he won his first Oscar® in 1994 for his moving portrayal of AIDS-stricken lawyer Andrew Beckett in Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia. The following year, he took home his second Oscar for his unforgettable performance in the title role of Robert Zemeckis’ Forrest Gump. He also won the Golden Globe Award for both films, as well as a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award® for the latter.
In 2013, Hanks was seen starring in Golden Globe-nominated film Captain Phillips, for which he received Golden Globe, SAG, and BAFTA nominations as well as in AFI’s Movie of the Year Saving Mr. Banks with Emma Thompson. Hanks was most recently seen alongside Streep in Spielberg’s Golden Globe and Oscar-nominated film The Post, for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe and won Best Actor with the National Board of Review. He will next be seen portraying Mr. Fred Rodgers in the upcoming biopic A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Additional upcoming projects include the WWII drama Greyhound, which he also wrote, the post-apocalyptic BIOS and Paul Greengrass’ pre-Civil War drama News of the World.
His other feature credits include the Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski film Cloud Atlas; Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close; the animated adventure The Polar Express, which he also executive produced and which reunited him with director Robert Zemeckis; the Coen brothers’ The Ladykillers; Spielberg’s The Terminal and Catch Me If You Can; Sam Mendes’ Road to Perdition; Frank Darabont’s The Green Mile; Nora Ephron’s You’ve Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle; Penny Marshall’s A League of Their Own; Ron Howard’s Apollo 13; The Da Vinci Code; Angels & Demons; Splash ; Hologram for a King; Inferno; Sully; and the computer-animated blockbusters Cars, Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3 and Toy Story 4.
In 1996, Hanks made his successful feature film writing and directing debut with That Thing You Do!, in which he also starred. More recently, he wrote, produced, directed and starred in Larry Crowne, with Julia Roberts. Hanks and Playtone produced 2002’s smash hit romantic comedy My Big Fat Greek Wedding, with his wife Rita Wilson. Other producing credits include Where the Wild Things Are, The Polar Express, The Ant Bully, Charlie Wilson’s War, Mamma Mia!, The Great Buck Howard, Starter for 10, and the HBO series Big Love, Band of Brothers, The Pacific and From the Earth to the Moon.
In 2002, Hanks received the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award.
He was later honored by the Film Society of Lincoln Center with the Chaplin Award in 2009. In 2014, Hanks received a Kennedy Center Honor.
The Oscar-winning actor channels the children’s television icon in the forthcoming A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.
Tom Hanks was not much of a Mister Rogers fan growing up. “I was too busy watching Rocky and Bullwinkle, and stuff like that,” the Oscar-winning actor explained to press Sunday at the Toronto International Film Festival, where his film about the children’s television host, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, had just premiered.
A few years back, though, Hanks received an email from a friend containing a moving clip from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood that immediately converted him. The video, from a 1981 episode, featured Rogers greeting a young boy in a wheelchair named Jeffrey Erlanger.
“Fred is just so wonderfully gentle and present [with] someone who normally would make [most people] feel uncomfortable,” Hanks said. “What do you say to somebody who will spend their life in a wheelchair? He said, ‘Jeff, do you ever have days when you’re feeling sad?’ He says, ‘Well, yeah, sure Mister Rogers. Some days…but not today.’” After a few minutes of conversation—Rogers also commended Erlanger for his ability to discuss his condition and help other people do the same—Rogers and the boy sang “It’s You I Like.”
“It made me bawl my eyes out,” said Hanks, who plays Rogers in the film from Marielle Heller (The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Can You Ever Forgive Me?). “It was just so [amazing]. It’s one of the reasons why I’m in the movie.”
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, from screenwriters Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster, is inspired by the real-life relationship Rogers struck up with Esquire reporter Tom Junod. Speaking alongside A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Heller, Hanks explained why he found Rogers a subject worth reexamining in 2019. “I think cynicism has become the default position for so much of daily structure and daily intercourse,” he said. “Why? Because it’s easy, and there’s good money to be made. It’s a great product to sell—cynicism. It’s the perfect beginning of any examination of anything, as far as conspiracy theories or what have you.”
“But I think that, when Fred Rogers first saw children’s programming, he saw something that was cynical. And why in the world would you put a pipeline of cynicism into the minds of a two or three-year-old-kid? That you are not cool because you don’t have this toy, that it’s funny to see somebody being bopped on the head, that hey, kids be the first in line in order to get blah, blah, blah. That’s a cynical treatment of an audience, and we have become so inured to that that when we are met with as simple a message as hey, you know what, it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, [it’s a reminder] that we are allowed…to start off feeling good.”
(If you need a further antidote to cynicism, look no further than the below reunion between Erlanger and Rogers—about 17 years after Erlanger’s Mister Rogers appearance. The reunion took place onstage at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Awards. Rogers was in the audience to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award, and was so surprised by his old friend’s appearance that he immediately jumped onto the stage to greet him.)
Heller, meanwhile, told reporters that it took motherhood—and seeing Mister Rogers through the lens of a parent—for her to “realize the profound impact of his message…watching his show, he really has some beautiful, radical ideas about childhood…that everybody deserves love just as they are. But also: We need to come up with ways to allow children to feel their feelings, and their feelings matter and are valid, particularly when raising young boys. That’s actually a message we don’t give little kids. For me, I’m raising a little kid, and I want him to be able to grow up feeling his feelings as much as his female counterparts.”
Heller added, “I think what Mister Rogers did was subtle, and it’s easy to overlook. I think for a long time people thought of him as hokey, or something to be made fun of. And he did get made fun of a lot in his day, but [what he was doing] was really profound. And the impact that he had was very deep. It wasn’t flashy. It was very real.”
The film premieres November 22, but Heller has already heard from Fred Rogers’s widow, Joanne. “She said how happy she was, and how happy she was that I made this movie. But then she also said, ‘I really wish you could have known Fred,’” the filmmaker said, tearing up. “‘I think you and he would have had great conversations, and I think he would have been really proud as well.’”
While in Toronto, Tom posed for some portraits and I have added them to our gallery.
Tom made one more stop before finishing up his time in Toronto … at the press conference for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.
The cast and crew from A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood participate in a Q&A at the Toronto Film Festival.
What is it about Tom Hanks? He’s acclaimed for his stunning character transformations, from Big to Cast Away to Saving Private Ryan and beyond. But he’s beloved because something about him always stays the same. Hanks’ screen persona is an unerring force for good, which prompted a universal sigh of relief at his casting as America’s treasured children’s TV host, Mr. Rogers. But A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is no simple paean to childhood comforts. Following up on last year’s sharp comic drama, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, director Marielle Heller sets Fred Rogers’ irresistible charm against the immovable cynicism of a New York magazine writer.
Many interviews from the red carpet of the premiere of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood are coming out … here are some of the interviews!
Associated Press – Tom Hanks on why he’s the perfect Mr. Rogers
Fans at the Toronto International Film Festival wore their red sweaters to welcome Tom Hanks, who portrays Mr. Rogers in the new film “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” and Hanks joked about why he’s the perfect guy for the role. (Sept. 8)
We chatted with Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Marielle Heller and Lloyd Vogel about the wisdom and importance of Fred Rogers at the TIFF red carpet for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. The movie, which is already receiving plenty of awards buzz, tells the story of a jaded journalist whose life is forever changed when he is assigned to profile the beloved children’s TV host, Mr. Rogers.
Toronto Sun – On his starring role as Mr.Rogers
Cinema Blend – Tom Hanks and More on Mister Rogers
Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Susan Kelechi Watson, Tom Junod and more discuss Fred Rogers and ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’ with CinemaBlend at the world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Tom spent the weekend promoting his new film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood at the Toronto Film Festival. Here are some images from the premiere which was held on Saturday.
Tom sat down with his co-stars to participate in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter about his new film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.
(if you have any problems viewing the video go here)