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Tom Hanks steps into the shoes of the late beloved TV host Fred Rogers in Marielle Heller’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, and as he tells the Actor Roundtable, playing someone as kind as Rogers is “the same exact beast” as playing a villain.
“Granted, Mister Rogers is not Iago, but they have their principles and they have their mission statement,” says Hanks. “The story in the movie is really about the journalist that is very cynical about who Mister Rogers is, and finds out that he was wrong. And there’s no nefarious motivation between what Fred Rogers did for a living. He viewed it as his ministry, and that’s kind of like looking at some combination of Mother Teresa, or somebody that is hellbent for doing just good in the spirit of which they operate. And the cynic walks into that and says, ‘What’s your racket here? What are you trying to pull here?’ And if it’s actually just, ‘Well, we’re trying to feed the homeless people some soup, so they get a hot meal once a day.’ No, it’s got to be something more to that. It’s not.”
Hanks goes on to note how “everything that guided [Rogers, an ordained minister] through his daily behavior and his creative output was based on making people feel safe and a part of something bigger than they actually were, in his case two- and three-year-old kids. But he never ever said the word ‘God.’ Not in hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of hours of television.”
Hanks has two Oscars for best actor in a leading role for his work in Forrest Gump and Philadelphia. He was nominated in the best actor category for Big, Saving Private Ryan and Cast Away. He won Golden Globes for his work in Philadelphia, Forrest Gump and Cast Away, and earned Globe nominations for Sleepless in Seattle, Saving Private Ryan, Charlie Wilson’s War, Captain Phillips and The Post.
The full Actor Roundtable is set to air Jan. 19 on SundanceTV. Hanks appears on the panel along with Robert De Niro (The Irishman), Adam Sandler (Uncut Gems), Shia LaBeouf (Honey Boy), Jamie Foxx (Just Mercy) and Adam Driver (Marriage Story). Follow all the Oscar-season roundtables at THR.com/Roundtables.
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