Tom Hanks Talks 'Hologram for the King' Relatability: "How Many Americans Are in That Same Boat?"

Tom Hanks Tribeca Getty H 2016
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Tom Hanks Tribeca Getty H 2016

Tom Tykwer's adaptation of Dave Eggers' novel stars Hanks as "a representation of a certain generation of American businesspeople who are trapped in this complicated zone of being too old to start over and too young to retire."

Tom Hanks says that A Hologram for the King can hit close to home for American audiences.

"There is a degree of authenticity to it that people can recognize," he told The Hollywood Reporter at the film's world premiere on Wednesday night at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival, explaining that his character, Alan Clay, used to help run Schwinn Bicycles in its heyday, before they were manufactured in China.

As he heads to the Middle East to pitch a hologram communications platform to the region's royalty, Hanks explained that "this guy is now in charge of trying to make the biggest sale of his life, because it might be the last sale of his life, in a place that's as confusing as Saudi Arabia and of technology he probably doesn't even understand. How many Americans are in that same boat: trying to make sense of a technology they don't understand, a cutthroat economic environment in a world in which the ground rules are not just shifting — they're changing languages?"

Yet it's not overtly political or money-minded, said Hanks, as Alan Clay's plight to avoid becoming obsolete also applies to his familial and romantic life. "In a lot of ways, it's just a movie about a guy who goes and meets some fun people and might fall in love or not. But [Alan's business pitch] is something that everybody can recognize, even though they don't have their finger on the pulse of Businessweek or The Wall Street Journal."

Tom Tykwer adapted Dave Eggers' 2012 novel with Hanks in mind to star. "It's a tricky character, a representation of a certain generation of American businesspeople who are trapped in this complicated zone of being too old to start over and too young to retire. But because of the economic problems we're facing, they're not really needed much, it seems," said Tykwer, who cast Hanks in 2012's Cloud Atlas. "Tom can show this guy being difficult and trapped but still have [the audience] stay with him, because he brings in a sense of humor even in the darkest moments. He's both a comic and dramatic genius."

After the world premiere screening, Hanks, Tykwer, Sarita Choudhury and Alexander Black discussed adding comical road-trip and rom-com moments to a bleak novel. "It seemed like a joyful film, but it's not ignoring the complexities of the place or the situations that these people are in," said the director, who managed the shoot amid stormy desert weather, broken-down car rigs and bubbly underwater kissing scenes — while sharing a single shower.

Telling hilarious anecdotes with the audience, Hanks said, "The great thing about making movies like this is you do have adventures."

"I hope the movie is, in unexpected but satisfying terms, reminding us that we're all people," said Tykwer. "No matter where you travel, you'll be surprised how many people you can meet and deeply connect with. The world isn't as separated as it used to be. … We're less different than we think."