Toronto: Tom Hanks Praises Kids TV Icon Fred Rogers' "Sincerity"

The two-time Oscar winner talked playing Mister Rogers in Marielle Heller's 'A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood' at the Toronto Film Festival.

Tom Hanks, who plays Mister Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, on Sunday praised the iconic children's TV host's sincerity and anti-consumerist bent.

"I think that when Fred Rogers first saw children's programming, he saw something that was cynical," Hanks told press conference at the Toronto Film Festival. "And why in the world would you put a pipeline of cynicism in the minds of a two- or three-year-old? That you are not cool because you don't have this toy? That it's funny to see somebody being bonked on the head?" Hanks questioned.

The Sony release, set for a Nov. 22 theatrical release, follows a jaded journalist (played by The Americans’ Matthew Rhys) as he sets out to write a profile on Fred Rogers, but soon discovers the healing nature of the TV host's kind spirit, which has shaped the upbringing of generations.

Hanks said he was too old to watch Mister Rogers when he debuted as a TV host in the mid-1960s. "He was a black-and-white show on the channel that we never really tuned in, and for some reason, the puppets' mouths didn't move," the lead in Marielle Heller's biopic explained.

But Hanks said he began to appreciate the PBS icon years later via an e-mail he received that linked to a video of Rogers addressing a child in a wheelchair. "Fred is just so wonderfully gentle and present with someone who normally would make us feel uncomfortable," he said of the revealing clip.

Based on Tom Junod's 1998 Esquire cover story, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood had its world premiere at Roy Thompson Hall on Saturday night. Hanks also gave credit to Morgan Neville's Mister Rogers documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor? for revealing the kids TV host's deep religious beliefs.

"I did not know he was an ordained minister until I saw [it]," he told the presser. "I think what Mr. Rogers did was subtle, and it's easy to overlook it.... It was really profound, and the impact that he had was very deep, it wasn't flashy, it was very real." added director Heller.

Peter Saraf, a producer on A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, summed up his own admiration for Rogers' positive message to his young viewers. "Every human being has value and deserves to be loved," he said.

"We all need to work on empathy more," he concluded, echoing the film's theme.

The Toronto Film Festival continues through Sept. 15.