With “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” opening next week, media outlets around the country are writing about Fred Rogers, his legacy and about Pittsburgh — the city that actually was his neighborhood. They’re also writing about Tom Hanks, who takes on the challenging task of embodying this towering figure who shaped so many people’s childhoods.
We love this piece in yesterday’s New York Times about just how perfect a choice Hanks really was for this iconic role.
It begins with a list of public and private kindnesses Hanks has become known for, and then tackles this problem:
“So Tom Hanks is as nice as you think he is and exactly what you hope him to be, which is great unless you are someone trying to tell a good story about him, with elements like an arc and narrative tension. ‘Saintly Actor Playing Saintly Public Television Children’s Host Mister Rogers Is Saintly’ is not a great story, Taffy Brodesser-Akner writes. “But what am I supposed to do? He sat facing me, cheerful and focused and willing. Maybe this could just be a story that makes you feel better.”
Hanks, Brodesser-Akner writes, “is most often cast in roles that need what Robert Zemeckis (who directed “Forrest Gump,” among other Hanks’ movies) calls ‘that classic Everyman quality.’ Over my reporting, many, many people told me what an Everyman he is. But Mister Rogers wasn’t an Everyman. It didn’t hurt that whereas Mister Rogers was the closest thing my generation had to a living saint (even Mother Teresa got canceled, eventually), Tom Hanks was the closest thing we had to Mister Rogers — an uncomplicated-seeming, scandal-free man with a long career who never had to issue a public statement that included the phrase ‘It was a different time.’ In other words, having Tom Hanks cast as Mister Rogers removes a layer of suspension of disbelief that is the burden of a movie depicting a real-life person.”
Read the full story about Hanks and Pittsburgh’s favorite “real-life person” right here.