Tom Hanks reveals exact moment he knew he wanted to play Mister Rogers
Hanks watched as host Fred Rogers gently spoke to 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 Sunday at a Toronto International Film Festival screening of his film, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” in which he plays Rogers. “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.'”
Rogers and Erlanger then sang “It’s You I Like” together.
“It made me bawl my eyes out,” Hanks told the crowd. “It was just so [amazing]. It’s one of the reasons why I’m in the movie.”
The movie, from screenwriters Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster, showcases Rogers’ endearing personality and positive attitude — and Hanks said that’s exactly what we need today.
“I think cynicism has become the default position for so much of daily structure and daily intercourse,” he added. “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.”
Hanks continued, saying the message Rogers was sending to children was necessary.
“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.”
The film premieres November 22.