‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’ Director Is Worried About How People Talk About Tom Hanks Playing Mr. Rogers

Many fans were thrilled when the casting of Tom Hanks as Mr. Fred Rogers for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood was announced. The actor is so likable he seems to make sense as the childhood icon that had a mission to be kind to everyone.

The movie had its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival on Sept. 8. Find out why the movie’s director is worried about how people talk about the casting.

Tom Hanks previously turned down the role

This movie took some time to get made. There were a lot of reasons for that, but Hanks revealed he passed on the script before during the cast Q&A after the movie screening.

“So I read it probably about eight years ago for the first time,” said Hanks. He admitted, “But I honestly did not know what it was.”

There was one person who was able to make him view it differently. “When [Marielle Heller] called and said, ‘We have this thing.’ And I said, ‘I read that a long time ago. Let me take a look at it now because I’ll be seeing seeing it somewhat through her eyes.'”

Marielle Heller said it wasn’t easy for Hanks to play the role

Tom Hanks and Marielle Heller attend the "A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood" premiere during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival
Tom Hanks and Marielle Heller attend the “A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood” premiere during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival | Amy Sussman/SHJ2019/WireImage

The director sent Hanks the script, which led to him finally accepting the role so she agrees that he was perfect to play it. However, she revealed that she’s worried that people think it was easy for him.

“Obviously we’ve been talking about this movie a lot in the last few days. And I do think there is this kind of thing that happens where everybody goes. ‘Oh yeah, I love Tom Hanks. I love Mr. Rogers. This makes perfect sense.'” Heller said during the Q&A.

“There is effort in the same way that Mr. Rogers gave effort to being Mr. Rogers and to live his life the way he wanted to live his life. There is effort that went into this performance and there was an incredible amount of trust,” she explained.

“It has to feel naked to give that type of performance where you are so raw and you’re being asked to be so vulnerable and what Mr. Rogers was was present and open in every moment,” she added.

“That’s a hard thing to do for anybody. And so I worry because we have this way of talking about this.” Heller noted, “That’s actually not giving credit to the transformative performance that you all have seen.”

Hanks joked that Saving Private Ryan led to Mr. Rogers

Hanks then joked about the comparison. He mentioned playing a very different role in Road to Perdition with, “I entered the shot from the end of the street with a sub-machine gun and I butchered 12 guys and shot Paul Newman dead. And I thought, ‘God I hope I get to play Mr. Rogers some day.'”

The movie star added, “So I’d like to think that between The Executioner, and The Green Mile and the Nazi killer in Saving Private Ryan, that they all lead up [to playing Mr. Rogers.]”