Tom Hanks plays Mr. Rogers in A Beautiful Day in The Neighborhood later this month, and he looks the part from head to toe. In a new featurette released to promote the movie, fans can watch how Hanks transformed to fit the role.
To many people, Hanks is the perfect choice to play Fred Rogers, the affable host of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. However, while the two may have the same magnetic likability, they are not exactly twins in terms of appearance. Thankfully, Hanks has an amazing costume team behind him.
The new featurette from Sony Pictures Entertainment, "Becoming Mister Rogers," shows the process of making Hanks believable as Rogers. The camera crews spoke to director Marielle Heller, as well as people who knew Rogers personally in real life. That includes Tom Junod, the journalist depicted in the movie for his transformative profile piece on Rogers.
"Seeing Tom playing Fred is moving," he said.
"He looks adorable as Fred," added Rogers' wife, Joanne Rogers.
Both Heller and Hanks agreed that the goal was not to make the actor look exactly like his subject matter, but to capture Rogers' essence. To that end, there were just a few things Heller thought were vital to "authenticity."
"We need his eyebrows to feel like Fred — Fred had very distinct eyebrows," she said. "And a really simple wig. That's it. Those two things are going to turn him into Fred, and the rest, we just want to capture the truth behind his eyes, and everything that feels real and vulnerable."
"In this movie, we drop you into the deep end and go, 'someone else is going to be playing Mr. Rogers! You've got to get used to it. Here we go,'" Heller added.
For Hanks, the preparation involved getting into Rogers' head. He said that he read Rogers' hand-written scripts and notes for episodes of his acclaimed children's show, but he did not focus on copying every movement and mannerism.
"Rather than try to go with a microscopic, mole-for-mole imitation of Fred Rogers, it was a cadence. A quietness. A slowness," he revealed.
Heller described watching Hanks get into character on set as a kind of magical experience. She also pointed out some of her favorite shots, such as a moment when Hanks did not even seem to know he was on camera, yet he still embodied Rogers perfectly.
"He's shifting his emotional body into a stiller person," Heller said.
The movie centers are Rogers' time with Junod, who is called Lloyd Vogel in the movie and played by Matthew Rhys. Vogel goes from a skeptic to a true believer in Rogers' powerful teachings over the course of his assignment.