“It was calming him to the Fred way of being and asking him to connect in a really deep, genuine way, which I think is scary and vulnerable for an actor to do,” Heller says
Both Tom Hanks and Fred Rogers are known to be a couple of the nicest men ever in the entertainment industry. But Marielle Heller, director of “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” said the two have very different energies — and that Hanks had to actually take it down a notch to get into the right frame of mind to play the PBS kids TV legend.
“Tom Hanks is so charismatic. He really walks into a room, he meets everybody, remembers everybody’s name, he really connects with you, he’s really charming,” Heller told TheWrap Editor in Chief Sharon Waxman at the Toronto International Film Festival, where the film premiered in September.
But not so with Rogers. “He was really comfortable sitting in awkward silence,” she said. “And he was much quieter and more reserved, and he had a stillness to him, whereas Tom is always moving.”
One of Heller’s tricks was having Hanks imagine that his grandchild was sitting on the other side of the camera. Doing so helped him unlock that emotion and attention that Rogers was known for.
“Tom has got tons of energy and is just this really boisterous guy,” Heller said. “So if anything it was calming him to the Fred way of being and asking him to connect in a really deep, genuine way, which I think is scary and vulnerable for an actor to do.”
Watch the interview with Heller above.