One of the first words that comes to mind when you think of Tom Hanks is “likable.” (The other is probably “Wilson!!!”) Aptly nicknamed America’s dad, many of his best-known roles are the epitome of endearing: the titular Forrest of Forrest Gump, Toy Story’s affable cowboy, Woody — hell, he even starred in a Carly Rae Jepsen music video.
Which is why it kills me to say: Tom Hanks is a bad choice to play Mr. Rogers. TriStar Pictures announced Monday that “America’s neighbour,” the wholesome children’s television icon and unrepentant cardigan aficionado, will be played by Hanks in You Are My Friend, an upcoming biopic centred on the unlikely friendship between Rogers and Esquire journalist Tom Junod.
Sorry, I should specify: It’s a lazy choice. It’s also a very Hollywood choice, the latest example of the film industry’s penchant for knee-jerk casting strategy. Need a salty, wizened British wingman? What’s Michael Caine doing? Need someone to clinch the title of “Five-time recipient of People’s Most Beautiful Woman”? Call Julia Roberts! And Meryl — well, okay, put her in everything, long live Meryl.
Just because Mr. Rogers was generous of spirit and liked sweaters doesn’t mean he’s owed a deeply vanilla on-screen depiction. Herewith, a few more nuanced picks:
The Canadian option: Martin Short
Can’t you just picture Short’s twinkly eyes lighting up as he reveals how crayons are made? Heartsplosion.
The Tim Burton option: Steve Buscemi
This one goes out to all the kids who slept with a nightlight. Anyway, he’s got a similar hairline.
The thespian option: Sir Ian McKellan
Who better to play a kindly, sage old neighbour than an actor whose past credits include the Royal Shakespeare Company and a turn as cinema’s most trusted wizard?
The oddball option: Bill Murray
I didn’t know how much I’d love this suggestion until I started typing it.
The hunky option: Pierce Brosnan
Because Mamma Mia! really softened his James Bond smoulder.
The eyebrow option: Eugene Levy