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If I were to tell you that they were making a Mister Rogers movie, you would reply "Of course they are." And if I were to ask you who should play the beloved TV personality, there's a good chance that you might reply "Tom Hanks of course." Well, it appears that the folks making the upcoming Mister Rogers biopic You Are My Friend feel the same way. In an instance of perfect casting, Tom Hanks will be taking on the role of the late Fred Rogers, the iconic TV personality who hosted Mister Rogers' Neighborhood from 1968 to 2001.
The Diary of a Teenage Girl director, Marielle Heller, will helm the film, based on a script by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster which appeared on the Black List in 2013. The film is based on the true story of the friendship between Fred Rogers and journalist Tom Junod, who found his cynical worldview changed while doing a profile piece on the TV icon. TriStar Pictures will distribute the film, which is being produced by Big Beach Films. As reported by Variety, this film will have a message of the power of kindness and exploration of the human spirit. So yeah, this thing is going to be super uplifting and probably going to produce more than a few happy tears from theatergoers.
I have to imagine that Tom Hanks was the first and only choice for the beloved TV personality. While he has done a wide variety of roles throughout his career, Tom Hanks is perhaps best known as an everyman. Hanks is no stranger to biopics either, having recently starred in The Post, Sully, Saving Mr. Banks and Captain Phillips. The actor just gives off that reassuring presence of father figure or friendly neighbor, and that is exactly what is required for the role of Fred Rogers. Countless children over the years learned from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and the friendly host who taught them that they mattered and never talked down to them while advocating the importance of kindness.
In this day and age of entertainment icons and childhood heroes being exposed as less than stellar human beings, a film about Fred Rogers and his message could be palliative. The message of kindness is universal, and hopefully this film will continue to spread that message and continue the work Fred Rogers dedicated his life to. While all biopics of beloved figures run the risk of hagiography, such an impactful life is a story worth telling. There is also a documentary about Fred Rogers and Mister Roger's Neighborhood called Won't You Be My Neighbor? which recently screened at Sundance to positive reviews and is due out June 8th. Here's a clip from that film:
Production on You Are My Friend is set to begin in September but a release date has not yet been set. For all of the movies hitting this year, check out our release guide.