Biopics are a tried and true genre in filmmaking, especially during Awards Season. We've seen countless of these movies get big nominations and wins over the years-- just look at the wild success of Bohemian Rhapsody. There are a few biopics in the mix this year, chief among them being Marielle Heller's A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. The critical acclaimed movie stars Tom Hanks as beloved TV host Fred Rogers, and Matthew Rhys as real-life journalist Lloyd Vogel. And it turns out that Rhys was seriously starstruck when he started working with the legendary Tom Hanks.
Matthew Rhys has had a celebrated career of his own, starring in projects like The Post and FX's series The Americans. But despite his own career and star power, Tom Hanks still proved to be an intimidating force. After all, he's got two Oscars and countless iconic movie roles. I recently had the chance to speak with the cast and director of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, where Rhys and co-star Susan Kelechi Watson gushed about working with Hanks. Check it out below.
Well, wouldn't you be a little star struck? It's Tom Hanks after all. And with his pitch perfect performance as Fred Rogers, it's almost like being in the room with Mister Rogers as well.
My conversations with Matthew Rhys and Susan Kelechi Watson showed what a joy it was to work with Tom Hanks on A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Hanks had a big cardigan to fill in order to play Fred Rogers, a role that he'd previously turned down years ago. But not only did he give a stunning performance as the legendary TV host, but it seems that he made his co-stars feel especially comfortable as well. At least, once they got over being star struck.
Tom Hanks is one of the most prolific modern actors, with a career that has spanned decades and nearly 60 movie appearances. As such, his work has become ingrained within popular culture for movies like Big, Toy Story, and Forrest Gump. That iconography no doubt affected Matthew Rhys when he began working with Hanks on A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. After all, the duo of actors shared a ton of scenes in the new biopic.
As the trailers teased, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is very much focused on Matthew Rhys' character Lloyd Vogel, and his evolving relationship with Fred Rogers in the late '90s. Vogel is a cynical journalist, who doesn't really buy Rogers' message of kindness and hope. But the Mister Rogers' Neighborhood host slowly breaks down his walls, helping to guide Vogel through his own personal issues in the process.
The dynamic between Vogel and Rogers is essential to the story of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. As such, Matthew Rhys was tasked with getting over his excitement about working with Tom Hanks, in order to properly tell the story. But both Rhys and This Is Us standout Susan Kelechi Watson clearly appreciated their collaborating with the 63 year-old actor.
It should be interesting to see how Tom Hanks does this coming Awards Season, and his performance as Fred Rogers will likely put him up for Best Actor nominations. Hanks has two Oscars under his belt, but perhaps Marielle Heller's biopic will help him bring bowl a turkey. Only time will tell.