At this point in his career, Tom Hanks can basically do whatever he wants. It’s hard to imagine that any project he’s interested in would reject his offer to be a collaborator, and he has the kind of massive influence that gets movies up on their feet and running as soon as he makes a commitment. By extension of that, it’s always interesting to learn about the motivating factors behind his choices, and Paul Greengrass’ News Of The World is no exception.
The actor stars in the new film as protagonist Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a nomadic newsreader who gets saddled with the responsibility of returning a lost young girl (Helena Zengel) to her relatives, and as he recently explained during an interview, it was specifically because of the character’s profession and the circumstances surrounding the child’s situation that he wanted to star in the movie.
I had the wonderful pleasure of attending the virtual press day for News Of The World earlier this month, including a roundtable interview with the star, and it was during this conversation that Hanks was asked about what it was about the film that he found attractive. Breaking it down, he explained that it was the aforementioned pair of elements that drew him to the story, and he started his answer by expounding on the former:
When I read Paulette Giles book there were two things. First of all, the actual job itself, the news reader, the guy who traveled from town to town to enlighten and connect an audience in diverse, small towns – Wichita Falls, what have you. I thought that's a job that I would have wanted to have if I had been alive in in the 1870s. I thought that would be fascinating. Because you'd be delivering both the service and also sort of like you'd be delivering a connectivity that people wouldn't have.
In the film, Captain Kidd travels around the post-Civil War south performing staged readings of national and international news to crowds that gather and pay a dime a piece for the experience. Ultimately the exact style of how Tom Hanks would deliver these presentations was found to be at the center of an intense debate between the star and Paul Greengrass, but the reason he had such passion is because he loved the idea so much.
Explaining further, the star explained that he loved what the performances represented in the small communities depicted in the film. It was an opportunity for neighborhoods to not only learn about the larger world, but also be together and experience something as a community. Hanks continued,
Everybody wants to belong to something bigger than themselves. Sometimes that's just being a member of an audience. But the enlightenment that would come along from stories big and small, how wonderful the world could be, and also how dangerous it is… That, for the subject of a motion picture, that character and that job, I think, is sort of beautifully internally cinematic – telling a story as you tell a story is inherently powerful and engaging.
It’s certainly something that you can tell Tom Hanks sinks his teeth into, as watching News Of The World you are as captivated by his readings as anybody in the crowds he’s entertaining.
But that’s only half of the story. As alluded to, the main plot of the new film centers on Captain Kidd stumbling upon a lost girl who he discovers was stolen from her family as a baby and raised for six years by the Kiowa tribe. Kidd begrudgingly takes on the task of traveling across Texas to bring the child to her surviving aunt and uncle, but he’s surprised to discover that the girl protests this development and wants to return to her life with the Native Americans.
Both understanding the inherent drama in the situation and being surprised by the reality of it, Tom Hanks found himself absorbed and wanted to bring News Of The World to movie-goers as a result:
The other part was how many, how often it happened and how common it was in American history for Native American tribes to make raids and take away young children, and to raise them in the ways of their tribe – in this case the Kiowa. It happened very, very frequently. And as [Paulette Giles] mentions, I think in either the introduction or the afterwards of her book, a large majority of those children that were taken wanted to return to their Indian ways. That's extraordinary. That speaks to the nurture versus nature argument that I think is something that we would all identify with. What would we have thought if we had been those kids? Or if we had been the parents of those kids?
How does it all play out? You’ll have to check out News Of The World and see. The film is arriving in theaters where possible this Friday, December 25, and will be getting a PVOD release starting in mid-January. We’ll have more from our conversation with Tom Hanks for you as we get closer to the film’s release date, so stay tuned here on CinemaBlend!