Please, won't you be less cynical?
That plea was the driving force behind Tom Hanks' portrayal of another revered American everyman, Fred Rogers, in the biopic "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood."
Rogers hosted his children's show, "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," from 1968 to 2001, a tenure that gave him a place in the childhoods of generations of Americans. The movie premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on Saturday and is framed around Rogers's relationship with a jaded journalist who profiled him, played by Matthew Rhys. As they promote the film ahead of awards season, Hanks and his collaborators, including director Marielle Heller, have praised Rogers's optimistic outlook on life as an antidote to today's pessimistic world.
"Cynicism has become the default position for so much of daily structure and daily intercourse," Hanks told journalists assembled for the festival, the BBC reported. "Why? Because it's easy, and there's good money to be made."
"Cynicism is a great product to sell, and it's the perfect beginning of any examination of anything. And part of that is conspiracy theories and what have you," Hanks continued. "But I think when Fred Rogers first saw children's programming, he saw something that was cynical, and why would you put something that is cynical in front of a 2- or 3-year-old kid? That you are not cool because you don't have this toy? That it's funny to see someone being bopped on the head?
"That's a cynical treatment of the audience, and we have become so inured to that, that when we are met with as simple a message as, 'Hey you know what, it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood!' we get slapped a little bit," he said.
Instead, "we are allowed, I think, to feel good," Hanks insisted. "There's a place for cynicism, but why begin with it right off the bat?"
While Rogers, who died in 2003, isn't around to appraise Hanks' thoughts himself, he seems to have endorsed the messenger long ago.
Heller told the Hollywood Reporter that Rogers's wife, Joanne, said Hanks was the late television host's favorite actor.
"A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" is among several highly anticipated releases coming this fall.