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Mister Rogers, Rogers, Tom Hanks discussed on Fresh Air

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AWS DOT ORG RG. I'm too old to have grown up watching Mister Rogers neighborhood but I loved the new film a Beautiful Day in the neighborhood starring. Tom Hanks as Fred. Rogers my guest is the film's director Mario Heller. She also directed one of my favorite films from last year. Can you ever forgive me. She previously joined us to talk about her her first film the diary of a teenage girl. The new film is inspired by the story of Rogers relationship with journalists Tom. Juno who was assigned to profile Rogers in nineteen ninety eight for a special issue of esquire. un-american Heroes Juneau says the assigning editor thought it would be amusing to have have him a journalist determined to say the unsaleable right about the nicest men in the world but talking with Rogers changed those life should know wrote a new essay about his relationship with Rogers published in the Atlantic to coincide with the film's release. He writes a long time ago. A man of resourceful and relentless kindness cygnus saw something in me. That I didn't see myself. He trusted me. When I thought I was untrustworthy and took an interest in me that went beyond my initial interest in him him? He was the first person I ever wrote about who became my friend and our friendship endured until he died in the movie. Tom Gino's name is changed into Loyd Vogel. His personal story is changed to. Let's hear a scene from the film in which Lloyd is interviewing. Rogers Lord has a bloody cut in a bruise on his face which he told Rogers he got from a softball game but he really got it at his sister's wedding when he got into a fight with his estranged father this Peace will be for an issue about heroes. Do you consider yourself a hero. I don't think of myself as a hero. No not at all. What about Mister Rogers? Is he a hero. I don't understand the question. Well there's you fred and then there's here's the character you play. Mr Rogers said it was a play at the plate is is that is that what happened. I'm I'm here to in to you Mr Rogers well that that is what we're doing. Isn't it Marielle Hiller. Welcome to fresh air. Congratulations on the film. Thank you What did you due to help Tom? Hanks embody Mr Rogers in the movie. I mean the positive thing going into this was obviously the the way the the public feels about Tom. Hanks has a similar quality to how we feel about Mr Rogers so there was a warmth that we were starting with there was so much that was already done there but the truth of the matter is Tom is a very different person energetically than than Mister Rogers. He's very he's very funny. He's very charming. He's actually got like a loud booming voice and walks into a room. And you know he's there he shakes everyone's hand. He cracks cracks jokes. He's he's boisterous he's really vibrant and It's never awkward when you're talking to Tom. Hanks I've never seen him have an awkward conversation with anybody and what we figured out in our research about Fred was that he really was comfortable sitting in silence and awkwardness and he would ask questions to people and he would wait for an answer. No matter how long it took and he wouldn't fill that silence in And he had a stillness to him too. So so a lot of what I had to do. especially in the beginning was to kind of rain. Tom's natural buoyancy back and settle him into a kind of Zen. Like state where he was being hyper present in every moment. Did you watch Mister Rogers neighborhood as a child I did so. So is there an thing that he said or did that. You remember from your childhood. I have very clear. Memories of loving the part of the show that was in his house and then feeling scared of some of the puppets in the land of make believe. And I think particularly lady. Elaine What scared you about her? While she looks like a witch she's got like this burnt nose and burnt cheekbones. And she had this very scratchy scratchy voice and She was terrifying. I think she was terrifying for a lot of kids. And you know I've I've rediscovered the show now as a parent I've we've had a very different perspective on it now that I'm a parent and I can watch it with my kid. And we also the first way we really came to it was through Daniel Tiger's neighborhood which is the modern day incarnation of Mister Rogers neighborhood that the Fred Rogers Company makes and it's all based on the teachings of Fred Rogers but it's an animated show And that it shows just been the most incredible thing for my kid and for me and it's been the thing that's kind of that I was reconnecting to before I even was signed onto this project. Act that was the first show. I let my kids watch and It kind of got me back in touch with Mister Rogers from a different adult perspective. Tell me more about that adult perspective on the show. I think I have a memory of thinking that the show was just all happier. Go lucky or something or it just easy and then as an adult looking back. I realized that he wasn't afraid of any of the hardest parts of childhood or talking about the most uncomfortable. Things he tells the truth. I mean that that is a radical notion but he tells kids the truth and I was blown away way going back and seen the topics that he was covering on his show. I had this really painful experience variance of watching the episode about death with my three year old at the time which it's kind of it was such a profound experience. We were having a snow day and so he was home from school but it was a day that I kind of set aside that I was going to watch a lot of episodes Mr Rogers so I asked Wiley if you wanted to watch some episodes with me and I let him pick out based on the kind of thumbnails on on the Internet and he picked the fish one because he's very obsessed with underwater stuff's ocean stuff But I knew just looking at the end they'll sufficient one. This is the episode about death breath and I thought Oh. Are we going to go here. Okay and so in the episode Mr Rogers goes to feed the fish and one of the fish is dead head and he tries to revive it and puts it in some saltwater and he sloshes it around and it Kinda limply sloshes around he says oh it looks like it's moving but it's not actually moving. And then he buries the fish and he tells this story about his dog Mitzi who died when he was a kid and I just watched I my kid watch this episode knowing that we hadn't spoken really very much about death and as Mr Rogers is telling the story about the Dog Dying Wiley looks at me with this kind of skeptical look and goes togs. I don't die and I had this like Mister Rogers in my head and went. WELL NO DOGS DO I. I And I told I guess. What's a little bit of a stretch of the truth but I said you know when they're when they're very old and their bodies are tired you you know dogs do die and and cats die and we have two cats and he looked at me and went cats cats die and I said yeah and he said but we have great cats and I thought Oh God what have I opened here and and and then I pulled out a picture of one of our cats who had passed away when he was a baby and I said you know remember? I've told you about this cat who died. WHO's buried in the backyard? And you know now. I believe everyone believes different things but I believe when I wanNA visit him. I I can go to the cherry tree in the backyard and and visit him And I could see kind of wheels turning wheels turning and we kept watching the show for a few minutes and then while he turned to me and he goes mom Walruses don't die and I said well walruses do die and he started wailing wailing in a way that I had never experienced before he like it felt like he was weeping for all humanity or I like the entire universe and just asking me if we could bury all the walruses in our backyard so we visit them and I I held him and I was crying and all I could figure out to say was I know this hurts. I know this is so painful. All I don't know what to say But this really hurts and then later that night as I was putting him to bed you know. The dreaded question came which which was. What about people You know people don't get the way he said it was people. Don't get dead do they. And then we had our kind of second round of weeping that happened in that came out of this episode episode of Rogers and. I don't think I handled it great and I sort of felt I still feel guilty for how this all came up because I felt like. Was it too a young for us to kind of go there but I also felt like all like had to guide me. Was Fred telling me you know we we. We let the kids guide these conversations. Listen and tell them the truth and so. That's what. I tried to do. Amazing Story. I'm just trying to figure out what I WANNA. So it was also one of the first stories that I told Joanne Rodgers. When I went to Pittsburgh I'm just remember? What did she say I think we sat in her living room and she teared up and we kind of held hands as I talked about it because it had just happened when I talked to her about it? and then she made a little video for Wiley. Not about that but to sane. Hello my guest. Is Mario Hiller director of the new film. Beautiful Day in the neighborhood. We'll talk more after a break break. And we'll hear from actor Robert Pattinson. He became famous for playing a teenage vampire in the twilight saga he stars in the new film the Lighthouse. I'm Terry Gross Rawson. This is fresh air weekend. This message comes from. NPR sponsor capital one with the capital one Walmart rewards card. You can earn five percent.

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