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Film Festival Today

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Tom Hanks: The Nice Guy Workaholic

Written by: FFT Webmaster | July 8th, 2011

Tom Hanks Directing LARRY CROWNE

Tom Hanks hardly needs any more publicity from me. The prolific actor/director/writer/producer is one of Hollywood’s heavyweights while still, amazingly, retaining an image of being one of the nicest and easiest people to work with in Tinseltown. He has made a career of playing amiable, non-threatening types on screen, but don’t be fooled…..he is not only a star of the highest magnitude who commands some of the biggest salaries in town but his name attached to either a film, television or theater project is all that is necessary to shake loose coin and make happen. Rather than resting on his laurels (and twin Academy Awards), Hanks remains supremely ambitious (in a nice way, of course) as his recently opened LARRY CROWNE heats up the summer box office. On this, his third directorial effort, he not only directed but wrote the script and plays the lead role.

LARRY CROWNE

The Universal Pictures release is a gentle dramedy that also speaks to the current political and economic zeitgeist. Hanks toplines as the titular Larry Crowne, a follow-the-rules manager at a big-box company who, at in his mid 50s, is suddenly downsized and must confront his limited educational attainment and professional resume. Underwater on his mortgage and unclear on what to do with his suddenly free days, he heads to his local college to start over. There he becomes part of a colorful community of outcasts, also-rans and the overlooked all trying to find a better future for themselves. In his public-speaking class, he develops an unexpected crush on his teacher (a radiant Julia Roberts), who has lost as much passion for teaching as she has for her husband. The simple guy who has every reason to think his life has stalled will come to learn an unexpected lesson: when you think everything worth having has passed you by, you just might discover your reason to live. This is the kind of message that will surely resonate in an America still reeling from years of economic downturn and a stubborn recovery that has not yet embraced the middle class. The film had a very respectable $18 million opening over the Fourth of July holiday (coming in at number four following TRANSFORMERS, CARS 2 and BAD TEACHER).

While this gentle romantic comedy, with some deeper dramatic edges, will not rival the box office take of Hank’s previous mega-hits FORREST GUMP and THE DA VINCI CODE, it is the kind of film that should have “long legs” and still be around for most of the summer. The pairing of Hanks and Roberts and the film’s topical subject should make the film an attractive alternative to the superhero shenanigans of most of the summer’s hot franchises. It also will demonstrate, if such things needed proving, that Tom Hanks is still at the top of his game, both artistically and financially. For an actor who began his career as a cross-dressing deceiver in a low-rent 1980s gender bender comedy (BOSOM BUDDIES), he has come quite a long way.

What is also impressive about him is that his focus is not only his own vehicles, but his increasingly prolific role as a producer and executive producer of both film and television projects. Clearly, having his name attached in any capacity is golden for the prospects of any venture and he has been strategic in getting projects made that sometimes had dubious commercial prospects. He has worn his producer hat to great success with his production shingle Playtone Productions with such landmark television mini-series as FROM EARTH TO THE MOON (1998), BAND OF BROTHERS (2001), THE PACIFIC (2010)  and the HBO drama series BIG LOVE (2006-2011). Aside from producing or exec producing his own films,, he has also been instrumental in getting such indie projects off the ground as the megahit MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING (2002), the female buddy flick CONNIE AND CARLA (2004), the music documentary NEIL YOUNG: HEART OF GOLD (2006), the British romcom STARTER FOR TEN (2006),  the indie sleeper THE GREAT BUCK HOWARD (2008), the comedy MY LIFE IN RUINS (2009) and the family fantasy WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE (2010).

He is attached as a producer to a number of intriguing projects that are currently in development and will be released in the next two years, including the big screen adaptation of the Green Day Broadway musical hit AMERICAN IDIOT, the Vietnam War drama THEY MARCHED INTO SUNLIGHT, the family comedy A WILDERNESS OF MONKIES and an American adaptation of the French success d’estime SUMMER HOURS. However, Hanks has not given up his day job and will again be acting on the screen in the much anticipated EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE, co-starring opposite Sandra Bullock in the new film by Oscar nominated director Stephen Daldry, that will be one of the big Oscar films of the season. OK, Tom, we get it…..you love your work, but please, save a little something for the rest of us.

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