Sony Pictures’ upcoming film “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on Saturday where lead actor Tom Hanks and the cast spoke of Fred Rogers' life and how he impacted them.
The film is based on an article written by journalist Tom Junod, who formed a friendship with Rogers while writing a profile on his life and work. The movie details how their friendship evolved after their first encounter.
Hanks, an Academy Award-winning actor, greeted fans at the premiere by singing the unforgettable theme song of “Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.” The show ran on a number of networks in the U.S. and Canada from 1968 to 2001.
While on the red carpet, Hanks, who plays Rogers in the feature film, said of the late TV icon: "There's nobody in media, there's nobody in television, there's nobody in the consciousness that didn't already have an understanding as well as an opinion of Mr. Rogers.”
He also commended Rogers for his honesty, telling Sony Pictures, “He just wanted to make little kids, little human beings, feel safe even if they didn't have all of the answers."
When asked about what he personally took away from the role, Hanks replied, “I think what I learned is that you can somehow choose an authentic life.”
Rogers worked in television for more than 30 years after graduating college. The only breaks he took from working in television were times he devoted to his Christian faith.
Rogers attended Pittsburgh Theological Seminary where he was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1963. He died of stomach cancer at age 74 in 2003. He was survived by his wife of 51 years, Joanne Rogers, and sons, James and John.
His example of love is what stood out the most to those involved in making the film.
“This is Us” star Susan Kelechi Watson said she used to watch Mr. Rogers, but didn't know much about him until she worked on the film. “I knew everything about his TV show [but] not much about the man himself," she told Sony Pictures. In the movie, Watson portrays Andrea Vogel, the wife of the journalist who forms a bond with Rogers.
“He made a powerful impact and lived his life in the same way. So there was an integrity there that we really cherish these days,” Watson added. “I think he stood for compassion and understanding. He had the grace to allow people to be, and get to know themselves, and to change, and to learn."
The TriStar Pictures film will show glimpses of Rogers' faith. In the trailer, Rogers is seen kneeling at his bedside reading the Bible.
Director Marielle Heller told the press at the Toronto International Film Festival that the TV icon talked the talk.
“The truth is, he lived what he preached. He had a message of kindness and of being present and a mission of listening, and he did it every day,” Heller said. “Our movie shows you his mission in action.”
“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” will be showing in theaters nationwide on Nov. 22.