For ‘Sully,’ Tom Hanks insisted on authenticity — but for ‘brother’ Bill Murray, he’d be willing to hedge a bit
Not long after Tom Hanks hosted what’s arguably the best 90 minutes of “Saturday Night Live” this decade, an idea began to take hold on social media that Hanks needs to make movie comedies again. Or, more precisely, America needs Tom Hanks to make movie comedies again. Because the nation could use a good, honest belly laugh right about now.
At almost the same time, a photo went viral showing Bill Murray with a mom and her crying baby with Murray mimicking the baby’s inconsolable expression. Only it didn’t look like Murray. It looked like Tom Hanks.
Showing the picture to Hanks, the 60-year-old actor laughs and says, “Honestly, that looks more like me than Bill Murray. As soon as you look at the eyes and nose … I don’t know. It’s kind of spooky.”
Tom Hanks stars as Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger in Clint Eastwood’s new film.
Which leads Hanks, a man always up for pursuing any path that leads to whimsy, to offer this: He and Murray should play brothers in a film. That would be a movie comedy he’d be happy to make right now.
“Let’s get that out there, so someone can start writing it,” Hanks says, gathering steam. “Would it be brothers that hate each other or brothers that like each other? Bill comes from that kind of Irish drinking family where they all get together and fight and laugh like crazy. So let’s start with the hate and end with a hug.”
He’s just getting started. “Let’s put it in the form of a really standard comedy, one the money people would get excited about making. Maybe Mom’s ashes in an urn and we’re fighting over what to do with them and hilarity ensues.” Maybe one of the brothers loses the ashes? “There’s always funny ashes.”
Hanks circles back to the idea of comedy often during a lengthy interview on a perfect late afternoon in Santa Monica. He’s in the awards season conversation once again for Clint Eastwood’s drama “Sully,” playing Chesley Sullenberger, the airline captain who became a national hero after making an emergency landing on the Hudson River with all 155 passengers and crew members surviving.
“Sully” follows many serious turns over the last five years: “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,” “Cloud Atlas,” “Captain Phillips,” “Saving Mr. Banks,” “Bridge of Spies,” “A Hologram for the King,” “Inferno” and the upcoming “The Circle,” an adaptation of the Dave Eggers novel that has Hanks playing the mysterious leader of an Internet monopoly looking to control just about every aspect of peoples’ lives.
So, no, not exactly David S. Pumpkins territory. Eastwood says Hanks could easily make a funny movie, citing “the one where he dances on the piano keys” (a.k.a. “Big”) as a “charming” example of Hanks’ ability to convincingly pull off anything he tries. But “Big” and “Splash” and the two romantic comedies Hanks made with Nora Ephron and Meg Ryan, “Sleepless in Seattle” and “You’ve Got Mail,” had stakes and stories that required an emotional investment.
Tom Hanks talks about his favorite Clint Eastwood movie.
“I’m not sure that a lot of comedies that are comedies with a capital C have that same brand of stakes involved these days,” Hanks says. “The comedies that run the business now are these improvisational, get laid or some brand of outlandish behavior comedies. You have to almost buy into a premise that’s illogical.”
Which is fine, he’s quick to add. He has nothing against these types of movies. But he also can’t imagine himself playing a part in them either.
The fact is, I’m an older guy. An older guy being funny or kooky or nutty in a movie, that’s one thing. But it’s hard to capture, quite frankly.
“The fact is, I’m an older guy,” Hanks says. “An older guy being funny or kooky or nutty in a movie, that’s one thing. But it’s hard to capture, quite frankly.”
He’d rather just service his comic chops by going on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and periodically hosting “Saturday Night Live,” which he has now done nine times. Hanks prepares for these appearances as thoroughly as for his films, — “I don’t shirk my duties,” he says. “You just don’t make that stuff up” — which isn’t surprising given how detail-oriented he is in just about every aspect of his life.
“They could be having a discussion on the set about who starred in a Wisconsin regional theater production of ‘Ten Little Indians’ in 1956, and Tom would probably be able to rattle off the cast,” says Hanks’ “Sully” co-star, Aaron Eckhart. “We always hear Tom is the nicest guy in Hollywood, but when it comes down to business, he’s all business. And that’s what’s impressive to me. He’s in it to win it. Totally concentrated. Totally focused.”
Aaron Eckhart, on ‘Sully’ director Clint Eastwood: ‘He’s a master.’
For “Sully,” that translated to an obsessive commitment to having every action depicted in the cockpit of US Airways Flight 1549 be exact and authentic. (“This is right where I end up driving a lot of people crazy,” Hanks notes.) No extraneous dialogue was added. (“It’s on the voice recorder, for crying out loud,” he says.) Every movement of the cockpit yoke had to be precisely correct. (Hanks’ one lament about his hilarious “Sully” sketch on the recent “Saturday Night Live” was that the cockpit set did not have connected yokes.)
“We have to make a play for authenticity,” Hanks says. “Otherwise, let’s call it anything we want to … just not ‘Sully.’ That’s the job. At some point it becomes some brand of historical document.”
Since finishing “Sully” on Nov. 19, 2015 (see, he does have a memory for detail), Hanks hasn’t stepped on a movie set — and he’s not sure when he’s going to again. Or, as he puts it: “I don’t know when I’m going to have to wake up at 4:45 in the morning, jump in the shower and drive to a stage or a location.” He loves working. But after six years of uninterrupted movies and a six-month stint on Broadway in Nora Ephron’s posthumous play, “Lucky Guy,” he has been fine not having to set the alarm clock.
But if that Bill Murray brothers movie materializes?
“Oh, jeez. For that, I’d be out of bed while the stars were still out,” Hanks says.
From the Emmys to the Oscars.
Get our revamped Envelope newsletter, sent twice a week, for exclusive awards season coverage, behind-the-scenes insights and columnist Glenn Whipp’s commentary.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.