AFI Fest 2013: Tom Hanks back in spotlight for ‘Saving Mr. Banks’

Tom Hanks arrives at the premiere of "Saving Mr. Banks," which kicked off AFI Fest on Thursday evening.
Tom Hanks arrives at the premiere of “Saving Mr. Banks,” which kicked off AFI Fest on Thursday evening.
(Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Between red carpets, morning talk shows and post-screening Q&As, an actor can quickly seem ubiquitous during award season. And if you’re promoting two movies in the months leading up to the Oscars? Overexposure becomes a legitimate concern.

That’s the situation Tom Hanks is wrestling with right now as he works the promotional circuit to talk up two high-profile roles. The latest is his turn as Walt Disney in “Saving Mr. Banks,” which kicked off AFI Fest in Hollywood on Thursday evening. The film, out Dec. 20, will hit theaters about two months after Hanks earned strong reviews for his portrayal of a seaman kidnapped by pirates in “Captain Phillips.”

Every year, there’s always one performer with a lot on their plate between October and March. In 2011, for instance, George Clooney starred in the fall movies “The Ides of March” and “The Descendants.” But Clooney directed “Ides,” so he could speak about the two projects in a different way. While Hanks’ role as Disney is far smaller than his part in “Captain Phillips,” his performance is an integral part of each film.

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On the red carpet outside the TCL Chinese Theatre this week, however, Hanks was already trying to downplay his role in “Saving Mr. Banks,” calling it “so much Emma’s thing.” (He was referring to his co-star, Emma Thompson, who plays “Mary Poppins” author P.L. Travers -- the uptight novelist who for two decades refused to sell her famous book’s rights to Disney.)


“It’s kind of like there’s a CliffsNotes that everybody understands about Walt Disney, so I’m a little ahead of the game,” Hanks told The Times at his new movie’s premiere. “I don’t have to explain an awful lot. If you’ve got to have two movies come out like this, this is a better one-two punch than some other things could be.”

Still, it’s clear Hanks is proud of his latest role. On the carpet -- where his charming nature is rivaled by few other big stars -- he engaged in numerous conversations with the press about the preparation that went in to playing Disney. He said that he met with the late studio founder’s daughter. He listened to stories on the Disney lot from any employee who had once worked with the man himself. He tried to grow a perfect mustache, even though his wife, Rita Wilson, isn’t fond of facial hair.

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“You’re able to stack up these nuggets that will work themselves into the performance sooner or later,” he told a group of reporters. “I’m not saying it’s a cheat, but it is an aid.”

John Lee Hancock, who directed “Saving Mr. Banks,” said that his leading man was fully committed on set despite his busy schedule. In recent months, he admitted the actor has become a bit more stretched, but said Hanks feels passionate about getting the word out about their movie.

“Tom is there to help however he can because he realizes it’s a business,” the filmmaker said. “What he’s told me is that these are two movies that are very different and he’s very proud of both of them. It’s a good time to be Tom Hanks.”

Whether “Banks” or “Phillips” ends up earning Hanks another Academy Award nomination remains to be seen. But like a seasoned veteran, the actor knows how to brush off questions about his Oscar chances while still letting on that he’d like to win a golden statue.

“There’s nothing you can do about that,” he said of the awards talk. “I like the movies. They’re out there. Everything else is going to happen on its own. It’s like the football season -- you think you’re going to end up winning by six and you end up losing by three. You think you don’t have a chance, and you pull it out in overtime.”


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