Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson and Marc Forster on A Man Called Otto
Hollywood star Tom Hanks, his wife and producer Rita Wilson and director Marc Forster talk about their new movie A Man Called Otto, an adaptation of a Swedish best-seller in which Hanks plays a grumpy old man who forms an unlikely bond with his new neighbours...
IT'S not every day you get to "release your inner grouch" in the workplace. But that's exactly what Hollywood star Tom Hanks' latest film role gave him the chance to do.
The Oscar-winning star of hit films like Forrest Gump and Philadelphia plays Otto Anderson in A Man Called Otto, the new American adaptation of the best-selling novel A Man Called Ove by Swedish author Fredrik Backman.
The Marc Forster-directed film follows Otto as he descends into a deep malaise when his wife dies and he is forced to retire, before boisterous new neighbours move in leading to an unlikely friendship.
Otto meets his match in quick-witted Marisol, played by Mexican actress Mariana Trevino (45) and the pair form an alliance that transforms his life.
The film also sees Hanks (66) star alongside his son, Truman (27), who portrays him in flashback scenes.
His wife of more than thirty years, Rita Wilson, is also a producer on the film alongside him, with the pair also joined by Gary Goetzman (who co-founded production company Playtone with Hanks) and Swedish producer Fredrik Wikström Nicastro.
"It's fantastic to release my inner grouch," Hanks told The Graham Norton Show on the BBC recently of the character of Otto.
For actress and singer Wilson (66) though, there was "so much" about the story that resonated with her.
She explains: "The theme of finding hope, finding community with the unlikeliest of people, and learning to accept others that may be different than us made an impact on me.
"Adding to that was that there are serious themes yet, as in life, even in the most difficult times, we can still laugh.
"These elements of light breaking through the dark give us hope. And, we can all use a little hope."
Reflecting on the character, Hanks says: "Unlike a lot of grumps, he's not trying to protect his own or maintain a status quo.
"Otto wants balance and equity for everyone who shares the street, and the best way to share that street is to care for it so that everyone can enjoy its benefits."
He adds that the film, at its core, also highlights neighbourly bonds.
He explains: "When the tornadoes always hit, what's the first thing that happens? Neighbours come out with chainsaws and U-Hauls.
"A Man Called Otto puts that idea forward – it is a movie about community and a movie about family."
Director Forster, whose other films include Finding Neverland, Monster's Ball and 2008 James Bond film Quantum on Solace, says he was "blessed" to have had Hanks and Trevino, best known for starring in Netflix's original comedy-drama Club de Cuervos, on screen together.
The 53-year-old says: "For a director, you feel very blessed when you have two actors who have a true, artistic connection like Tom and Mariana do.
"They elevate what's on the page and bring magic out onscreen. It makes your heart open, and it makes you laugh, it makes you cry. You can't ask for more."
And what about asking for tips from your famous dad?
Hanks' son Truman says: "He would talk to me about different ways to stand and walk.
"Certain mannerisms, like this pointing thing that he was incorporating into the character, so that we could create a continuity."
The film's score, composed by Finding Nemo's Thomas Newman, also includes an original song, Til You're Home, co-written and performed by Wilson, who released a duets album in September 2022.
The song has already been named on the original song shortlist for the 95th Oscars, ahead of the nominations for all categories being announced at the end of this month.
Wilson says: "I've been writing songs for the past ten years and have written songs for independent movies before, and Marc was familiar with my albums.
"I was humbled and grateful for the opportunity, but I also made him promise to be honest with me if he didn't want to use it.
"As producer, my first allegiance is to the film and the director's vision."
Performed as a duet with Colombian singer Sebastian Yatra, Wilson says of the song: "When my dad died, a close friend said to me, 'the conversation continues,' and that has always stuck in my mind.
"I wanted to make a song that was evocative of that – a song that could be heard as a conversation two people may be having with each other, even if they're not in the same room."
Also bound to be a talking point for Hanks in 2023 is his debut novel, The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece, being published in hardback, eBook and audio in May.
Described as a "wildly ambitious story of the making of a colossal, star-studded, multimillion-dollar superhero action film, and the humble comic book that inspired it all", it follows on from his 2017 short story collection Uncommon Type.
With a CV that is packed with timeless movies, from classics like Splash, Big, Sleepless In Seattle, to Apollo 13, Saving Private Ryan, Cast Away and The Polar Express, it's no surprise there is some early Oscar buzz surrounding Hanks' performance in A Man Called Otto.
With a book release also thrown into the mix, it looks like 2023 is set to be a busy one for him.
:: A Man Called Otto is released today.