Tom Hanks Talks SAVING MR. BANKS, His Reluctance to Play Walt Disney, Working with Paul Greengrass on CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, CLOUD ATLAS, and More

     November 20, 2013

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Next month, John Lee Hancock’s (The Blind SideSaving Mr. Banks will open in theaters.  Based on the true story, the pic focuses on Walt Disney’s (Tom Hanks) twenty-year pursuit of the film rights to author P.L. Travers’ (Emma Thompson) novel Mary Poppins and the rocky relationship that formed between the two when she finally came to Hollywood.  Loaded with great performances, a strong script, and the first time Walt Disney has been portrayed on screen, Banks is a likely contender for this year’s award season.  The film also stars Paul Giamatti, Bradley Whitford, Jason Schwartzman, B.J. Novak, Annie Rose Buckley, Ruth Wilson, Rachel Griffiths, Kathy Baker, and Colin Farrell.

At the recent Los Angeles press day, only a few other reporters and I had an intimate thirty-minute roundtable interview with Hanks.  While I’ve been running Collider for over eight years, this was the first time I’d gotten to interview Hanks and am happy to report he’s as nice, friendly, and honest as everyone says.  During the interview, he talked about his initial reluctance to play Disney, how he was convinced to do the role, his process as an actor and if it’s changed over the years, the way Cloud Atlas changed him, what it was like to work with Paul Greengrass on Captain Phillips, future directing plans, and so much more.  It’s a great interview.  Hit the jump for more.

Before going any further, if you haven’t seen the Saving Mr. Banks trailer I’d watch that first.  And if you’d like to listen to the audio of this interview, click here.

saving-mr-banks-posterQuestion: What were your first thoughts when someone asked you to play Walt Disney?

TOM HANKS: Oh I thought, “Oh hell.”  The burden, you know.  Honestly – the responsibility.  I heard about it first from Tony To.  Tony is now – I think he’s head of physical production at Disney.  But he and I did – we executive produced and worked and created on From The Earth to the Moon, Band of Brothers, The Pacific.  We had done a lot of stuff.  So he was over there.  We have lunch every now and again.  He says, “You’ve got to play Walt Disney in this movie we have.”  And I said, “Geez, who needs that pressure.”  Then Bob Iger called me which, you know, he even said, “Look, this is not usually the way this works.  I call you and say well will you do it.”  And I said, “Well, I haven’t” – I hadn’t read the screenplay.  So right off the bat it’s like – I know I’ve turned playing real people into a bit of a cottage industry.  

Like, you know, it’s like please can I just play a fake guy one of these days.  So I know the work that goes into it.  And so the question really was is well what Walt Disney are we gonna see here?  What version of it because I was vaguely aware that it was about the making of Mary Poppins.  I had read a biography of Walt Disney years and years ago that was very vibrant.  And I knew enough of the history of the man to say, “What’s gonna go down?”  And then reading the screenplay I honestly – you can tell if you want to do a movie 12 pages in just because the DNA of the whole story and the whole philosophy of the movie’s all right there.  And because it was about this odd creative process and Walt was at the top of his game – Walt was already the Disneyland guy and, you know, Walt was actually busy building – I knew he was building Disney World at the same time.  So it was a different Walt Disney than I had ever seen.  

And because it was really Emma’s movie I just said, “Okay.  All right.  I understand what this is.”  So now I’ve gotta do the, you know, the monster construction work in order to figure out all this other stuff that goes on.  They kept saying, “Well, we want somebody recognizable like you to play somebody recognizable by Walt Disney.”  And I said, “Is that a good thing?  I’m not so sure that’s a good thing.”  And then when I heard that Paul Giamatti was in it – Paul should play Walt.  Why not him?  He looks – so we just got into a whole thing.  But once I got to the page 12 and I just said yes and I didn’t even have to kind of have a conversation with John Lee Hancock.  I said, “Come on over.  We’ll talk about how we’re gonna do it.”  So we just did.

Well you know how difficult any movie is to get made.  Any movie, you know, even something small.  But could you imagine how – the tenacity that it took.  I mean the 20 years plus everything else plus her constantly turning them down.

HANKS: Oh that, yeah, yeah.

I mean, that’s just an amazing journey.

saving-mr-banks-emma-thompson-tom-hanksHANKS: Well, you know, part of it is like – I understand.  There’s a lot of people out there that see no reason at all to have their hard work, you know, literature turned into movies.  And she – and Emma if she hasn’t already told you – she hated movies.  She hated Walt Disney.  She thought it was a low class art form.  She had this very specific idea who Mary Poppins was.  And the truth is – the fascinating thing happens – she needed the money, you know.  I get that.  But how Walt Disney gave up script approval to somebody is astounding to me.  But, as you can see I think it plays out in the movie realistically.  He said once you get script approval we’ll just turn on the charm and we’ll bring him out here and everybody will be fabulous.  We’ll show them what a homey atmosphere we have and how we’re all just one big happy family.  And, of course, you know it carried no weight.  

I would love to have been, you know, truly privy to whatever that last – that meeting was which did happen.  I mean, he flew to London instantaneously and what they said to each other is amazing.  He might have just said, “Honey, you’re gonna make a, you know, a shitload of money.”  And that might have been enough to, you know, to turn it around.  But, yeah, it’s hard.  It’s hard in order to get that kind of stuff – particularly if the person doesn’t think it’ll be the coolest thing.  You know, I met Elroy Leonard, you know, who writes very different movies than – and I said, “Hey now, what do you think about these – you know the movies that are made of your books?”  And he said just what you said.  It’s so hard to make a movie.  God bless him just for trying.  Which is a – that’s a really good attitude.   That’s a really good attitude to have.

Well you talk about which Disney you were gonna play and that’s one of the things that fascinates me about him is this is a guy that is actively involved in this thing from the beginning and week to week had a Disney that he played.

HANKS: Yeah, yeah. 

And so the materials that you looked at…

HANKS: It was Disney playing Walt Disney.

It was him turning the Disney on and to some degree is that what he’s doing to Travers in the movie? 

HANKS: Oh, absolutely.

Turning on that Disney.

HANKS: Oh, that whole first meeting is, “Oh, it’s gonna be so wonderful.”  And he’s gonna fly out, he’s gonna break hearts and he’s gonna make everybody feel absolutely magnificent.  The thing that was amazing about Walt Disney is he actually – that’s want he went for.  That’s what he was aiming for.  So it wasn’t baloney.  He wasn’t one of these guys who said, “Look, we’ll just turn on the razzle dazzle and we’ll be fine and we’ll fake everybody and we’ll have enough stuff and we’ll get the tickets.”  He did want particularly all the stuff that really had his imprimatur on.  He wanted it to be heartbreakingly special.  For example, he was never satisfied with Cinderella because he didn’t think the characters were drawn with enough – with the same panache that the earlier Disney characters.  So he actually kind of like discarded it.  He downplayed it.  But – I mean, that is just evident in everything from those moments in the wonderful world of color, you know, it’s Walt Disney in performing…

saving-mr-banks-tom-hanks-emma-thompsonWhich is what I grew up on.  Like that era of him on TV.

HANKS: Yeah, and I loved all those shows where he’d say, “Tonight we’re gonna show you our new attraction that we’re bringing in.”  It was like, “Oh my God.”  This was like you’d died and gone to heaven.  But then you had the other one – the other side of him which was an extremely pragmatic businessman.

You don’t build an empire unless you’re a certain kind of person.

HANKS: Well, not only that.  I don’t think you continuously – you don’t continuously push the art form of whatever the art form is even if it’s the idea of a theme park. You know, that came about because he was sitting on a park bench at the carousel in Griffith Park with his daughters.  And he said, “How come this is the only carousel I get to bring my daughters to.  There should be a place where a dad can bring his kids.”  And originally Disneyland was just gonna be this little amusement park that was over on the L.A. River on Buena Vista.  I can show you the plans.  So he was a guy that was always pouring money into his dream literally.  I mean, it sounds hokey but he had – call them dreams, ideas, whatever you want to do.  He poured all of his money into those.  And when you – I’ve heard extensive conversations he’s had about the history of Disney and he glosses over all of the successes and talks instead about the failures, the difficulties, the payroll, the box office. How much Shostakovich costed him for Fantasia.  Is it Shostakovich?

Uh-huh.  Yeah.

HANKS: Was that who it was?  How much that cost him, you know.  So he was always kind of like he had two pens in each hand.  One was to draw, you know, the cartoon and the other one to sign the payroll checks.  So I think you get that in the course of what it is.  Because when it’s just him and his staff in some of the scenes it’s like this for once he just looks up at Tom and he says, “What.”  It’s like what nightmare is coming across my desk now.  Which his, you know, hey, that’s the way business works, you know.

What did it mean to you personally to play Walt Disney?

HANKS: The responsibility of, you know, trying to get it right is the main thing.  But anytime you’re playing anybody real there is – you have to go for some brand – as much sort of like authenticity as the piece allows.  You can’t just go in and make stuff up in order to make – I mean people do but I don’t – I can’t do that – just come in and make stuff up in order to make the movie work a little bit better, you know.  It’s like if they were saying, “You know, I’d like to have Walt Disney smoke a big cigar.”  I’d have to say, “He doesn’t smoke a big cigar.  He smoked three packs a day of cigarettes.  Let’s do that.”  But you can’t have a – “No, I think it’d be great if he always has this big cigar.”  I said, “Well I’m not doing your movie because I’m not gonna turn him into a cigar smoking guy.”  We had a hard enough time trying to have him smoke, you know.  It feels – the authenticity of the thing that trumps all.  You’ve just got to find that.

Fields carefully negotiated.

saving-mr-banks-emma-thompson-bradley-whitfordHANKS: Oh my God.  You guys know how this works.  If we smoke cigarettes in this movie about making Mary Poppins it would be rated R.  That’s just the way it works.

It’s unbelievable.

HANKS: It would be rated R.  So we had negotiations of you cannot light a cigarette, you cannot inhale a cigarette – so all I had to do was put it down.  Now I always had a pack of the cigarettes and sometimes I was playing around with them and a cigarette lighter here and there.  But the man smoked three packs a day.  Well, yeah, he actually thought he had a polo injury and he went into the doctor and they did a surgery and the cancer from his lungs had got up to him.  And he passed away very shortly thereafter.

I’m very curious.  I’d heard rumors about why you really took the role and I really want to put this out there.  Was it true that you took the role because you were gonna be promised a Disneyland passport for life?

HANKS: I’m gonna tell you something that’ll blow that right out of the water.

Good timing.

HANKS: I’m gonna tell you why.  I’ve already got one.  A little thing called Woody.  And a little thing called Toy Story 1, 2 and 3.  Now I can’t get 30 people in there but I think I can just kind of like – I could go down there right now and just have lunch and spend the day.

Take us all down there.

HANKS: You know, I might be able to get you all in.  And you know what I’d do?  I’d find a little – there’s actually a little shady spot on Tom Sawyer’s Island.  The kids can run around to their heart’s content and you can almost take a nap down there.  Just wave to the canoes every now and again.

They probably think you were part of it.

HANKS: Let’s not discount – what do they call it?  The slag factor that comes along with – the access – all access pass.

I really was curious though, when you’ve done – you’ve done a lot for Disney with Pixar and now playing Disney.

HANKS: Turner and Hooch.

I wasn’t gonna bring that…

HANKS: Flash.  Let’s go back to the beginning.

I was gonna say what are the perks that come with making Disney a lot of money?

HANKS: Oh, that’s interesting.  That’s a good question.  You know, that’s very – they’re not telling tales out of school.  The truth is they were afraid of this movie.  One is they sort of had to do it because they had, you know I guess there’s a – legally I think you can make this movie almost anywhere you want to.

saving-mr-banks-jason-schwartzman-bj-novakYou just couldn’t show Mary Poppins stuff.

HANKS: Yeah, you wouldn’t be able to – but you can call anybody what you want to call it.  So that I think between Alan Horn and Bob Iger I think they had some sort of like meeting with you know, I think we have to make this movie.  We can’t let somebody else do it.  And the way I understand it there was no like parsing this out in order to make it palpable.  I mean, Kelly’s screenplay and what Allison wanted to do was the movie that you’re seeing.  But, you know, they were – they have a different type of movie that they make now.  I mean, all studios do.  So a relatively inexpensive movie that’s period, that’s set back in the thing that is about playing songs on a piano in a rehearsal hall and having me dressed up in, you know, one of two different suits.  They were going like is anybody gonna care?  How do we do this? 

It was experimental on what they make these days.

HANKS: Almost, yeah.  And yet I always just said, “You guys are nuts.  This thing is fantastic and I believe you’re in the business of trying to make fantastic movies.  So I think you’re gonna be just fine and dandy.”

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saving-mr-banks-emma-thompson-tom-hanksQuestion: I find it really interesting watching Emma play P.L. Travers because she is a writer and Emma’s a really accomplished writer.  And you’ve written as well.  So you guys play the creative process.  It’s not playing.  You’ve had those moments, those epiphanies where you see something come together, where you feel a character do something that you didn’t expect or that was what you’d hoped.

HANKS: Yeah there is – what happens in all these things – you just come up on these roadblocks.  And part of these roadblocks are people’s temperaments.  They just say no, I’m not gonna do it that way.  You know I make jokes about producing.  Most of producing is getting on the phone and begging somebody to do something they don’t want to do.  Please, we need this and otherwise we can’t get this shot.  You have got – you’re the only person.  And the other phone call you make is telling somebody that they don’t get to do the thing – listen, you’re really great in this but it ain’t gonna happen and we’re not gonna use it.  So in one way or the other it’s totally confounding.  And that’s why the DNA of the screenplay that was evident right from the get go is one of – I don’t know that I’ve seen this version of the creative process.  Maybe in that film Topsy Turvy that Mike Lee made about Gilbert and Sullivan.  I think that’s the only movie that I’ve really seen that has taken into account the personalities of the insane people involved who were trying to bring something to life.  The truth is I’ve had meetings like that on almost every movie where somebody in a hall just says, “Why the hell are we doing this?”  It’s like, oh, geez.  All right, let’s either throw it away or win this person over to our side.

Well you’ve written about it.  That Thing You Do has a real love for that moment.  And one of the greatest moments in that movie was them hearing it on the radio.  Hearing their work out in the world.

HANKS: Yeah.

And she seems so resistant to having Mary out there.  She made Mary for herself which is a, you know, and other people have their relationship.

HANKS: She hated it.  She hated it.  She hated the movies.  She hated Walt Disney.  She hated stupid cartoons.  She hated, hated, hated it.  And yet she needed the money.  So how do you rectify that?

Well the interesting thing, too, which really comes into that scene – I love that scene in the parlor near the end where you – with you and Emma.  The idea of childhood trauma – the two different sides of how you dealt with the childhood trauma of a tough father and she dealt with, you know, the loss of her father, but, you know, all the other things that went on.

saving-mr-banks-tom-hanks-emma-thompsonHANKS: You know there’s a great line in that where he says, “Look, I loved my dad.  He was a wonderful man.”  Right after he describes this, you know, this thing.  But, you know, back when his dad was – came from a world if you didn’t have a nickel, you know, and you didn’t have a nickel you might not eat that well for the rest of the week.  And it’s fascinating and I think it’s accurate that here Walt Disney kept recreating his world over and over and over again right down to, you know, there’s this Main Street, USA, and his dad’s name is up on one of the – his dad never had an office.  His dad never reached up to that but he – and I know from all the biographical material that as soon as – his mom and dad and his wife were included in every aspect of the Walt Disney art, you know.  As soon as they moved out to L.A. mom and dad came out as well.  He took care of them, they were a very close knit family all the way through.  And there is something of that of saying, “Look, despite all the hardships, isn’t life wonderful.”  And I think you could probably say that Pamela Travers didn’t necessarily think that.  Because of all the hardships –  isn’t life hideous, you know.  She was not a pleasant woman.  And Walt was the most pleasant human being you’d come across.  So that mixture is – there’s enough of that authenticity that you have to get to when you’re taking this movie in which, hey man, it works  Richard Sherman talked about those two weeks and he said he used swear words to describe Pamela Travers.

Well when you hear the tape at the end it’s a different level of scary.

HANKS: Oh, they hated her.  They hated, hated, hated her.  And the truth is she hated them.  Isn’t that kind of amazing.

And you’ve got this wonderful sweet movie.  Have you ever had a project that took, you know, 20 years or a very long time to get off the ground that you just…

HANKS: Cast Away took six years, you know, from the beginnings of the ideas until the end.

Did Forrest Gump take a long time too?

HANKS: Well not once we got involved.  I think Eric Roth had written that a long, long, long, long time ago.  But from when Bob Zemeckis got involved and we did it, it was a requisite amount of time.  It’s – here’s what happens.  As soon as – you can have this idea in your head and you’re always trying to get it in and it always might be kind of close.  But nothing happens until you make that key alliance with someone.  And if the alliance is with a filmmaker or the alliance is with a producer or the alliance is with a studio – well then it begins.  But that alliance doesn’t necessarily speed things up.  That alliance just makes it exist outside of your own imagination and progress happens.  And when it takes a long time, man, there’s nothing you can do except acknowledge that we don’t have it yet.  It’s not ready to go yet.  And, you know, that’s a bitch.  And maybe you have somebody like – the worst thing that can happen is like make movies that are casting.  You know, like they said we’ll make this movie if you can get so-and-so to be in it.  That’s like such desperate – I’ve been on both sides of that.  That’s just desperation time.  If somebody comes to me and wants me to do something I don’t really want to do – or me going to somebody to say, “Wouldn’t it be great if we made this together.”

People had to turn you down?

saving-mr-banks-emma-thompson-bradley-whitfordHANKS: Oh yeah, yeah.  Sure.  And sometimes they turn it down because they don’t get it or they have something else they want to do or they’re not available.  It’s just the way it works.  And sometimes I’ve had to say things to people like, “Don’t even send this to me because if it’s great it’s gonna break my heart that I can’t do it because I’m not available.  And if I hate it I’m gonna break your heart because you love it.  So don’t, don’t.  Let’s pretend we didn’t exist.  We never met.”

It’s been a great year for you and you may end up with two nominations for Captain Phillips and doing this movie.  How do you feel about that?

HANKS: Well, it’s out of my control.  It wouldn’t be bad.  It’s better than a poke in the eye with a stick, you know.  I can tell you that.

I’m very curious about your process an actor and how it’s changed over the years.  Did you used to do a certain thing that now you don’t do?  Like if you could just talk about how you’ve changed as an actor the way you prepare for a role.  And what’s the most you’ve ever done for any role in terms of preparation.

HANKS: You know I think – I have had a difficulty from the get go of shaking some sense of self-consciousness that I think in some ways has like has had a half-life.  You know, early on in one’s career you really only care about what your lines are and how you look and whether you look cool or, you know.  And you’re always sort of like outside yourself looking at your performance somehow.  And with every tick, hash mark on the resume it became less and less and less which is good.  But quite frankly when I took on Cloud Atlas that reshaped everything as far as going into a movie that I’d ever made.  There was only one way to do that and that was completely give yourself over to all the decisions that all these other people made and only care about what happened on the inside of the costume and inside of the makeup. 

Now that was new because there was just this volume of work.  It was so interlocking.  It was the most complicated jigsaw puzzle of a film ever and the only way I think any of us could do that was just to go in and quietly close our eyes and work and have the characters and go to it.  That means a shedding of all that self-consciousness – whatever was still left of it.  And it was liberating.  It was completely freeing because it was a union with the script and a union with the characters and that’s all that mattered.  You make other movies and other things matter.  Does that make sense, you know?  And to be able to go in there and, “Is it raining, let’s shoot and if it’s not raining, let’s shoot.  Are you ready to go – well it’s not.  Where am I today?  We’re shooting this today.  I’m ready to go.  Let’s do it.” As opposed to, “Well, wait a minute.  Let me sit back and do I really want to do it.” 

captain-phillips-tom-hanksYou know, all of the maintenance that can go on with doing a movie just had to go by the wayside.  I woke up in the morning and I went to work and it’s really like that Kurt Vonnegut short story, “Who Am I This Time,” you know.  It’s like that’s what it was.  And that broke an awful lot of rods as far as whatever superstructure of it is how I do it.  And I was able then to go off and do – well I did a play on Broadway that was a completely working with Paul and then Richard Phillips in this one as well.  Part of it is getting older.  You just don’t give a shit anymore, you know.  This is what I look like, you know, I can’t change what I look like.  I can only, you know, utilize other people’s artistic impression.  So there is less maintenance that goes into the other parts of it.  And, look, God bless the guys who still ask me to show up and do movies right about the time I finally figure out how to do it.  So it worked out nice.  Good timing.

Why don’t you talk about just finding the people that you’re excited about working with or an experience you want to have.  In Captain Phillips this is such a particular process and it’s such a, I mean, I know people that have crewed on his movies who they call it the most difficult thing they’ve ever done just because of how he works and how demanding he is.

HANKS: The work is demanding, he’s not.  He’s a great guy, you know.  But, yeah, I know exactly what you’re talking about because when you work with Paul everything is behavior.  Everything is procedure.  There are not shots. There’s no such thing as a moment where – you know, there’s a famous story of making Casablanca and it’s actually a moment that almost every actor has to experience at one point or another in which there was nothing to shoot.  There weren’t pages and they had the star and it was work and he was in makeup.  And so Michael Curtiz – was that who directed it, said, “All right, Bogey just come in and hit the mark and look off camera and give a nod.”  And I’ve done that in movies, you know.  You just kind of like – well we’ve got to put something in.  We don’t know what it is yet. 

All right, fine.  It’s kind of like go in and you do it and you give a nod.  And it could have been to a passing dog or to, you know a waiter.  It could have been to anything.  And in the movie it turns out to be what he nods to the Laszlo at the piano and says, “Play the Marseillaise.”  And the shot that was from weeks before of Bogey coming in and going – and it’s become one of the most important movies of the day.  But Paul Greengrass does not do things like that.  Paul Greengrass does – we shot every scene – almost every scene in its complete entirety from beginning to end no matter how long it lasted.  And he rotated the cameras in and got the other shots and got the other – got all the pieces so much so that you’re not even aware of where they are anymore – the cameras.  And the reasons that it’s complicated and it’s hard work is because you start work on the scene and it just becomes more and more and more dense and complicated as it goes along.  We had scenes where we laid out the 11 pages of dialogue literally on the bridge and we were writing in the stuff. 

saving-mr-banks-tom-hanks-emma-thompsonWe were moving things around and we’d take a huge chunk and we’d come back with brand new dialogue.  And the captain of the real ship was right there and he says, “Well what you’d really say is this and what you’d really say is that.”  And you’ve got to keep that all in.  We did that at some points – there was one day specifically where we worked for five-and-a-half hours in the morning.  And no one said, “Hey, we’ve got to shoot.  We’ve got to shoot, guys, we’ve got to shoot.”  It was nothing like that.  And then we got one stagger through.  Well let’s get one and pause at this and then we’ll take a look at it at lunch and see what we need.  That’s what we did.  This movie was not shot like that.  This movie was really – was broken up into the, you know, a traditional almost Disneyesque way of making things.  But, as I said, man, you can’t be self-conscious when you’re doing that. But that’s from a guy who reinvented how to make, you know, what is it nonfiction films anyway.  Between Bloody Sunday and United 93.

He’s his own genre.  And I think that would be just appealing as an actor to put yourself into that.

HANKS: It’s fantastic.  It’s – what’s the word I’m looking for?  It’s devastating. 

Liberating.

HANKS: It’s hard.  Let me put it that way.  It’s really hard but there’s no, you know, what do you do?  You just gear up and you go there, you know.  A lot of times I think that’s the hardest thing.  You know, our lives are complicated and, you know, sometimes making a movie is – the kid was up too late last night, you get there and what do you do?  Oh, guess where we’re going today – today we’re getting off at Overland and we’re going down to motor and then we’ll go into the gate and we’ll go to stage 26 and we’ll go to home base.  Sometimes that’s what making movies – and the last thing you want to do is show up and then, you know, an  hour-and-a-half later have to be either vivacious or dealing with a crisis.  But, you know, that’s the gig so you just gotta be ready to go there.  And I think I’m ready to go there now more than I was in the past.

I’m very curious – obviously you’ve directed, you produce a lot and I would imagine you’re offered a lot of really cool scripts.  For you, have you read anything recently that you’re very excited about or is there anything that’s perking up in terms of you getting behind the camera again?

HANKS: You know I’m not an instinctively talented or able director.  I can approach it in a way of doing it.  If I look at everything that I ever directed I’d probably only be able to say here’s five or six moments that actually came out the way I wanted them to.  When I’m a director I often look at the actors and say, “Look at them.  Look at those bastards over there.  Having all that fun.  Sitting around in their costumes and faking at their scenes while I gotta go.”  Instinctively I’m an actor and I keep it all in my head and I just kind of do it without having to explain to anybody.  Then you meet someone like Paul or even John [Lee Hancock] who used to be a lawyer, you know, didn’t want to be a lawyer.  Or Ron Howard who is like, you know, he’s the director’s dream.  He thinks it’s just the greatest job in the world – that’s all he’s ever wanted to do.  And it requires a different sort of instinct.  I know the craft and I think I can figure out the physics of directing a movie but, you know, it takes about two years out of your life and I don’t know if I have two years.  I’m on the back nine here folks.  You know, I don’t know if I want to give up a par six.  Not that I play golf.  You know what I’m saying?

saving-mr-banks-posterSo you’re less interested in directing in the future than you were in the past.

HANKS: Well every time I directed in the past it came along and from the moment the idea came into my head I thought I’m going to write and direct this.  That has not happened.  And I’m not one – I don’t go out and say I’m looking for something to direct.  No I don’t do that.

Working with Emma was obviously a very special experience.  Was there anything that surprised you about working with her?  Anything that you didn’t expect?

HANKS: I knew her really well from a completely social point of view of having dinners with her through Mike Nichols mostly.  And I’ve got to say working with her was the exact same as a convivial three hour dinner with maybe a little too much wine going down one of us.  I think we don’t have the same exact background but we do come from a theater background in which, you know, the whole thing is about familiarity with the text and there being no substitution for that.  So she is, you know, to call her a – it’s bad to call anybody a competent professional because that doesn’t really do justice.  She is an incredibly well experienced professional actress and so we got more work into our days than at other times.  Because we didn’t have to find anything.  I mean we had to block it out and stuff like that but it was just so – we just attacked the material that we knew very well going into it.  So I think we actually gave John Lee Hancock probably 40 percent more usable stuff than we would have if you just have to take time in order to find it and get there.  She was armed, man.  She’s ready to go.  She’s not unlike Julia Roberts that way.  Julia comes and knows everything and can handle anything that comes down the pike.

Have you ever worked with anyone as difficult as P.L. Travers?  Or remotely in that ballpark?

HANKS: No, I’m such a pussy I wouldn’t have even taken the job to begin with probably.  No, not a road block like that.  Not with anybody who just says no, no, no, no, no, no, no.  I’ve never, never, never done that.  Well, you know, maybe in the very early writing periods of more long form stuff like years prior where you think – sort of the miniseries.  You sometimes work with writers that would deliver what was going to be, you know, a key chapter of whatever we’re doing and we just had to say, “This ain’t it.”  And they say, “Why?”  Then you have that kind of fight.  But, no, nothing like – I’ve never worked with anybody who took the contract, snapped it into her purse and then flew back home saying you ain’t doing it. But then if it does I just make Gary Goetzman deal with it.  Gary’s my guy so I make him deal with it.

He’s the no man.  And you’re the yes man.

HANKS: No.  He’s – hey come on, we can work this out.  I’m the guy who says, “Look, if you want to do it, let’s do it.  If not, let’s not.  I’m going upstairs.”  That’s what I do.

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