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INTERVIEW | Tom Hanks talks about playing grumpy widower in ‘A Man Called Otto’

In your new film, A Man Called Otto, you play an ill-tempered character. It is quite a departure to see you do that. What was it like to go from being the nicest guy in Hollywood to becoming the grumpiest man in America?

To me, to be defined as being nice somehow means that you come to work, don’t make waves, don’t try too hard and take it as easy as possible, but that is not the case at all. To be asked what it’s like to be a nice guy to me is like asking a fish,

‘What is it like to live in water?’ A fish doesn’t know that it lives in water and I don’t know that I am a nice guy (laughs). Are you ever grumpy or grouchy in real life?

Sure. You don’t want to be alone in a car with me when somebody up ahead doesn’t turn their signal because I go off. Let’s just say I use salty language and it goes on for quite some time (laughs).

Your son, Truman Hanks, appears in the movie as young Otto. Did you get to work together much?

No, we didn’t. We were always shooting on different days. We did talk a little bit about some physical gestures and the way to walk when you’re pissed off (laughs). The good news is that I looked like him when I was 26. The bad news is he’s going to look like me in another 40 years and he’s just going to have to deal with that.

Did you know Mariana Trevino, who plays Marisol (Otto’s neighbour), before this project?

No. We didn’t meet until we went to the production offices in Pittsburgh. Before that, I remember, Rita (wife Rita Wilson) came into the room to show me a picture of Mariana on her iPad. I said, ‘Well, I think we should just get her.’ And that was that. I think the theme of this movie is, if you want to live a better life, have a busybody Mexican woman knock on your door and say ‘que paso?’

You work with both children and animals in this movie. Which did you prefer?

The girls. They were magical. They should not have been as carefree and easy as they were. It was like hanging out with really groovy kids.

What about doing the scenes with cats and dogs?

Well, cats really look at you. Dogs are always looking at the trainer just off your shoulder. But, a cat looks at you dead in the eye. I didn’t think you could train a cat, but you can. Schmagel (a Columbia County cat that stars in the film) is now a pilot for Delta Airlines.

Isn’t there a rule in Hollywood about never working with animals?

They do say that, yes, but only because they (animals) have a habit of stealing the scene from you (laughs) and that happens a lot.

What are your thoughts about OTT versus watching movies in a theatre?

Streaming works great for some things and it’s perhaps a handicap for others. One of the greatest things I have watched in the last few years was the five-part HBO series, Chernobyl. It was fantastic. So, I think there’s a place for streaming, but the cinematic experience is irreplaceable for certain kinds of films. There are some films you’ve just got to see on the big screen in a room with 200, 600 or 1,200 strangers. I don’t want to see Quentin Tarantino or Christopher Nolan’s movies for the first time on streaming. I want to go to the theatre. I want to see an awful lot of movies for the first time on the big screen.

A Man Called Otto is about being never too old to learn and change. What lessons or words of advice that you have got over the years, do you remember?

I learned through osmosis from moments like Paul Newman’s first shot in Road To Perdition, after which he made a quick little toast. It was literally 30 people, including me, thinking, ‘I’m in a movie with Paul Newman. That’s Paul Newman standing right there!’ And when they said, ‘Cut’, he looked around and said, ‘The first day is loaded with self-consciousness, isn’t it? You don’t really feel yourself.’ Thank God that man said that. I didn’t have the words for it, until probably 10 years ago, but it is a battle against selfconsciousness.

You star in people’s favourite movies. Which of your own movies do you like to watch?

I don’t. I can’t watch them. If there’s one that I could stand revisiting, it would be That Thing You Do because that movie makes me feel pretty good––so many of my friends are in it, my kids are in it. Truman was actually born in-between two of the scenes that are in the movie. So, I would have to say it is the one I could watch.

Asia Fetaures

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