There’s a new neighbor in the little Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks (“The Post”) is set to play one of the nicest men to ever grace Hollywood, Fred Rogers of the children’s classic “Mr. Rogers Neigborhood,” in a new biopic from director Marielle Heller (“The Diary of a Teenage Girl”).
With a 2013 Black Listed script from Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster (“Transparent”), “You Are My Friend” follows the real-life story of a friendship between cynical, award-winning journalist Tom Junod and the late TV personality. Junod meets Rogers after reluctantly accepting an assignment for a profile piece on Mr. Rogers and soon begins to see life in a whole new light.
According to THR, the biopic has already been acquired by TriStar Pictures, with production set to begin this September. Marc Turtletaub (“Safety Not Guaranteed”) and Peter Saraf (“Loving”) are producing via their banner Big Beach Films alongside Youree Henley (“The Beguiled”). Writers Fitzerman-Blue and Harpster will executive produce with Big Beach’s Leah Holzer (“3 Generations”). Hannah Minghella and Shary Shirazi will oversee for TriStar. The film will be the second film focusing on the late Rogers in as many years, with the documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” premiering at Sundance this year.
According to EW, Heller praised the film’s screenplay, saying:
The script knocked me out with its message of kindness and its exploration of the human spirit. As a mother, I am so inspired by the teachings of Fred Rogers and as a human I am in awe of his life’s work. I can’t wait to bring his story to the public and be a part of such a thoughtful, smart group of people who are all coming together to make this film, which truly feels to me like an antidote to our very fractured culture.
Rogers was a TV personality known for his kind, patient demeanor on his PBS series “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood,” which won four Emmys and earned Rogers a Lifetime Achievement in 1997. He wrote many of the songs on his show, along with hosting and puppeteering many of the show’s characters. He also received a Peabody Award and the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work.
Hanks is a staple of many Hollywood hits, including “Forrest Gump,” “Cast Away,” the “Toy Story” series and more. He most recently starred in Steven Spielberg’s “The Post,” portraying Ben Bradlee, executive editor of the Washington Post, who broke open U.S. politics with the Pentagon Papers, classified documents detailing the U.S. government’s involvement in the Vietnam War.
Hanks is repped by CAA. Heller is repped by UTA and Ziffren Brittenham. CAA and UTA brokered the deal with TriStar. See a video clip of Rogers in action below, advocating for government funding for children’s television (Rogers secured $20 million in about 6 minutes).