Sony TriStar Pictures announced that Tom Hanks would play Fred Rogers in the upcoming biopic, You Are My Friend. The news is just after Jennifer Hudson announced that she would play Aretha Franklin in an upcoming film.
According to Vanity Fair, the film will be directed by Marielle Heller, who also directed The Diary of a Teenage Girl. It’s based on a script written by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster, who also wrote for Amazon’s hit television series, Transparent.
The story is about Mr. Rogers’ friendship with Tom Junod. Nearly 20 years ago, the often cynical reporter was assigned to write a profile of the TV icon and the host of the children’s show, Mister Rogers’s Neighborhood. The journalist thought that it would be like any other assignment. He would go in, get the information and write it up. Little did he know, the job would change his life forever. The end result was a 1998 Esquire profile.
Junod, the journalist who interviewed and wrote Rogers’ profile, tweeted out that he was thrilled that the movie was finally happening. He added that the film was loosely based on his 1998 Esquire article.
“The script knocked me out with its message of kindness and its exploration of the human spirit,” Heller said.
“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.”
It is finally happening, and in the best of ways: a movie, very loosely based on the article I wrote for @Esquire 20 years ago, with Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers, two innovative screenwriters from "Transparency" scripting, and Marielle Heller directing. Well-timed, for this moment. https://t.co/JWsOCmL6XB— Tom Junod (@TomJunod) January 29, 2018
Rogers’ Emmy-nominated series was the longest-running kids’ program of all time. Over the years, he became a supporter of children’s education and entertainment and worked to secure funding for public television.
Rogers charmed his viewers, both young and old, wearing his trademark cardigan and tennis shoes from 1968 through 2000. Fred Rogers died in 2003.
Tom Hanks is perfect for the role. He has embraced his role as America’s dad with open arms. Hanks has proven that he can make any movie great. Hanks was selected because he lives his life much like Fred Rogers, so the casting director felt confident he could pull it off. It’s only a matter time before Hanks slips into that famous sweater and tennis shoes to play America’s favorite neighbor.
Film production is expected to begin in the fall, with no projected release date yet. It could be released in late 2019, or possibly early 2020.