The trailer for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood ends with a touching scene of people singing to Mr. Rogers on a train, but did that actually happen in real life? One year after acclaimed documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor? celebrated the life and legacy of Fred Rogers, the television icon is getting a traditional Hollywood biopic with Tom Hanks starring in the lead role. Directed by Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is already poised to be one of the year's leading award contenders, particularly after Won't You Be My Neighbor? was surprisingly snubbed by the Oscars.
Over the past few months, Sony built awareness for the project by releasing still images, showcasing how perfect a fit Hanks is as Rogers. But with just a few months left until the film's premiere (as of this writing), the time had come for a proper trailer. Yesterday, the studio unveiled a theatrical preview, tapping into the heart and emotion of the story. The Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood trailer ended with a sequence of people singing Mr. Rogers' classic theme song to him on a New York train. Biopics, of course, have a tendency to fabricate events for the sake of making a better movie, but that isn't entirely the case here.
Even though the subway singing feels like something made up to elicit a cheerful response from the audience, the scene is actually based off of something that happened to Rogers. It's pulled from an anecdote in Tom Junod's Esquire profile of Rogers (which is the primary inspiration for this film). Read it for yourself in the space below:
Once upon a time, Mister Rogers went to New York City and got caught in the rain. He didn’t have an umbrella, and he couldn’t find a taxi, either, so he ducked with a friend into the subway and got on one of the trains. It was late in the day, and the train was crowded with children who were going home from school. Though of all races, the schoolchildren were mostly black and Latino, and they didn’t even approach Mister Rogers and ask him for his autograph. They just sang. They sang, all at once, all together, the song he sings at the start of his program, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” and turned the clattering train into a single soft, runaway choir.
The key difference between the movie and real life is that in the former it's adults doing the singing, while in the later it was school children. It's unknown why this aspect was changed for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, but the sentiment behind the scene remains the same. In the trailer, people of all races and walks of life sing to Rogers, underscoring what Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood was all about. Rogers strived to bring everyone together, sharing messages about the importance of being kind to others. Obviously, he was very successful getting that across to a wide variety of people, and just about anyone who watched the show found something they could take away from it and improve their individual lives.
Perhaps it's for that reason films based on Rogers' life have been prevalent these past couple of years. Arguably, his words are more timely than ever today - an extremely divided and contentious time. Hopefully, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a hit when it comes out in theaters and inspires viewers to be the best they can be. It'd be naive to expect a group of stranger to spontaneously burst into song together, but maybe those who see the film can work on being a little more kind to others and spread Rogers' positive message.
- A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019) release date: Nov 22, 2019