It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood: Tom Hanks has been tapped to play Mr. Rogers in the upcoming biopic, You Are My Friend. In case you’re a bit too young to have caught his show, or if you’re older and your childhood was completely devoid of happiness, Fred Rogers was the star of the children’s television show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. The series premiered up north on CBC Television way back in 1963. It debuted in the U.S. five years later, and it aired until Rogers’ retirement in 2001 (with a three year gap in the mid-‘70s due to a lack of human decency).
In his 3+ decades on air, Rogers forever cemented himself as an icon of children's television, serving as an advocate for early childhood education and public broadcasting. A true champion of the people, he was essentially responsible for the longterm success of PBS. When the broadcasting service was faced with sweeping budgetary cuts in 1969, Rogers appeared before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Communications and singlehandedly convinced them to actually increase PBS funding from $9 million to $22 million.
Focus Features will release a new documentary on Rogers in select theaters this June, but it looks like audiences will soon be getting an even closer look at his fascinating story. Variety is reporting that Tom Hanks will play Rogers in TriStar Pictures' upcoming biopic, You Are My Friend. Marielle Heller is set to direct, and the film will reportedly center around Rogers' real-life friendship with award-winning journalist Tom Junod. Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster will handle scriptwriting duties on the project, which is set to begin production in September.
Heller is best known for helming the 2015 indie hit, The Diary of a Teenage Girl, though she's also worked on the Amazon series Transparent, as have Fitzerman-Blue and Harpster. Heller seems excited to get started on Rogers' story, telling Variety, “I’m thrilled to be making You Are My Friend. 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.”
Hanks, of course, has been one of Hollywood's biggest stars over the past few decades. He's won two Best Actor Oscars in his career and been nominated three additional times, though he's gone unrecognized by the Academy since receiving a nod for his work in 2000's Cast Away. We can't wait to see if Mr. Rogers will be the role that breaks the dry spell. You Are My Friend is currently without a set release date, but with production getting underway in September, we can expect to see this one sometime in the latter half of 2019.