Tom Hanks' Mr. Rogers movie You Are My Friend has set a release date for fall 2019. The iconic actor has a 17-year Oscar nomination drought to break, despite turning in a solid performance in Steven Spielberg's Oscar-nominated The Post last year. He'll have a chance to return to glory with You Are My Friend, an upcoming biopic directed by Marielle Heller from a script by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster.
The film focuses on the story of an Esquire article about writer Tom Junod's life-changing experience with the late Fred Rogers, the widely beloved TV host revered mainly for his long-running PBS show Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood and the valuable lessons it taught to generations of young audiences. It will be produced by Sony Pictures and distributed by TriStar Pictures. Based on the role itself, as well as the talent involved, the movie's newly announced release date signals that the studio sees legitimate Oscar potential in the project.
Sony Pictures has dated You Are My Friend for October 18, 2019, right at the outset of awards season. This will be far from the first time Hanks has portrayed a real person, as his most recent role was former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee in The Post. He has also portrayed airline pilot Chesley Sullenberger in Clint Eastwood's Sully in 2016 and Cold War-era attorney James B. Donovan in Spielberg's Bridge of Spies, for instance.
If Hanks delivers an Oscar-winning performance as Fred Rogers, it would be the first time he won for portraying a real-life figure. He took his career to another level of prestige with his first Oscar win when he played AIDS-stricken lawyer Andrew Beckett in 1993's Philadelphia, but that character was a composite based on different people that existed. Hanks also portrayed Walt Disney in 2013's Saving Mr. Banks, mariner Richard Phillips in the eponymous Captain Phillips, and congressman Charlie Wilson in Mike Nichols' Charlie Wilson's War.
Hanks hasn't received an Oscar nomination since 2000's Cast Away, despite starring in numerous Oscar-contending movies since then. With that in mind, it appears that he'll need to give an extraordinary performance as Fred Rogers in You Are My Friend in order to get serious attention for what would be his sixth Oscar nomination. But, considering the source material, and the larger-than-life figure Hanks is portraying, perhaps there's enough for Hanks to work with to elevate himself back into the Oscar conversation.
The Academy clearly isn't shying away from honoring portrayals of real people, as evidenced by Gary Oldman's Best Actor win as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour. Plus, Eddie Redmayne won for portraying Stephen Hawking in 2014's The Theory of Everything, and then there's Daniel Day-Lewis who won for his role as Abraham Lincoln in 2012's Lincoln. So, if Hanks is magnetic enough as Mr. Rogers in You Are My Friend, perhaps he can break his cold streak.
- Untitled Mr. Rogers/Tom Hanks Project (2019) release date: Oct 18, 2019