It's the Hanks and Hanks Show for father and son in 'Buck'

January 24, 2008


ARK CITY, Utah — As Colin Hanks travels around the Sundance Film Festival showing off his comedy The Great Buck Howard, a familiar question always pops up at the post-screening Q&A sessions.

So, how did you prepare for working with that guy who had a bit part as your dad?

The young actor leans into the microphone and says: "Thirty years of hard practice."

That's because the role is played by his real-life father, Tom.

The Great Buck Howard stars John Malkovich as the title character, a socially awkward "mentalist" who hates being called a magician and is hoping his new assistant, played by Colin, can help him mount a comeback.

The young man has just dropped out of law school and sees the job as a steppingstone toward his dream of being a Hollywood writer.

"It's the only job in entertainment that he can get, so that's what he does. The movie is about his experience working for this really weird, egotistical, very colorful character," the younger Hanks says outside a theater in the Park City library, where the film was about to begin a midnight showing.

"Buck spends the whole movie obsessing about getting to this one level. And when he gets there, it's for all the wrong reasons."

The assistant's father, meanwhile, is infuriated by his son's choice. "I think it could say '(expletive)-off father' for his name in the credits," Tom Hanks joked in a separate interview.

A lot of young actors with a famous relative avoid working together, but both Hankses are nonchalant about it.

"It's as natural as making a sandwich," the elder Hanks said a few weeks before Sundance. "We see each other all the time. … We're both actors, and we know how to bounce off each other, though there might have been more pressure than anybody wanted. We just showed up and did it — just another day making a movie."

Colin's take: "It was fun. He's super-professional. … We just sort of did it, and we weren't thinking about it too much. At the end of the day, we were like, 'Yeah, hmm. We could do that again.' They were the easiest two days on the movie, ironically enough. They were the two I was most nervous for."

The Forrest Gump and Philadelphia Oscar winner showed up for the movie's Sundance premiere but didn't stick around for the follow-up screenings. Both are aware of each other's shadows.

Tom is quick to point out that his son "was really the catalyst that made it all happen." Colin showed his dad the script by writer/director Sean McGinly.

Meanwhile, Colin, who has had big roles in little movies such as Orange County and little roles in big movies such as Peter Jackson's King Kong, has no illusions about how his dad's involvement raises the profile of The Great Buck Howard.

"Look, if someone like him wants to be in your little movie, you should let him!" he says, laughing.

The comedy's creators hope to get a distribution deal at the festival for a nationwide release. "It's a very mainstream movie, but it's outside the usual pipeline of motion pictures," says Tom, who produced the film through his Playtone production company.

The legendary actor playing a showbiz-hating father is obviously loaded with irony.

Asked during the audience Q&A whether his father ever tried to dissuade him from becoming an actor in real life, Colin says: "No, he did not. He was always really supportive. He basically told me that I needed to ask myself if it was something I really loved doing, because there's a lot of stuff that you have to do that is maybe not-so-much fun. But I really love it."

The younger Hanks adds: "In strange way, it's why I wanted to do this, and forever capture that conversation that we didn't have where he chastises his son, saying: 'You're screwing up!' "

When he says the last line, it's a spot-on impersonation of you-know-who.

By Anthony Breznican

Source : USA Today