Tom Hanks in Singapore for Larry Crowne Premiere

June 11, 2011

It’s not very often we get to see a room full of seasoned (albeit jaded) journalists buzzing with so much excitement just minutes before a press conference. The reason for all that excitement? Two-time Academy Award winner Tom Hanks.

Tom Hanks is here in Singapore for the weekend, to attend the Asia-Pacific Premiere of his film, Larry Crowne, which he directs and stars in, as part of the inaugural ScreenSingapore film festival.

Dressed in a black polo tee and grey slacks, Tom walked into the press conference, held at Cappella Singapore early this morning, to a roomful of appreciative applause and cheers. Gasps and dare I say, squeals were also heard from a couple of female journalists from around the region.

Attending the media conference for the film with his partner in crime for their production label Playtone, Gary Goeztman, Hanks was in a visibly good mood. If he seemed slightly surprised at the warm reception, he quickly played it up by placing his face flat on the table and greeting the journos, talking into the mike laying on the table.

“Thank you very much, it’s a real pleasure to be here. Singapore is living up to all its expectations with the rain,” he quipped, referring to the torrential downpour this morning.

He even gestured to his imaginary "boat" at one point in time when another journalist said she hoped he didn't forget his umbrella, "Thank you, that’s my boat out there."

The media lapped it up, breaking out in peals of laughter.

The ball was then tossed to Gary Goetzman who described Tom as being “pretty good in a film called Philadelphia” and how they’ve been working together for almost 20 years.

As the Q&A session began proper, we can’t help but stare in awe at the man who brought characters like Forrest Gump and Woody from Toy Story to life and be reminded that we're in the presence of a legend.

So Tom, can you give us a little background about Larry Crowne? How did the project come about?
Gary and myself started thinking about this six years ago and talked with Nia Vardalos, who wrote My Big Fat Greek Wedding, about the idea of exploring a man’s reinvention. A guy who loses his job and ends up in college for one reason or another, goes back to college and finds Julia Roberts as his teacher. And guess what happens?

Can you tell us if it’s easier, or whether it’s more of a challenge to bring out that comedic aspect in a film like that?
Everyone gets bad news all the time. the reality about this story is nothing but bad news and the way it happens in a very individual manner.We are in an optional business, the audience opts to go to your film, so you have to make it, not just attractive, but authentic. Our desire is always to entertain an audience, but you also have to include the audience in what's going on.

In Larry Crowne, you’ll notice there is no father-in-law who’s trying to destroy Larry, there is no evil bad guy who is pissed off at Larry and wants him fired. It’s just a bunch of people who are in a bind in their lives. And we try to be as authentic as we can about how they go on to something greater than themselves. We want to make a funny motion picture that is rooted in reality.

Is directing yourself in such a major role, very different from being directed by someone else like Ron Howard or Steven Spielberg?
As an actor, you don’t have to tell anyone what you’re doing, you just put on the clothes and you don’t have to explain it, you just show it. But being a director, is a constant test of all your communicative skills., you are always explaining your vision, trying to cajole someone in doing something they really don’t want to do or vice versa.

I didn’t have that problem as an actor or a director in this. But I must say that the times that I’ve been an actor who has been in almost every scene, I usually hang around the set the entire day, close to the camera, just to keep everything sharp and focused. And this is no different from what we did on Larry Crowne. I was in costume, ready to work any second, always ready to be on either side of the camera, and it was a full-time gig that didn’t have an awful lot of breaks.

What’s the difference between directing Julia Roberts and acting opposite her?
Julia Roberts is the best there is. And there is a reason why she has become the screen icon of legendary stature. When we imagined the teacher who would teach Larry Crowne, she was always the one we wanted. I don’t think I would be able to get her to be in the film if we hadn’t worked together in Charlie Wilson’s War. We got to know each other very well and had a very good relaxed dynamic between us. She knew the type of bosses we would be, so she was open to the idea. And the collaboration that we had, as what Mercedes (Julia’s character) and what Larry was going through, meshed up very well. She’s incredibly smart.

You’ve also been quoted to say that you’ve made over 20 films but only five of them are good.
Yeah, that’s a pretty good average though, don’t you think? [Laughs]

Which five?
I don’t know! I’m not sure, someone else gets to decide. I was in France then - and I’m not ragging on French journalists - and I think we were promoting Charlie Wilson’s War and someone said “Why don’t you make more interesting films with more interesting directors like the Coen brothers?”

I said, “Well, I’ve made a movie with the Coen brothers, it’s called The LadyKillers” and then they said, “No, not that kind of Coen brothers film, another kind of Coen brothers film.” So I said I have a pretty good track record, most of them do okay. That was a joke, when I was quoted. Now, I think I’m going to say I’ve made over 30 films and I think seven of them are pretty good. [Laughs] As long as both numbers keep going up, I’m satisfied.

You’ve also played very inspiring characters as an actor. Is there any place you won’t go as an actor?
No, not as an actor. But there are places I won’t go as a story teller, I make movies that I would like to see myself, but there are some types of motion pictures that I won’t.

Everyone can see the kinds of movies they’d like to, but have you guys seen the Saw movies? What the hell is that? What in the world? You know what I’m saying? Let’s go see some guy cutting people up, I don’t get that! I’m not sure what themes are examined by Saw, but they are themes I can find somewhere else.

But if you’re making movies that people are paying to see, you’re making some form of social document that will last a long time, whether it’s good or bad. And I’ve made some bad movies that will last as long as the good ones will. But in order to go off to do all that way, you have to be making something that matters, and the only way it matters is if it’s something we are trying to find, even if it’s a silly comedy or sci-fi or superheroes, you have to land on a particular kind of square so you’re somehow holding a mirror up to nature and examining the human condition. I think that’s my job, I feel very happy to have it, and I feel even better if we can succeed in doing that.

By Pamela Tan

Source : HerWorld