Tom Hanks has been a leading man in Hollywood for decades, and he’s now taking on an unprecedented role. In “News of the World,” which premiered on Christmas Day, Hanks stars in his first-ever Western movie.
Hanks plays Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a veteran of the Civil War who now travels the world summarizing newspaper articles. He finds a lost young girl, and he must work to reunite her with her family. “News of the World” is based on the 2016 novel of the same name by Paulette Jiles.
“When I read Paulette Jiles’ book there were two things,” Hanks told reporters during a virtual press day for the film, as reported by CinemaBlend. “First of all, the actual job itself, the newsreader, the guy who traveled from town to town to enlighten and connect an audience in diverse, small towns — Wichita Falls, what have you. I thought that’s a job I would have wanted to have if I had been alive in the 1870s. I thought that would be fascinating. Because you’d be delivering both the service and also … you’d be delivering a connectivity that people wouldn’t have.”
The second thing that appealed to him about the tale was the true history of children being captured by and living with Native American tribes, then later having to learn to navigate the ways of two cultures.
“And as [Jiles] mentions, I think in either the introduction or the afterword of her book, a large majority of those children that were taken wanted to return to their Indian ways,” Hanks said. “That’s extraordinary. That speaks to the nurture versus nature argument that I think is something that we would all identify with. What would we have thought if we had been those kids? Or if we had been the parents of those kids?”
“News of the World” is directed by Paul Greengrass, who previously worked with Hanks on 2013’s “Captain Phillips.”
“When I was a boy, I grew up with Westerns,” Greengrass told Variety. “It’s a genre you see less of nowadays. But in the end, each generation explores the Western. It speaks about identity, who we are and who we want to be. I like that about it. I wanted this film, even though it’s set in 1870, to feel like our world today.”
The director said Hanks was the perfect fit for the genre.
“He sat in that landscape perfectly, with his weathered face and lines,” he said. “He has a sense of having lived life and seen things.”