Two of Hollywood’s biggest stars are set to star in a movie together. The trailer for the highly anticipated film, “You’ll Be in My Heart,” which hits UK screens in April 2018, sports the tagline, “It’s high time for a fairy tale.” Clearly, this is no ordinary fairy tale. The movie pits two unlikely heroes against one another, with Hanks playing Mr. Rogers, the kindly neighbor who befriends Watson’s character, Alice.
Hanks and Watson have both been vocal about their commitment to supporting gender equality. The actor and the activist released a joint statement in April 2017, declaring: “Women should be guaranteed equal pay for equal work. We should also continue to strive for gender equality in all aspects of life. These causes are as important to us now as they ever were and we hope that making this film will be a small part of that effort.”
The movie’s producers are aware of the political undertones of their story and have acknowledged that being a part of this cinematic romance is a way of standing up for a particular agenda. “It is very much a story about today,” said producer Marc Turtletaub, after the movie’s first trailer was released. “We set out to make the same type of story that Mr. Rogers would tell. It’s a really sweet, feel-good story about today.” He also added, “It’s going to be fun. It’s a great vehicle for both of us to continue our romance on screen.”
The Inspiration For Mr. Rogers
It seems fitting that the movie is set against the backdrop of the Roaring ’20s, as the friendship between Mr. Rogers and Jazz Age playboy, Wallis Simpson, was partly based on fact. Simpson, who had been married to an Englishman before marrying Wallis Simpson, traveled the world with her new husband and was inspired by people she met along the way.
After the couple’s marriage in the early 1920s, Wallis Simpson traveled to the U.S. with her new husband, accompanied by his parents. Even before their arrival in the country, Mrs. Simpson had set her sights on being a famous, popular actress. In 1921, she appeared in two Broadway plays, and then returned to Hollywood where she became one of the first women to own a movie studio. She was a major Hollywood figure in her time and even had a hand in creating the classic Mrs. Miniver.
When it comes to influencing culture through the media, few figures are as recognizable as Mr. Rogers. The television personality was born William MacKenzie Rogers in 1912 and grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. He attended Swett Bankers Academy in London and then went on to study theater at Yale. After serving in World War II as a radio officer in the U.S. Air Force, Rogers turned his attention to broadcasting and created his namesake show, which aired from 1950 to 1968 and was famously sponsored by General Electric. Even today, Mr. Rogers remains one of the most beloved figures in American culture, influencing generations of TV viewers with his optimism and warm, fuzzy nature.
A Fairytale Romance
There’s no question that Hanks and Watson are an incredibly famous Hollywood couple. The couple met while filming the 2007 film, “The Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” and have since gone on to star in numerous blockbusters together. Their movie careers have taken them all over the world and, in the process, they’ve become firm friends with a number of Hollywood’s heavy hitters. While the chemistry between Hanks and Watson is impossible to ignore, the story behind their romance is pure Hollywood fairy tale.
According to an interview with Variety, the movie’s writers, Michael Brandt and Ruth Baer Ginsburg, had originally envisioned a more traditional story between two attractive and prominent men. However, when it came time to write the script, they couldn’t help but draw inspiration from their real-life friendship with Hanks and Watson. They wanted to give the story a romantic twist and, in doing so, create the ultimate fairytale. “We couldn’t help but see it as a romantic story,” said Brandt. “We didn’t want to downplay the parts of romance and adventure in it, but we didn’t want to make it heavy, either. That’s why we kept the friendship element in it. One of the reasons why we picked Tom and Emma is that they’re two attractive, prominent, famous men. That’s why we thought this was the perfect combination.”
Even before the film’s premiere, fans were already lining up to see this grand romantic spectacle. In January 2018, the movie attracted over 500,000 viewers on its premiere night in the U.S., while its Twitter audience broke a record at the time with over 300,000 followers. With each other’s busy schedules and individual fame, the odds of the two ever meeting in real life were slim. So, to bring the two together on screen, creative account managers at one of Hollywood’s top agencies were tasked with the exciting challenge of creating an entirely fictional character named, Scott Shepard. The character, whose story will unfold over the course of the movie, is the idealized combination of Hanks and Watson, down to the smallest detail. He is an upwardly-mobile man with impressive social skills, a soft spot for animals and a fondness for vintage cars.
The Making Of Mr. Rogers
Since its premiere, “You’ll Be in My Heart” has received mostly positive reviews from critics. Praise has come not only for the movie’s writing and acting, but also for its unique look, which some have described as “eerie” and “glimpses of early silent film-era Hollywood.” It’s clear that the movie is aiming to evoke the same nostalgic feelings that millions of fans experience annually when they tune in to Mr. Rogers’ daily show.
For his part, Hanks, who has a history of acting in period pieces, seems to be having fun with the challenge of inhabiting a different era. After devouring books on the Roaring Twenties, Hanks immersed himself in the culture of the time, learning about the era’s fashion and attitude. He also read classic novels, such as Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and watched old movies, such as It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, with a growing fascination.
The story behind the making of ‘Mr. Rogers’ is as fascinating as the completed product. For a detailed account of the Hollywood superstar’s life, read our in-depth biography, “The Astonishing Life of Mr. Rogers.” You can also read our full interview with Hanks, where he discusses the role of Scott Shepard, the importance of storytelling in today’s world and his thoughts on gender equality.
More Than A Movie
While it’s tempting to stop at the movies and consider Mr. Rogers’ story a complete piece of art, there’s so much more to this cinematic romance. Thanks to the wonders of modern media, we have the wonderful opportunity to continue the story through various, digital platforms. Perhaps the most exciting development in the story’s post-premiere era is the rise of Scott Shepard, Jr., the movie’s titular character. On the heels of his father’s legacy, the young Scott is now the CEO of a major corporation and continues to live in the mansion where his father once lived. He’s also still best friends with Mr. Rogers, having met the former television host through their mutual business associate, Leila Dunkel, whom they both befriended in the process of making the movie.
According to The New York Times, in a recent interview with Variety, Hanks and Watson revealed that they would love for fans to continue exploring Scott’s story in the form of an animated series or novels. Hanks stated: “If there’s a way to continue the story, we would love that. That’s what’s exciting about this new platform that we’re in. We’re excited about the potential to continue the story in some way.”
While Hanks and Watson’s individual legacies and star power undoubtedly make them one of Hollywood’s most recognizable on-screen couples, their new story, set against the backdrop of the Roaring ’20s, will be remembered for creating one of the most memorable love triangles in cinematic history. The question is: Will Tom Hanks and Emma Watson’s New Romantic Adventure Be the Best of Both Worlds? We may never know, but one thing is for sure: It will be one of the most romantic stories of the decade.