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'I'm actually a storyteller'


In an email interview, actor-director Tom Hanks tells TOI-Crest about his recent release, Larry Crowne

You return to direction after a very long gap with Larry Crowne. What drew you to this project?

I want to make a movie that's going to surprise people. I don't want to see escapist fare. I don't want to see dream-factory wish-fulfilment films about if you work hard, your dreams will come true. I want to see movies about human beings, adults who have gone through bitter compromise and are, in a glamorous and yet realistic fashion, living up to the challenges that the world presents to them. I think that's what Larry Crowne is. Both That Thing You Do and this film, took a long time to develop. It just percolates in your head until you get to the point where you say to yourself, "I don't want to give this up. I don't want to give this over to anybody else."

I'm not a director, at the end of the day. I'm a storyteller now, and I run a company and I can direct, but instinctively I'm an actor and that's where I went in the 15 years between That Thing You Do and Larry Crowne.

Was convincing Julia Roberts to act easy?

Julia plays Mercy Tainot - funny, wicked intelligent, driven and not one to suffer fools at all. But make no mistake in Julia's ability to find what is funny in a scene smack up against what is authentic. There was never anyone but Julia. Still, even after she said yes, I was the boss. That meant I got to say, "You don't wear this dress, you wear that dress." And Julia's Julia - she can be intimidating.

You seem to appear in fewer and fewer films these days. Why are you being so selective?

I still have the same amount of enthusiasm and fun. The day before we start shooting a movie, I can't sleep because I'm so excited about getting to do it, no matter what the movie is about - whether it's Road to Perdition, Green Mile or Apollo 13. I still can't wait to get up and do it. I'm a little slower, a little older and a little heavier now, but I still have that enthusiastic boyish smile.

Toy Story is a hugely popular franchise here with the Indian audience. Are you aware of this?

I don't usually do sequels but Toy Story is so good I would come back for more. Working on the first Toy Story back in 1995 was something else. There are people watching you and listening to every word you say from the directors' booth and they look like a panel of judges in the East German Olympics. I'm saying the same things over and over. I had to get into this quasi-hypnotic state of delirium, imagining I'm in this other place. I've made movies where I carried guys through the jungle but I was more tired after Toy Story than I was at the end of those days. I've generally stayed away from sequels, but Toy Story has been special. There was more than one Sherlock Holmes and Star Trek and Mission Impossible keep coming back. I say, Toy Story 4? Bring it on. I'll sign up!

I'm told you wanted to be an astronaut?

I had always wanted to become an astronaut before I started acting.

What do you know about Bollywood films? Do they intrigue you?

Have heard few names. But I know of Omi. . . You guys call him Om Puri, I guess. We worked together in Charlie Wilson's War. He played a Pakistani president - Zia Haq. But what a character, man! Omi is a fabulous actor, I must say. If I get an opportunity to venture into such a project, I will seriously think about it.

Julia has seen India and even shot a film here. Will you ever take an Indian vacation, and if so which are places you would like to visit?

I have heard quite a lot about India. I can't really be specific on when I visit as we have such hectic schedules and we hardly get time to make pleasure trips.

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