One of America’s most beloved entertainers is set to portray a fellow beloved entertainer. In the biopic You Are My Friend, Tom Hanks will play the late Fred Rogers, the musician, puppeteer, writer, producer, and Presbyterian minister. Rogers was best known for hosting the educational TV series Mister Rogers’ Neighbourhood, which ran from 1968 to 2001.
Rogers was born in 1928 and died in 2003. He graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, and got into television because he wanted to create wholesome, educational entertainment. "I went into television because I hated it so, and I thought there's some way of using this fabulous instrument to nurture those who would watch and listen,” Rogers said in an interview with CNN.
Left: Mister Rogers on the cover of Esquire Right: Journalist Tom Junod
You Are My Friend centres around the unlikely friendship between Rogers and journalist Tom Junod. The world-weary Junod reluctantly takes on an assignment to cover Rogers for Esquire magazine, and as he interacts with the TV personality, finds his outlook on life gradually transformed.
Director Marielle Heller
The film will be directed by Marielle Heller (Diary of a Teenage Girl) from a screenplay by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster. The screenplay first appeared on the 2013 Black List of most-liked unproduced scripts circulating in Hollywood. Fitzerman-Blue and Harpster have written for the Amazon series Transparent; Heller has directed episodes of the show.
Heller said she gravitated to the screenplay’s “message of kindness and its exploration of the human spirit.” She added that she hopes the film will be “an antidote to our very fractured culture.”
Mister Rogers' red sweater on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History
Hanks, no stranger to biopics, has portrayed real people including Walt Disney, Sully Sullenberger, and recently Ben Bradlee in The Post. Hanks is currently working on the WWII drama Greyhound, which he also wrote.
No release date has been set for You Are My Friend, but production is expected to begin this September.