There could not be a more pleasant actor than Tom Hanks. The mere mention of his name evokes feelings of warmth and comfort, whether we’re considering Hanks in real life — as “the nicest guy in Hollywood” and “America’s Dad” — or on the big screen.
These days, he’s even been increasingly filling roles that fit his renowned disposition, with his latest being no different. Collider has the scoop that Hanks is in early negotiations to star in Paul King‘s live-action remake of Disney’s Pinocchio. Specifically, he is up for the role of Geppetto, the earnest woodcarver and “father” of the eponymous puppet.
The Disneyfied version of Carlo Collodi’s children’s story The Adventures of Pinocchio is definitely more heartwarming than its creepier source material (in which the puppet in question is unquestionably naughty). However, it is a classic, whimsical depiction of coming of age that has lessons worth learning.
Pinocchio is a living puppet spawned from the lonely Geppetto’s wish of having a son. When the kindly Blue Fairy decides to bring the puppet to life, a stipulation remains that Pinocchio must figure out what it means to be a real boy, kickstarting an epic odyssey of self-discovery alongside his father and Jiminy Cricket, who acts as Pinocchio’s conscience. Still, trouble awaits for the naive boy as he learns exactly what it means to be truthful, responsible, and accountable for his actions.
While the film clearly centers on Pinocchio’s deeply personal journey towards affirming his identity and finding family, hardly any of it would be possible without Geppetto, whose huge heart, sweetness, and steadfastness all underpins the proceedings.
The character exudes a sense of unconventionality and wistfulness personality-wise, which is exhibited by his work as a creative carver. Moreover, when Geppetto’s wish for a son is unexpectedly granted, he can then very much be characterized by his sheer dedication, honesty, and generosity to Pinocchio, proving to be the boy’s ideal role model.
So, if the charming, fatherly Geppetto doesn’t sound like a quintessential Hanks character, I don’t know what does. It simply makes sense that Pinocchio’s dad would be played by Hollywood’s collective onscreen paternal figure. Or best friend, depending on the person he’s playing, because Hanks’ decidedly congenial role choices just make him so damn approachable either way.
Sifting through my own earliest memories of watching movies in general, Toy Story was a hugely formative experience of my childhood years. That film specifically sets up its narrative with a young kid playing with his trusty toy cowboy and as a kid who loved dolls and action figures, too, consider me sold.
Throw in Randy Newman’s iconic “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” overlaying that dizzyingly uplifting footage of Andy and Woody, and the process of correlating the latter — and Hanks as his voice actor — to the lyrics of that song was immediate, too.
When I finally moved on to watching the likes of Saving Private Ryan, Forrest Gump, and even nonsense like those Robert Langdon films, the trust that Hanks’ onscreen persona had initially inspired still continued to carry through spectacularly.
It’s true that not all of his movies have been consistent in quality, but Hanks’ performances tend to be noteworthy thanks to his natural grasp of a wide range of human emotions.
To name a few, Hanks has starred in unnerving films (Road to Perdition), goofy flicks (Big), epic blockbusters (Apollo 13), and simple romantic-comedies (You’ve Got Mail). This tiny sliver of his decades-long career already demonstrates his true versatility as an actor without him having to sacrifice his characteristic relatability.
That’s because Hanks is just never removed from whichever role he elects to portray. It’s impossible to be completely at ease with all of his characters or their choices, but I, at least, am inclined to believe in them because there are inflections of real empathy throughout Hanks’ work.
Hence, it’s easy to believe in his version of Walt Disney, no matter how sugarcoated Saving Mr. Banks really is in terms of historical accuracy. Hanks is able to depict a commanding enterprising spirit whose family-driven values retain enough hints of a dark edge to convince us of a layered character. Nevertheless, he is entertaining, memorable, and totally charming.
With Hanks’ take on Fred Rogers, that amiability is what I’m banking on the most as well. He already absolutely looks the part for Marielle Heller’s refined biopic chronicling the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood star’s relationship with Esquire reporter Tom Junod. But really, that gentleness and commitment to a greater good are what the TV personality and Hanks have in common.
Hanks’ unwavering grasp on a fickle and unpredictable Hollywood has lasted almost 40 years, and in that time, he’s managed to build a brand that makes him the perfect choice for certain roles. I can’t imagine anyone else having the right spirit and ability to bring Disney, Rogers, and now Geppetto to life.
Disney’s Pinocchio is currently in the throes of development and aims to begin production in the summer of 2019, but there is currently no release date set.