Paul Greengrass on reuniting with Tom Hanks in News of the World
“It’s right up there with his finest work," Greengrass says of his News of the World star.
It’s tough to imagine a more comforting pop culture promise than a Tom Hanks movie on Christmas Day. In News of the World, the two-time Oscar winner stars in his first-ever Western as a post-Civil War captain who’s fallen on hard times, traveling from town to town putting on a one-man show giving news updates for dispossessed, lonely locals. When a 10-year-old German girl is rescued after being taken by a Native American tribe, Hanks’ Jefferson Kyle Kidd agrees to embark on a perilous expedition to return the child to her family.
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“It’s a moving story as they traverse South Texas, which at the time was roiling with tension and danger and unresolved conflict,” says director Paul Greengrass. “The journey becomes a search for belonging for both of them.”
Greengrass is a rather unlikely director for the project, having previously focused on edgy contemporary action films such as the Bourne franchise and docu-thrillers like United 93. But a change in pace is precisely why the 65-year-old Englishman wanted to try his hand at a Western. “I wanted to do something that felt different, but still felt like me,” says Greengrass, who strove to give the well-worn genre a more contemporary feel.
Greengrass previously directed Hanks in Captain Phillips, and he believes the actor’s News performance could earn him a third Oscar statue for his mantel, following his wins for 1993’s Philadelphia and 1994’s Forrest Gump. “It’s right up there with his finest work; I believed him from his very first scene,” Greengrass says. “He also surprised me with how superb he was on a horse.”
It’s perhaps appropriate that this unprecedented year for Hollywood, and the world, should conclude with a rousing film starring a COVID-19 survivor.
“The film feels eerily prescient,” Greengrass says. “Because we’re all searching for better days to come, aren’t we?”
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