One of Hollywood's most beloved actors, Tom Hanks, playing one of the world's most beloved legends, Walt Disney? Seems like Saving Mr. Banks should be the perfect fit! But that doesn't mean there isn't a certain amount of pressure in taking on the man who created Mickey Mouse.
"I don't want to piss anybody off. I want to be accurate, more than anything else," Tom told us last night at the L.A. premiere of American Master: Inventing David Geffen presented by the Peggy Siegal Company. "John Lee Hancock is the director, and it's really the story of Emma Thompson more than it's about me, so, you know, I don't want to screw up."
And, if you had any doubts, it appears that he isn't. "They haven't fired me, so so far so good!" he joked about filming the movie, which centers on how Mary Poppins came to the big screen (Thompson plays Poppins author P.L. Travers).
To research the role, Hanks explained, "I went up to the Disney Family Museum at the Presidio in San Francisco. At first, I just went up to meet Diane Disney, who is Walt's daughter, and some of the staff up there, but then they invited me back up again on a day it was closed.
"They just opened up all the exhibits for me, and I saw every piece of film and heard every piece of audio," he continued. "I also have like 39 hours of informal interviews. It's one thing to see him when he talks on TV but another thing to get him when he's just having a conversation."
So what has the two-time Academy Award-winning actor learned about Walt that surprised him? "He's a fascinating guy, because what we have is this benevolent animator who would introduce us to his cartoon characters," Tom revealed. "But what he was was very tough, competitive and a very loyal businessman that invented an art form that is still going great guns today. To Walt Disney, ladies and gentlemen!"
As for that mustache he's grown to channel Mr. Disney, well, it's apparently not a hit in the Hanks household. "She hates it!" Tom joked about wife Rita Wilson, who was also in attendance and stuck by her husband's side most of the night. "But it's not as bad as a few other things she's had to endure."
For the record, we happen to like it.
Conspiracy theorists, here's the part where you'll want to pay attention. There is one aspect of Disney's legacy that won't be tackled in the movie: the long-running urban legend that the animator had himself cryogenically frozen. "That's an interesting dog's tale. It's not true," Hanks shot us down before coyly adding, "At least that's what I've been told to say."