As we wait for its official release this winter, director Marielle Heller recently shed some light on her upcoming movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Starring Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers, some new images of the actor in the role have also been released. One photo reveals Hanks as Rogers on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, holding the hand puppet known as Daniel Tiger. Another image shows Hanks and Heller shooting on a set designed to look like the one Rogers used for his TV program. The pictures are so convincing that at first glance, you could easily swear you were looking at Fred Rogers himself.
Needless to say, Heller has gone to great lengths to show as much respect as possible for Fred Rogers and his show. This includes filming the Mister Rogers' Neighborhood recreation scenes in the very same studio the original series was made, with many of the same members of the production staff. Many authentic items from the show were also used as props for the new movie, according to Heller. "We recreated Mr. McFeely's costume, but his bag is the original," Heller explains in the interview. "Every tie [Hanks] wears is a real tie of Fred's. Joanne, his wife, gave us access to his closet and was like, 'Take this stuff, please! I don't know what to do with it!'"
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood features Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers in a prominent role, but it's not a straight-up biopic. The story follows Matthew Rhys (The Americans) as an award-winning cynical journalist inspired by Tom Junod. When he accepts an assignment to write an Esquire profile piece on Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, the writer's life is completely transformed for the better after getting to know the legendary children's entertainer. Although not a Fred Rogers biopic, the movie appears to be aiming for the most authentic portrayal of Rogers as humanly possible.
This isn't the only movie about Mister Rogers to recently shine a spotlight at the legendary TV personality once again. Last year, filmmaker Morgan Neville explored Rogers' life and legacy in the documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor?. The intimate look back at everything Rogers had done to make the world a better place is such a tear-jerker that filmgoers were given tissues at the movie's film festival screenings. The movie was met with immense critical acclaim and universal praise, scoring a 98% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. After grossing $22 million, the movie became the highest-grossing biographical documentary of all time. Rogers might have died in 2003, but he remains just as beloved as he's ever been.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is set to hit theaters everywhere on Nov. 22, 2019. Nobody can ever replace the original Fred Rogers, but this upcoming portrayal by Tom Hanks will probably be the closest we'll ever see somebody come to doing so. Something tells me the real Mr. Rogers would be proud. You can read director Marielle Heller's interview about the movie at Entertainment Weekly.