Veteran actor Tom Hanks is gearing up for the release of his new western drama, News of the World, directed by Paul Greengrass. While westerns were all the rage at one point, their popularity has receded in recent years. In an interview, Hanks described his new film as "The Mandalorian without lightsabers,", and explained how the concept of a western has not fallen out of favor with audiences, but simply evolved to have a sci-fi aesthetic, thanks to George Lucas' Star Wars franchise.
"Nobody makes westerns; it's as simple as that. I mean, if you want to look at the business, I know of westerns that have been made that had absolutely no international distribution deals because it just felt their audiences don't relate to westerns. The idea of a western, the genre of the western, kind of like the storytelling device, if you took John Ford, well, now John Ford has been Lucas-ized, George Lucas. The science fiction movie has really taken the concept of the western away. Blasters and lightsabers instead of bows and arrows and six guns. Snow speeders, as opposed to horses. That's not a bad thing. That's just the way cinema works."
News of the World is based on the 2016 novel of the same name by Paulette Jiles. The film tells the story of a widowed Civil War veteran, played by Hanks, who agrees to deliver a girl, played by Helena Zengel, taken by the Kiowa people years ago, to her aunt and uncle. What makes the situation extra complicated is the fact that the girl wishes to stay with her captors.
As the two embark on their journey, they encounter a variety of challenges and meet people from different parts of the Old West. On the face of it, the premise does seem similar to The Mandalorian, with Hanks and Zengel playing the parts of Mando and Baby Yoda. This is the first time that Hanks will be seen in a western. According to the actor, his previous absence from the genre was not due to some personal dislike of westerns, but simply a lack of interesting scripts that would compel him to put on a cowboy hat.
"It's like, 'How come you haven't made a Western?' People can say, 'I'd really like to make a western' in the same way they'd say 'I'd really like to make a movie about Irish coal miners.' But unless a story about Irish coal miners is actually going to have some import, or impact there's no reason to make it. Likewise, there is no reason to make a Western just because you get to wear comfortable clothes and a hat. It has to be about something that's bigger than just the film or the style of the film."