Hanks on COVID, ‘Grey­hound’ and adopt­ing wartime men­tal­ity

Miami Herald - - Sports - BY JAKE COYLE Associated Press

NEW YORK

Since con­tract­ing COVID-19 in March, Tom Hanks has been, by most mea­sures, busy. He and his wife, Rita Wil­son, flew home af­ter re­cu­per­at­ing in Aus­tralia, where he had been shoot­ing Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis Pres­ley film. He hosted a from-home episode of “Satur­day Night Live,” an al­ready dis­tant enough mem­ory that it takes a beat for him to re­mem­ber it. And he saw his new World War II naval drama “Grey­hound” steered from the­atri­cal re­lease by Sony Pic­tures to Ap­ple TV+ – the stream­ing ser­vice’s big­gest movie yet.

But he’s mostly been tak­ing it day by day. “There’s sort of an on­go­ing phys­i­o­log­i­cal main­te­nance for your brain and for your body that we’ve been fol­low­ing through,” Hanks says, speak­ing by video con­fer­ence from his home in Cal­i­for­nia. “What can you do but try to bind up the hay in neat lit­tle bun­dles? That’s what we’ve been do­ing. Just go­ing into the barn with the bal­ing ma­chine, say­ing, ‘Well, we got all this hay. Let’s at least stack it up and get it ready for the next day.”

For many, Hanks’ con­trac­tion of COVID-19 was the first loud alarm bell that went off in the early days of the pan­demic. If “Amer­ica’s Dad” could get it, so could any­one. The de­ci­sion to go pub­lic with their di­ag­noses, Hanks said in a re­cent in­ter­view, was twofold. He didn’t want any ru­mors about why the pro­duc­tion was shut down. And if he was go­ing to serve as an over­due pub­lic ser­vice an­nounce­ment, so be it.

“Why hide from the facts?” he says. “Th­ese were the facts.”

The ordeal, one ex­pe­ri­enced with vary­ing sever­ity and symp­toms be­tween Hanks and Wil­son, gave him a per­spec­tive on dif­fer­ing na­tional re­sponses to the coro­n­avirus. The com­par­i­son with Aus­tralia, Hanks grants, isn’t a fa­vor­able one for the United States. But he says, there’s no need for “an­other dump truck to un­load all the things that have gone wrong” in the U.S.

“Here we are. And let’s just all do our part, eh?” says Hanks. “Can we not all just wear a mask and so­cial dis­tance and wash our hands? It sounds pretty sim­ple to me, and if you have a prob­lem with that, I cer­tainly wouldn’t trust you with a driver’s li­cense. Chances are you’ll drive as fast as you want to, never use your turn sig­nal and aim for pedes­tri­ans.”

Be­fore the pan­demic, “Grey­hound” was go­ing to hit the­aters in early June, smack in be­tween “Won­der Wo­man 1984” and “Top Gun 2.” “We were go­ing to fight like the scrappy runt of a lit­ter in or­der to get some­body to pay at­ten­tion to us,” says Hanks, chuck­ling.

Now, “Grey­hound” will head straight into homes as a mar­quee event with lit­tle com­pe­ti­tion of sim­i­lar scale or star power. A Tom Hanks-led, spe­cial ef­fects-laden WWII movie is a weight class above most straight-tostream­ing op­tions in this strange sum­mer movie sea­son. Dis­ney+ has “Hamil­ton,” but Ap­ple TV+ has Hanks.

The film, made for about $40 mil­lion and ac­quired by Ap­ple for a reported $70 mil­lion, is a taut 88-minute naval drama about a lesserseen theater of WWII, the Bat­tle of the At­lantic. Hanks’ char­ac­ter is a hum­ble cap­tain for the first time shep­herd­ing a con­voy of boats across the At­lantic, guard­ing them from at­tack­ing Ger­man U-boats while travers­ing the “black pit” — the mid­dle ocean ter­ri­tory bereft of air sup­port. All heavy waves, faint sonar blips and eva­sive ma­neu­vers, the film takes on al­most myth­i­cal qual­i­ties.

“When ev­ery­thing went kablooey, we be­gan to imag­ine: ‘Well, we have this movie about the sta­sis of char­ac­ters in the mid­dle of some­thing of which they have no idea how long it’s go­ing to last,’“says Hanks. “We didn’t ex­pect a world­wide pan­demic to mir­ror the theme and the ac­tion of the movie.”

“This is just about yes­ter­day, to­day and to­mor­row,” Hanks says. “Those three days are pretty much all hu­man­ity has.”

“Grey­hound” has long been a pet project for the 63-year-old ac­tor. He wrote the script, adapted from C.S. Forester’s 1955 novel “The Good Shep­herd,” a book given to him by his late friend and “Sleep­less in Seattle” di­rec­tor Nora Ephron.

“It just stuck with him,” says Gary Goet­z­man, Hanks’ pro­duc­ing part­ner and co-founder of their com­pany, Play­tone. “As hap­pens with him, he’ll ru­mi­nate about a cer­tain idea, it goes in his blender, and one day he just put a script on my desk and very much wanted to make it.”

Hanks had ap­proached others to write it and met with other film­mak­ers. But they tended to en­vi­sion a grander ver­sion of the film.

“I said, ‘I love you so much but that’s not the point of what we’re try­ing to do,’” Hanks says. “We’re try­ing to con­dense this. We’re try­ing to get as much cof­fee in the can.”

In­stead, he found a di­rec­tor in Aaron Sch­nei­der, a vet­eran cin­e­matog­ra­pher who last helmed 2010’s “Get Low,” with Robert Du­vall.

“Tom al­ways called it ‘the per­fect lit­tle 90minute movie,’” Sch­nei­der says.

Ap­ple TV+/AP

Tom Hanks stars in the World War II naval drama ‘Grey­hound.’

Tom Hanks

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