Tom Hanks accepted role of church minister TV star because it offered a positive alternative to cynicism

Tom Hanks dressed as Mr. Rogers on the set of "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood."(Photo: TriStar Pictures)

Tom Hanks says cynicism is one of the reasons why he decided to take on the role of American children's TV icon Fred Rogers in his new movie, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

The critics have praised Hanks' portrayal of the mild-mannered Mr Rogers in the movie, which had its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival on Saturday ahead of its US debut on Thanksgiving. 

Mr Rogers, who died in 2003, was a Presbyterian church minister who entertained generations of American children with his TV show, Mister Roger's Neighborhood

Speaking to reporters about why the role appealed to him, Hanks said: "Cynicism has become the default position for so much of daily structure and daily intercourse.

"Why? Because it's easy, and there's good money to be made."

He added: "Cynicism is a great product to sell, and it's the perfect beginning of any examination of anything. And part of that is conspiracy theories and what have you."

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, directed by Marielle Heller, focuses on Mr Rogers' friendship with journalist Tom Junod. 

The pair formed a deep bond after Junod conducted a series of interviews with Mr Rogers for a profile piece he wrote on him for Esquire magazine. 

In the movie, Junod displays a journalistic cyncism himself when he first takes on the assignment, only to find that his life perspective is radically changed through his encounter with the kind-hearted presenter.

Commenting further on Mr Rogers, Hanks said the TV icon's message was appealing precisely because it wasn't cynical. 

"But I think when Fred Rogers first saw children's programming, he saw something that was cynical, and why would you put something that is cynical in front of a two or three-year-old kid? That you are not cool because you don't have this toy? That it's funny to see someone being bopped on the head?" he said.

"That's a cynical treatment of the audience, and we have become so inured to that, that when we are met with as simple a message as 'Hey you know what, it's a beautiful day in the neighbourhood!' we get slapped a little bit. We are allowed, I think, to feel good. There's a place for cynicism, but why begin with it right off the bat?"

In its review, Variety magazine said Hanks "isn't just good — he's transporting".

"He takes on Mister Rogers' legendary mannerisms and owns them, using them as a conduit to Rogers' disarming inner spirit. He makes you believe in this too-nice-for-words man who is all about believing," it said. 

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood releases to UK cinemas on December 6.