LOS ANGELES: Tom Hanks has bounced back from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) diagnosis he and his wife Rita Wilson received back in March, and with his newly regained health, he is excited about the successful premiere of his new film “Greyhound.” Hanks was kind enough to speak with Arab News about the film, its release and the impact COVID-19 has had on the film industry and his own life.
Set during World War II, “Greyhound” tells the story of US Naval officer Ernest Krause, played by Hanks. He embarks on his first voyage as the commander of the USS Keeling, known by it’s callsign “Greyhound”. Krouse and the Keeling are responsible for escorting 37 ships across in a dramatization of the real life events known as The Battle of the Atlantic.
“Ships were filled with absolutely everything necessary in order to fight World War II, were being attacked by German submarines, and if it was possible they would’ve sunk them all,” Hanks told us. “The war was going on and the Atlantic was a prolonged battlefield although very different from any other that existed.”
Despite the story only being inspired by true events, “Greyhound” puts historical accuracy and terminology front and center in a way that will appeal to history buffs and war movie fans alike. With the focus being on the action and the film clocking in at only around 80 minutes, character beats are few and far between. However, performances by Hanks and the rest of the cast do keep the film from feeling like a historical reenactment instead of a story.
Hanks pulled double duty on “Greyhound,” not only starring in the film, but penning the screenplay as well, making it one of only a handful of films the star has written.
“I didn’t wanna do the work,” Hanks confided in us. “I hoped somebody else would but nobody else took it on. I had a bit of a fever dream of desire in order to make it real just in order so I could enjoy the vision of the movie in my own head whether or not anybody else would share it or not.”
But after reading C. S. Forester’s 1955 novel “The Good Shepherd,” a book Hanks admitted he only picked up because he like the cover, he knew he needed to see the story adapted.
“From the very first page I started learning something that I didn’t know,” he said. “I saw it communicated in a way through the eyes and experiences of a character and as soon as I made those two connections I saw a possibility for a film that would break rules, that would be a type of film that I had never seen before.”
After six years of preparation and production, the film’s release — along with the rest of the industry — was postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic. With cinemas closed and some yet to reopen, Hanks and the production team were forced to take a look at what they intended and what was realistic.
“We made it for a (movie) theater,” said Hanks. “The reality is that that doesn’t exist right now, so we had to ask ourselves the question: ‘What’s the next best thing?’”
The answer, and where audiences can log in to watch “Greyhound,” turned out to be Apple TV+. It is unsurprising that Hanks would be able to take the change of plans in his stride given what he had already been through with COVID-19. He was one of the first public figures to catch the virus, becoming an unofficial face of the then burgeoning pandemic.
“There’s no mystery here,” Hanks said in response to questions of why he shared the news of his diagnosis. “We weren’t doing it necessarily to be altruistic. We were just saying: ‘Here’s the truth. Here’s what it is like, we don’t know anything other than from the perspective of other people coming down with it, so we will include you into whatever it is that we go through,’ because that’s what you can do on social media.”
The star joked: “On social media, people share the food they’re having night after night so we did the same thing. It just happened to be hospital food.”
Ultimately Hanks is confident that despite not being in cinemas, “Greyhound” on Apple TV+ will provide movie watchers with an immersive experience. And while he accepts and embraces the streaming market, he believes there’s no substitute for watching movies in the cinema.
“I believe that when COVID-19 has run its course and history is made, whatever that is, movie theaters will be in existence once again.”