DUBAI: What is the point of retelling a famous story if you cannot make it relevant to current audiences? So asks Hollywood actor Tom Hanks, who is excited to bring a fresh take on the “Pinocchio” story in acclaimed filmmaker Robert Zemeckis’ CGI retelling of the beloved animated tale.
“You can’t just make a real-life version of what the animated film was. It has to be deeper, and it has to have more baggage on it,” said Hanks in a conversation with Disney, shared exclusively with Arab News ahead of the film’s worldwide premiere on Disney+ Day on the streaming platform on Sept. 8.
“These great classics have a chance to not just be updated, but I think to perhaps reflect the different times,” the Academy Award-winning star added.
Hanks plays Geppetto, the middle-aged woodcarver who makes Pinocchio and then adopts him when he magically comes to life.
The actor was especially keen to take on the role when he heard that Zemeckis had plans to bring the story to life. “I said (to Zemeckis), ‘if you don’t have a Geppetto, and you can withstand doing something with me, let me know.’ But Bob is one of these filmmakers who cannot do something that has been done before.
“I said, ‘why don’t we just do this, Bob?’ And he said, ‘well, anybody could do that.’ He always has to do something where he can monkey around with the creative process of doing it, and he’s never not challenged me with some sort of task that is brand new to the filmmaking process — no small amount of which was how Pinocchio himself was going to be in this movie. So I came to it because of the idea of Bob,” said the 66-year-old actor.
When asked for his thoughts on why “Pinocchio” remains such a classic, even though the first iteration hit the big screens in 1940, Hanks attributes it to the story’s darker elements as well as the artistry of the Disney animation team at the time.
“Walt (Disney) understood that the dark aspects of fairy tales are very important to the storytelling apparatus that greets both young people and old people. It’s part of the descent into Hades that a hero has to go through, and Pinocchio does. So it was a deep throw for the world in (the) 1940s and matched then with the one-of-a-kind, never-before-seen artistry of the Disney studio and the Disney artists. I do think from a visual perspective and sequences-wise, ‘Pinocchio’ was his masterpiece.”
On bringing his own twist to a well-known character, Hanks said: “Bob and I talked about the fact that Geppetto’s a happy man, but there’s been loss in his life. He’s missed out on the joys of being alive, of having a family. Did he have one long ago in the past? Yeah. But how long ago was that and how and how tragic was the loss?
“The truth is, Geppetto’s older. He’s well past middle age. So we talked about the idea that he’s been alone on his own, servicing other people and delighting other people with his handicrafts for, what, two and a half decades? That is an awful long time to have no company for breakfast and dinner except a cat and a goldfish. The yearning of Geppetto, wanting to be a part of something bigger than himself, a part of a family, that was the whole bit.”
But working with Zemeckis can also be quite the challenge, even for a seasoned star like Hanks, who collaborated with the director on career-defining and classic films like “Forrest Gump” and “Cast Away.”
Hanks said: “Bob’s a fabulous challenge and part of it is hilarious, but also part of it is like, do you know what you’re going to do?
“There’s always the requirements for what are going to be the special effects that you can’t even keep your head straight on what’s going to be needed. And then comes that moment on a Bob movie where he says, ‘okay, here’s what you have to imagine.’ And the things you have to imagine are so complex that it’s a stretch for the acting process, the performance process.
“I had to do some things on this as Geppetto in which I wasn’t even remotely doing anything close to it, and yet I had to pretend. I learned long ago working with Bob that, unless you're extremely well versed in the technological things that are going to happen after the fact, it can really screw you up.”