It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, indeed.
It looks like America’s Dad is set to play America’s Neighbor*. Variety reports that Tom Hanks will portray Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood in the biopic You Are My Neighbor.
To be directed by Marielle Heller, You Are My Neighbor will focus on the relationship between Rogers and Tom Junod, a journalist assigned to a write a piece on Rogers. At first a cynical person, Junod eventually finds a positive perspective on life through his time with Rogers, and the two become good friends.
“I’m thrilled to be making You Are My Friend,” says Heller. “The script knocked me out with its message of kindness and its exploration of the human spirit. As a mother, I am so inspired by the teachings of Fred Rogers and as a human I am in awe of his life’s work. I can’t wait to bring his story to the public and be a part of such a thoughtful, smart group of people who are all coming together to make this film, which truly feels to me like an antidote to our very fractured culture.”
For the younger readers out there, Fred Rogers was the host of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, a children’s program that ran on PBS from 1968 to 2001. Rogers passed away in 2003. Unlike most programming aimed at children, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood has a distinctly quiet and focus approach. Whether Rogers is singing “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” at the start of each episode, feeding his goldfish, or visiting the post office, he does so in quiet, welcoming voice, always speaking directly to the viewer. Rogers never talked down to the viewer; you were always addressed as his neighbor or his friend, and you felt it.
In years following his passing, many have rediscovered the warmth and care Rogers exuded his entire life. For example, Rogers testified in 1969 in order to receive greater funding for public television; citing the emotional and social impact his programming can have on children. Rogers received the funding, visibly melting the heart of the sour Subcommittee of Communications Chairman.
But perhaps one of the greatest displays of Rogers’ humanity was during his acceptance speech after earning the Daytime Emmys Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997. A humbled Rogers receives his award and asks the audience to take 10 seconds to remember the people who helped them get where they are, and who “loved them into being.” Rogers keeps time on his watch. Laughter quickly melts away into complete silence, and tears erupt from eyes. Rogers concludes by reminding everyone that those who were thought of, those who we care most about, are “the kind of people television does well to offer our world.”
In many ways Fred Rogers gave me, and generations of children, a neighbor, a friend, and a reminder that you matter. We love Mister Rogers, we love Tom Hanks, we can’t wait to see You Are My Neighbor.
*You win this time, Vanity Fair!