It’s a good thing Tom Hanks can’t read Japanese. He might accuse the Japanese media of quoting him out of context. In Tokyo last week for the Tokyo International Film Festival, which opened with his new film, “Captain Phillips,” Hanks and director Paul Greengrass posed on the green carpet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. When asked his impressions of Abe at a news conference the next day, Hanks joked, “Well, I’m not sure if I would vote for him, but since I’m not Japanese, the question doesn’t arise.” Sure enough, the tabloids led their stories with: “Tom Hanks says he wouldn’t vote for Abe.’’
Now 57, Hanks – who was last in Japan four years ago -- has had a busy year, going on the road to promote “Captain Phillips,” as well as producing five films. He also has four movies lined up over the next 18 months. And on top of all that, he recently announced on a TV program that he has type 2 diabetes.
In “Captain Phillips,” which is based on a true story, Hanks plays the sort of role he does best – that of an ordinary man caught up in adverse circumstances. He portrays Richard Phillips, whose cargo ship, the Maersk Alabama, was seized by Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa in 2009, looking for a big ransom. Instead, U.S. President Barack Obama dispatched two Navy SEALS to the rescue.
Hanks said he met Phillips twice to prepare for the role. “He was just a normal guy, sitting in a chair watching basketball on TV and drinking beer. He gave me the day in and day out details of captaining a big container ship, regardless of piracy and I found it fascinating.”
Director Greengrass, best known for the “The Bourne Supremacy” and “The Bourne Ultimatum,” said his challenge was to tell a true story but also make it entertaining so that it would be a rewarding experience for audiences. “We hope you’ll come out of the theater and say, ‘That was great.’”
The film, which has already generated Oscar buzz, deals with much more than just piracy. Its themes are still frequently in the news – desperate men from an impoverished country with no stable government or hopes for a future.
“There is nothing more dangerous than a young man with a gun, who has nothing to live for,” said Hanks, referring to the four Somali pirates who captured the 17,375-ton ship using only a skiff, ladder and a few guns, and then spent five days in a standoff with the U.S. Navy. “I think the film does a good job of examining why these men are there. They are not just four evil skinny boys. They are from a corrupt and desperate place, where the government structure has collapsed. From their point of view, the world has become unfair. At the same time, the film doesn’t side with the pirates. It just presents the hard facts and hopefully will help audiences understand the world a little bit better.”
As for the Oscar buzz, the two-time winner said, “Well, it would be great. You get a free tuxedo and go to lots of parties.”
In the meantime, Hanks is keeping busy with his upcoming projects. He says he has two goals – to star in a superhero movie, preferably as the arch-villain, and to star in a film adaptation of “Inferno,” the fourth book by Dan Brown in the Robert Langdon series following “The Da Vinci Code,” “Angels & Demons” and “The Lost Symbol.” Hanks, who played Langdon in the first two films, said, “I hope they get around to making the film because the book is great. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say Sony would be dopes if they don’t make the movie.”
“Captain Phillips” opens in Japan on Nov 29.© Japan Today