Tom Hanks becomes first actor to play Walt Disney on the big screen

Mike P Williams
21 October 2013
Tom Hanks becomes first actor to play Walt Disney on the big screen
Walt Disney and P.L. Travers don't see eye-to-eye in 'Saving Mr.Banks'.

Last night saw the end of this year's 57th BFI London Film Festival. Over the past few weeks it's been littered with an array of indie, mainstream, weird and wonderful films with some absolute corkers for good measure.

The Hanks factor

Tom Hanks had the honour of opening (with the insanely tense 'Captain Phillips') and closing the film festival with the upcoming 'Saving Mr. Banks', which is due out at the end of November. With this year's fest including a show-stopping selection of films from 'Gravity', to '12 Years a Slave', to 'Blue is the Warmest Colour', it was important that the closing film was a success both in respects to the gala itself as well as in response to the movie.


Fortunately, 'Saving Mr. Banks' appeared to please a majority of the audience that attended the screening. After the press embargo lifted at 11pm last night, and after glancing at my timeline, it seemed Twitter was generally full of praise...

"@alibelle: I LOVED Saving Mr Banks. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. A wonderful way to end a great festival! #LFF"

"@Filmfan1971: Really loved Saving Mr Banks. Utterly charming. I laughed, I cried, I really wanted to rewatch Mary Poppins again afterwards. #LFF"

"@MaxRenn: Embargo is up so I can say that Saving Mr Banks is rather lovely. However anyone who says I cried like an idiot is a LIAR and I will sue"

First timer

Prior to the film, no one had actually attempted to portray the iconic name before, and Hanks seemed to relish the challenge in doing so. During his red carpet duties he said: "There had never been any manifestation of Walt Disney. The only man to have played Walt Disney before me was Walt Disney himself."

Even as a Disney production about the man who was responsible for creating the globally renowned brand, the film doesn't sugar-coat, as Hanks described the personal conflicts his character (Disney) had with 'Mary Poppins' author P.L. Travers (played by Emma Thompson). He mentions: "It is very finite, very specific confrontational scenes that I got to play with Emma (Thompson)", who went on to describe Disney as a 'ubiquitous' as he was growing up. "Walt Disney was like a combination of Smokey the Bear, the President of the United States and Elvis Presley all rolled up into one!" he exclaimed.

Objectively critiquing Walt, he went on to say: "He was a man of faults and business ... He had a degree of charm that after a while he would move on to some other way of negotiation if charm didn't work."

Hanks addressed the idea that the studio behind the film might want a very specific portrayal of their founder, but insisted that wasn't the case: "There was no preconceived notions or marching orders that we had." And he was told to 'find out what you can and play the man'.

'Saving Mr. Banks' is in UK cinemas from 29th November.

Are you looking forward to seeing Hanks' depiction of Walt Disney in 'Saving Mr. Banks'?

Mike indulges in all genres, with a particular affinity for animation -- specifically Pixar. His favourite films include 'Toy Story', 'Lost In Translation', 'The Shining' and 'Jurassic Park'. For more thoughts on movies and other such frivolity, follow him on Twitter.

More articles from Mike P Williams:

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Pixar's Toy Story of Terror preview

Star Wars references in Toy Story

Which Pixar characters deserve a spin-off?

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