Saving Mr. Banks opens nationwide today, and for the first time Disney has allowed an actor to portray Walt Disney. It’s the role of a lifetime, even for an iconic actor like Tom Hanks, and he told an audience at the Los Angeles Times’ Envelope Screening Series how he landed this plum part:
“I had all these people telling me that I was going to get a call from Bob Iger,” Hanks said. “And then one day the phone rang, and they said, ‘Yes, Bob Iger for Tom Hanks.’ And I said, ‘Yes, speaking. Go ahead and put him on.’ [And they said,] ‘One moment, please.’ ” [Hanks then hummed Iger’s hold music: “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.”]
After exchanging pleasantries, Hanks said, Iger’s pitch went something like this, taking on a mile-a-minute monotone:
“Oh, great. How are you, how are the kids, how’s lovely Rita? Give her my best, will you? … Hey, listen, Tom: If you could help us out here, we’ve got a tough position here. A movie came in based on Walt Disney — we didn’t develop it — and we feel as though we sort of have to make this thing. We can’t just let it go because somebody else would make it, and then what kind of schmucks are we that somebody else makes a Walt Disney movie? And if we just shut it down, then we’re going to come off as the evil version of Walt Disney, and we certainly don’t want that happening. So we’re in kind of a tough position here; we don’t know what really to do about it. It’s a lovely script, we’re all in favor, but if there’s any way at all you could just come in — it’d be nice if somebody famous played somebody famous. You know how that is. So if you’d take a look at it and just let me know if you’re interested in doing it, I’d really appreciate it.”
Hanks didn’t need much more convincing. “And that’s how I came to play Walt Disney,” he said.