The slogan of the poster entitled A man named Ottocomedy drama starring Tom Hanks, is “Fall in Love with the Grumpiest Man in America.”
Suffice to say, Hanks plays against type in the new Americanized adaptation of Fredrik Backman’s 2012 bestseller A man named Ove, which was also featured in the 2015 Oscar-nominated Swedish film of the same name. Because if the beloved 66-year-old actor has his own tagline in real life, it’s “America’s Dad.”
“In fact, they’re both the same, my friend, grumpy dad,” laughs Hanks in a new interview with Yahoo Entertainment.
In this version, Otto Anderson, played by Hanks, is a recently retired engineer who runs his Pittsburgh branch with an iron fist – and lives in a constant state of grumpy exasperation, especially when it comes to his friendly but rule-breakers neighbors. (By a funny coincidence, Hanks has now impersonated perhaps the happiest man in Pittsburgh, the famous children’s television presenter Fred Rogers, in A beautiful day in the areaand the most grumpy.)
“I’d say Otto is the most beautiful man,” says Hanks, who also produced the film with his wife Rita Wilson. “A guy who knows what’s right, the most just man. He knows you can’t park here [somewhere], you know? Sometimes it’s good to know that it’s important knowledge… It’s just the right thing to do, it’s acceptance of the rules, and the rules are in place to give everyone a fair shake. Now as a dad, I try to pass it on, but I guess I just sound grumpy to all my kids.
Hanks’ associates were delighted to work with the Oscar-winning actor, even if for Mariana Treviño and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo it meant being on the other end of Otto’s wrath for much of the film. The actors play Mexican-American parents with two young children and another on the way who move across the street from Otto and are not put off by his argumentative nature. (In the film’s heaviest plot, they also inadvertently thwart Otto’s repeated suicide attempts, who is shaken by the recent death of his wife.)
“It was totally surreal,” says Treviño, a revelation in the film as Marisol’s energetic “mother bear”. “And to see up close how he manages despite all the grumpiness he projects, to see his core, the vulnerability he worked from, the pain. It cuts through the grump and we could see and feel that during filming. And that was really enriching.”
This was the second time Garcia-Rulfo has worked with Hanks, after 2020 Greyhound.
“He’s crazy, just amazing,” says the actor. “His professionalism is insane. I’ve never worked with someone who has such presence, such humility and openness to everyone on set, the whole crew, all the actors. I learned a lot from him about how actors should work on set.”
Hanks has made life easier for his director, Marc Forster, who knows a thing or two about adapting blockbuster novels (Prisoner with a kite, World War Z) Himself.
“I couldn’t have made this film without Tom Hanks,” he says. “Tom is so well prepared, he is so nice. He is always thinking and very sensitive to all the choices he makes as an actor. He’s like someone who plays an amazing instrument. It’s like playing with the best violinist in the world… He covers almost everything. It’s not better.
So how much Otto Anderson is in Tom Hanks?
There is an irritating pet that Hanks will say drives him to Otto-level corruption.
“Oh, let’s just talk about people who don’t use turn signals in front of you,” he complains. “Suddenly, the car slows down and slows down for reasons you don’t understand, and then it literally stops. What if they had just turned on the right turn signal [indicate] looking for a place to park or pulling into that driveway, it’s fine. But when they don’t, everything is difficult. So yes, I have it.
Feel free to tell the next person who does it before you on the road that Tom Hanks wouldn’t be happy.
“Let them know that America’s grumpiest dad is disappointed in them,” he says. “Then see what happens.”
A man named Otto opens in theaters on Friday.
Watch the trailer: