Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts Talk Larry Crowne, Career Lows, and the Bosom Buddies Reunion That Almost Was
This summer's most unlikely super hero may well be Tom Hanks' titular everyman in Larry Crowne, an unsinkable Navy veteran who loses his job and decides to bounce back by going to college. Star Hanks, who co-writes and directs for the first time since 1996's That Thing You Do!, was taken by the idea of a tale about re-invention, loss, and bouncing back, and reminisced with co-star Julia Roberts about the moment in his life when things looked so dire he wasn't sure a Hollywood career was in the cards.
"There is a time, I'm guessing for both of us, when we we're living in the Valley in a house that we cannot afford, we have been fired from the job that we have and it's now been 13 months since you worked in the city and the phone is still not yet ringing," Hanks recalled Friday in Los Angeles. "And you wonder if, in fact, you're gonna take the job at the Der Wienerschnitzel on Laurel Canyon. When you have that moment, it never quite goes away."
"I had the Manhattan version of that," added Roberts, reflecting on her early job selling sneakers in New York City. "Not the Valley, but... [at] Athlete's Foot."
Hanks co-wrote Larry Crowne with filmmaker Nia Vardalos, crafting a romantic comedy for grown-ups that, he admits, isn't exactly traditional summer movie fare. The film, which co-stars Pam Grier, Wilmer Valderrama, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Cedric the Entertainer, Taraji P. Henson, and Bryan Cranston, opens July 1 opposite Michael Bay's juggernaut blockbuster sequel Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Hanks hopes his optimistic character piece, presciently timed during the nation's recession woes, can give the big boys a run for their money.
"How do we compete in the marketplace? Forgive me, I haven't the slightest f***ing idea," Hanks said. "It's gonna be interesting because you know, we say, 'Here we are in the summer,' but it's not the summer -- it's year-round! The nature of the movies is different than it was five years ago, and they're all driven by the possibilities of CGI, which means you can make anything happen on screen that you can possibly desire."
"That's a great brand of freedom that is given over to the filmmaker," he continued, "but when you are going to try to have people talk in a room and actually reflect life as we know it and have people recognize themselves and their own street and their own house, well then you're aiming for the high country and it's a much bigger gamble. You can interview all the marketing gurus and the people in charge -- the people you've got to fight in order to get your seats here -- and they'll all talk about release dates and counter-programming and blah, blah, blah. At the end of the day it's got to be a good movie, it's got to be a funny movie, and it's got to make people think, 'Hey, I couldn't have spent my time any better.'"
"And by the way, that thing about the guy who wore a suit and the planet exploded and he's still got the girl by traveling through time? That movie sucked. I'm not saying any movie sucked, but you know what I'm talking about."
CG isn't the only draw Larry Crowne lacks, unfortunately. Hanks had planned on casting friend and former Bosom Buddies partner Peter Scolari in a supporting role in the film, but schedules didn't permit their on-screen reunion. (The role of Frank, Larry's military buddy and diner owner, went to Ian Gomez.) Hanks explained what happened.
"He was in the movie but he had a conflict that we could not work out," he said. "He was doing an off-Broadway play that was actually opening the week that we would have shot his stuff. So alas, it didn't work out. He was doing it, along came the conflict, and such is show business. Peter was in From the Earth to the Moon, Peter was in That Thing You Do!; I always want to work with Peter again."
Or, as Roberts quipped: "They're bosom buddies."
Larry Crowne is in theaters July 1.