Tom Hanks: Man’s Best Friend | FilmInk

Tom Hanks was among the first celebrities to publicly be diagnosed with Covid-19, when he and his wife Rita Wilson were hospitalised in Australia in March last year, although the Oscar-winning actor today says he’s glad that his latest dystopian sci-fi drama is not a pandemic movie.

Starring opposite a dog and a robot in Finch, the film was shot pre-lockdown although, it very easily might have been edited to reflect our present times.

“When we made this film – well before the words Covid-19 were even in the vernacular – we were making a glorious bit of science fiction, familiar in many ways. There’s been a lot of last-human-beings-left-on-earth kind of films before, but with the new wrinkle of the dog, quite frankly, that was new.

“But, now, after this, there is a theoretical last case scenario here. I mean, let’s imagine that the virus was even stronger and more deadly than it was? There’s a scene in the movie where Finch explains to Jeff what happened and how society broke down. And it’s almost reassuring to learn that it’s not a slow-moving contagion that goes about and kills everybody,” says the actor speaking from the basement of his home in Los Angeles where he keeps his beloved trove of antique typewriters.

“And yet, at the same time, there are recollections about how society broke down, and I think that ends up being perhaps a little closer to behavioral theory than science fiction, in that we have seen the elements of which ignorance, irrationality and passions and opinion have held more sway in popular behavior currently. And there is evidence of ‘Yeah, I’m gonna take care of myself and I don’t care what everybody else says or thinks’. We carry it to a far murderous extreme in the movie by way of flashbacks, but it’s not hard to see, ‘Aah, we might be a little accurate in the study of human behavior under said circumstances’.

“But this movie begun long before the idea of a worldwide lockdown and the many morbidities that have come along with Covid-19 than could have been imagined. If you had told us when we were shooting Finch that during post-production, people would be in lockdown and people would be in masks and people wouldn’t be able to travel across borders, we would have thought, ‘Well, let’s make that movie!’ I’m glad we didn’t,” he tells FilmInk.’

Directed by Miguel Sapochnik, Finch sees the unlikely trio of man, robot and a dog form a family in a moving adventure of one man’s quest to ensure that his beloved canine companion will be cared for after he’s gone.

It doesn’t hurt that Finch is also a robotics engineer, therefore he is able to build Jeff the robot, who really comes to life through the expressive voice of Caleb Landry Jones.

Ask Hanks what he might use such a robot for in his own personal life, he laughs, “Rub my shoulders, become an expert in reflexology on my feet – make me the perfect peanut butter sandwich? I’d throw away the TV remotes and make him get up and change the channel himself. I’d let him know exactly how much hot milk and Ovaltine I take in my Flat White.

“It’s tantalising to imagine those subservient aspects of a guy who never has to sleep and has enough dexterity in his thumbs and fingers in order to, ‘Hey Jeff, clean these glasses for me’, and he would probably spray them and take care of them.

“It’s interesting that, in this movie, it has absolutely nothing to do with any sort of erotic creation or a sexual cipher for his life. It’s been a long time anyway! But the reason that Jeff exists is not for Finch’s pleasure, it’s for Goodyear’s safety. But I would not create a robot to walk my dog because I enjoy my time with my dog although I might create a robot to clean up after my dog but even that’s common human experience that we all should experience, right? We all have to do some version of that in our life.”

As one of the few survivors of a cataclysmic solar event that has left the world a wasteland, Finch has been living in an underground bunker for a decade, building a world that he shares with his dog, Goodyear.

When he finally completes building Jeff the robot, the trio undertake a perilous journey into a desolate American West, a road trip paved with both pathos and humour.

“The friendship that comes out of Jeff is much more powerful than Finch anticipated and the connection between the three of them is really a solid equatorial triangle as opposed to a master and servant kind of relationship,” says the actor.

Hanks says he has little in common with Finch. “I don’t have any of the smarts like Finch. I have the grey hair and the tired bones and that’s about all I have in common. The man himself is much more linear than I am. He is a guy who is able to weigh what his needs are and methodically slowly acquire everything he needs to fulfill those needs; the thoroughness in which he goes about this task,  covering the city and marking up his maps etc. I have far too much ADHD in order to operate like that. Finch is smart and he gets things done and he achieves what he is setting out to do without the aid of good luck or serendipity. This is the great thing about being an actor. Oftentimes, I get to play somebody much cooler than myself. And with Finch I got to play somebody who is much more intelligent and much more hard-working and much more a student of the big picture,” he says.

This is not the first time that we have seen Hanks hold a film virtually single-handedly, with Finch’s robot and dog becoming near equivalents to Wilson the volleyball in Cast Away.

“There is literally nobody to talk to in this film, and I didn’t want to be talking to myself,” he remarks. “For the first 20 minutes of this film, outside of communicating with Goodyear the dog, everything has to be communicated by a shrug, a look, a pace and a timing that was absolutely quite delicious to come up with. It was ridiculous fun.”

Hanks is in awe of Finch’s ability to be alone. “I think Finch actually does an awfully good job of being isolated. But he’s not missing anything. During the course of Covid-19, while the rest of the world was out there, we had a very real yearning to return to these places that gave us the great common pleasures, like company and stores and coffee shops and being able to get together with friends. Knowing that we were separating from those types of things during all our various lockdowns might have caused more of a mental stirring and a yearning to get out of here, in order to get back to the way we lived just a few short months ago.

“But Finch doesn’t have that luxury because he’s been alone since all of creation shut down and society imploded. So, in some ways you can look at this film and say: ‘Finch has it easier because at least he’s got his dog and he can create a friend that he can talk to, whereas I don’t get to leave this apartment’. During Covid, we knew there would be a certain time when we could return to our normal lives.”

Finch premieres globally on November 5 on Apple TV+

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