Co-written, directed by and starring Tom Hanks, “Larry Crowne” is an upbeat look at a life completely rebuilt. Despite the timely plotline — a man fired from his job must completely reverse his life direction — the film itself is filled with good-natured laughs, a beautiful setting in Southern California, an odd performance from George Takei and a lot of hope. In fact, one of the primary questions we were left with was, where’s the conflict? But while these characters certainly face challenges, the tone remains rather light, which, according to the filmmakers, was what they intended. As Hanks’ co-writer on the film, Nia Vardalos explained, “This is not a downer movie, this is an uplifting movie and yet it is not out of the realm of ordinary.”
Those behind ‘Crowne’ see their film as one meant for adults, an alternative to the swashbuckling, intergalactic-traveling, CGI-fests that theaters seem to be offering us these days — but we’ll let them speak for themselves. Starring Hanks and Julia Roberts, the mega-stars are supported by an eclectic group of actors who bring warmth and humor to Larry’s world. We had the chance to hear from everybody, including Wilmer Valderrama, Cedric the Entertainer, Taraji P. Henson and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, on being directed by an icon, getting to know their neighbors and how ‘Crowne’ fares in the summer market of comic book movies and tentpoles.
Larry Crowne is the real super hero to come out of this summer’s blockbusters
Cedric the Entertainer: I thought it was a very good look into the culture of the day, especially with people losing their jobs and later on in life having to reinvent themselves. It was great…we had [this] guy who seemed like he was doing all the right things in life but then things go wrong for him, to have to reinvent himself, even the way he dressed and all of that, you know? It became a new attitude. I thought it was inspiring. I call this a real super hero movie of the summer.
Taraji P. Henson: Who cares about “Transformers“? We have Larry Crowne, do they wear a crown? I think not!
In an increasingly CGI-heavy market, Hanks was looking to make a film that reflects life as we know it.
Tom Hanks: How do we compete in the marketplace? Forgive me, I haven’t the slightest fucking idea….it’s different then it was five years ago and they’re all driven by the possibilities of CGI which means that you can make anything happen on screen that you could possibly desire. That’s a great brand of freedom that’s given over to a filmmaker. But when you are going to have people talk in a room and actually reflect life as we know it and have people recognize themselves and their own street their own house in it, then you’re in it for the high country and it’s a much bigger gamble… [but] 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.”
Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks, while being perhaps two of the most recognizable faces in Hollywood, were still able to pull from some very “Larry Crowne”-like moments in their own careers.
Tom Hanks: Now you know, quite frankly, our careers have been pretty well chronicled but there was a time, I’m going to guess for both of us where we’re living in a rented house in the valley that we cannot afford, we have been fired from a job that we had and it’s now been 13 months since you actually worked in the city and the phone still is not ringing, and you wonder if in fact you’re going to take the job at the Weinerschnitzel on Laurel Canyon, when you have that moment it never quite goes away.
Julia Roberts: I had the Manhattan version of that, so not the Valley it would have been…the east side.
Tom Hanks: That’s right she sold shoes, there you go.
The cast found community and hospitality in the San Fernando Valley neighborhood where the film was shot.
Taraji P. Henson: The charming family that we rented the house from, they baked us cookies and Rice Krispie treats, that neighborhood welcomed us with open arms. It was in Northridge and we didn’t know anyone there. I mean you get the script and they tell you to show up so you don’t know before you get there but there was definitely a sense of community there. Because you know, we shoot films in L.A. all the time and people are sick of it, to be quite honest. They see those trucks and they go, “Oh my god here comes Hollywood.” But this neighborhood they were so excited and flattered that we were there.
But if you’re going to take anything away from this, it’s that Tom Hanks is just really, really great.
Taraji P Henson: I was most excited about the diversity. Because it’s so true to life, it’s so true where I live, when I go out into the world, that’s what I see. But that’s Tom Hanks, he’s smart like that, very smart.
Gugu Mbatha Raw: For me in general it was incredible. I was so thrilled when I got the call. I had an audition and similar to Wilmer, I had a chat with Tom and, and we discussed everything from Shakespeare to theater and it really wasn’t just the movie. To me the chance to be on set with such experienced and established actors, it really was like a master class. Whenever I could I would sneak around and watch either Tom or Julia’s shots on the monitor to see what they were doing. Try and just absorb their ways and their professionalism. It was an incredible experience.
Wilmer Valderrama: Some of my idols growing up were Desi Arnaz, Anthony Quinn and Tom Hanks. When I got a phone call to work with [Hanks] you know it was one of those moments when you go “Okay, you better be good.” Then you have this meeting with him and he’s so disarming and so empowering and inspiring and he really just kind of trusts you and he made me feel like I was really part of the team. One of the most rewarding moments was when you were finishing a scene and then you looked being the monitor and you did something that you improvised or thought was funny and you looked behind the monitor and he’s laughing and he’s tearing up.
“Larry Crowne” hits theaters this Friday, July 1st.