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In the Post-Apocalyptic ‘Finch,’ Tom Hanks Tries the ‘Cast Away’ Trick: Acting Against Non-Human Co-Stars

The "guy-dog-robot" trio at the center of the sci-fi thriller offered Hanks another chance to get deeply human against decidedly non-human co-stars.

Tom Hanks in "Finch."

Tom Hanks in “Finch”

Karen Kuehn/Apple

In the Apple TV+ sci-fi thriller “Finch,” star Tom Hanks is tasked with carrying the bulk of the human drama: quite literally, as he’s often the only person in sight, save for a handful of co-stars who appear in limited flashbacks. As the titular character in the Miguel Sapochnik film, Hanks is a man living in a post-apocalyptic world, but he’s not alone. He has a dog, Goodyear, and a robot named Jeff he builds to look after Goodyear after his death.

That’s not a new challenge to Hanks, who famously spent a full act of Robert Zemeckis’ “Cast Away” interacting only with a volleyball he cheekily named Wilson (the role earned the actor his fifth Best Actor nomination). During a recent press conference for the film, due out on the streaming service later this week, Hanks said his experience acting opposite a dog and robot was full of vitality.

For one thing, Goodyear played by an actual canine named Seamus. And the robot? That’s recent Cannes Best Actor winner Caleb Landry Jones, who acted alongside Hanks and Seamus in a motion-capture suit; he appears as the CG android Jeff in the film.

Though much of Hanks’ on-set time with Seamus on set included the dog’s handlers close by, Seamus watching their every move, Hanks said that over weeks a bond eventually formed between the two of them.

“What comes along after a period of time, though, is just like with a human being — you do get to know each other. … All movies are fake,” Hanks said — two actors playing husband and wife aren’t married, nor are people getting into fights. “And yet there are two people always that are getting to know each other. When he and I are playing, he’s really playing with me, he’s not been instructed ‘play with Tom’ … Me and Seamus and a tennis ball, that was nothing but a dog in heaven, and me having an awfully good time as well.”

The way Hanks sees it, Finch’s relationship with Goodyear helps the feature stand out from other similarly post-apocalyptic offerings. The bond is, in other words, very human. “It starts with Finch not just surviving, but surviving for the specific purpose of making sure his dog is safe. That’s not a cynical undertaking,” he said.

While Jeff is rendered on screen with the help of visual effects artists, Hanks’ experience on set was one of flesh and blood, acing opposite Jones, who Hanks said imbued Jeff with a sense of free-spiritedness that the actor himself exhibits.

“There’s a couple of scenes that were no different than scenes between two human beings, it’s just that one guy was dressed up like a robot and the other guy was dressed in used clogs — that was me,” Hanks said. “It almost defies description sometimes. When you say ‘guy-dog-robot,’ well, you get a sense of what [the] robot is going to be, but by the time we get into the movie, Jeff, as Caleb has created him, is … a teenager, about to go off and fend for himself. There’s a different kind of story to be told.”

“Finch” will be available to stream on AppleTV+ on Friday, November 5.

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