Tom Hanks: 'I don't want to disappoint Ron'
Inferno star Tom Hanks on making movies with frequent collaborator, director Ron Howard
Their friendship is one that has spanned over 30 years, ever since US director Ron Howard gave US actor Tom Hanks his big-screen debut in the 1984 rom-com Splash.
Since then, the pair's collaborations have grossed over US$1.6 billion (S$2.2 billion) worldwide.
Apart from the Oscar-winning Apollo 13 (1995), both found box-office success from the movie adaptations of Dan Brown's best-selling novels involving the mystery-cracking symbologist Robert Langdon, which began in 2006 with The Da Vinci Code, followed by Angels & Demons in 2009.
And now, Howard and Hanks are back with the third Langdon adventure, Inferno, which opens here tomorrow.
Considered the scariest and most realistic of the series, Inferno sees Hanks' Langdon suffering from a gunshot wound to the head that gives him both amnesia and terrifying visions of humanity living in hell - manifestations of the first part of Italian poet Dante's 14th-century epic literary work The Divine Comedy.
Hanks is joined by British starlet Felicity Jones who plays Sienna Brooks, a young and earnest doctor who, along with Langdon, must race against the clock to stop a bioterrorism plot that threatens to decimate the world's population.
Inferno also stars renowned Bollywood veteran Irrfan Khan, French thespian Omar Sy and US actor Ben Foster.
Howard, 62, and Hanks, 60, were in Singapore in June to promote Inferno, and talking to the Hollywood bigwigs during a joint interview at Sands Expo and Convention Centre at Marina Bay Sands was a delight.
Both were extremely charming, witty and humble despite their phenomenal achievements.
Here, they open up to M about their fears and how they inspire each other.
Tom, do you think you have done more running as Robert Langdon or as your other iconic movie character Forrest Gump?
Hanks: Oh, definitely as Robert Langdon, of course! (Laughs.) Inferno was extremely physical. That scene where Felicity and I were running through Florence's Boboli Gardens was a killer. There was a lot of running on gravel and ancient cobblestones; lots of stairs to climb; running up the hill; and Ron even made me jump over a wall. It sure keeps you in shape! (Laughs.)
Howard: The filming (of that scene) happened to be on two of the hottest days in Florence...
THRILLER: Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones star in the new movie, Inferno. PHOTOS: SONY PICTURES
Hanks: And I had these really crappy shoes that had no ankle support. I kept thinking why and when were we going to have a nice, flat field to run on. Poor Felicity, she had to do all that running in those wedge heels. But she probably weighs about three pounds, and so she didn't suffer as much as I did! (Laughs.)
Inferno addresses real-life fears of over-population. What do you fear about the world now?
Hanks: Ignorance. There's a lot of money involved in peddling ignorance. There is a lot of power to be gained when you utilise that ignorance. I think it's human nature where people are perfectly willing to be ignorant as long as it keeps them comfortable.
Howard: For me, the fear of over-population is real, and also, the fear that drones are able to track us wherever we are, which we depicted in Inferno.
Hanks: I study history, and I'm always dazzled by history when it seems like it's talking about today. You can go back to Renaissance Florence to note that there was a lot of ignorance back then...
Howard: And like the Renaissance, we are going through an unbelievable period of transformation in society that's creating so much tension and uncertainty in people. How are we going to work? Where are we going to work? What is our life going to be like?
The reason why Dan Brown's books are so successful is because they're fun, interesting, and yet under that entertainment, he's pushing buttons on controversies that are very stimulating and thought-provoking.
Hanks: History just keeps repeating itself. It's always about powerful people trying to maintain the status quo so that they don't have to give up their house, their parking place or their pay cheque.
Tom, you always play the good guy or the hero. Do you think you give people hope and assurance through your work?
Hanks: Hope and assurance are not as important as authenticity. I go to the movies because I want to see something important reflected back at me even if I was watching a James Bond movie or Batman V Superman.
I don't choose things lightly. I'd say no to a project if there's no authenticity in it or if you're somehow going to be taking part in some grand lie. I try to bring some form of recognisable human behaviour to my roles so that movie-goers can relate to them - both the good and the bad.
Howard: If you can find moments where you can authentically celebrate, then those movies can be very inspiring. Tom has innately chosen a number of those kinds of projects and delivered them with much authenticity.
How do you keep inspiring and surprising each other after all these years?
Howard: Projects provide that. Every story and circumstance is different. Audiences evolve and change, so the story you're telling in that moment is unique.
What we do each time is like a high-wire act. There's a great deal of comfort going out on that high-wire with someone you trust, and that's been a tremendous blessing.
Hanks: When we did Apollo 13, the movie studio told us there's no need to do it since everyone knew the story as it was a piece of (US) history. That was true, but they had no idea what the details were and how a group of ordinary men used duct tape and socks to save the day. The fact that Ron has faith in those kind of details really excites me. I don't want to disappoint Ron.
Howard: And vice versa! (Laughs.)
Hanks: I don't know how you can disappoint me. (Laughs.)
Some have said that the Robert Langdon stories are similar to that of movie spy Jason Bourne's, especially in this sequel where Langdon loses his memory.
Hanks: Jason Bourne movies all feed on each other, him going back to the past to remember the current situation. It is a more realistic trilogy than ours, which are independent stories. I'd say ours are more like Sherlock Holmes films where there are distinctive beginnings. You also don't have to see the prior two movies to understand who Robert Langdon is.
Also, the other big difference is that Jason Bourne kicks ass. Robert Langdon gets his ass kicked! (Laughs.)