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About The Production
For Tom Hanks, the story of Larry Crowne was one that was years in the making. Just after high school, Hanks attended junior college, and his experiences there had a huge impact. He notes: "This was in the mid-'70s, and there was a sensibility of flux. In my class, there was somebody who was middle-aged, somebody in his fifties, somebody who was just back from Vietnam. I became friends with almost everybody in class, and I found this rich life experience amongst them.”

Along with Playtone partner and Larry Crowne producer Gary Goetzman, Hanks spent the past decade producing such hit films as The Polar Express, Charlie Wilson's War, Mamma Mia! and Where the Wild Things Are; the Emmy Award-winning HBO miniseries The Pacific, Band of Brothers and John Adams; and the critically acclaimed HBO television series Big Love. Simultaneously, Hanks took on acting roles in such blockbuster films as The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons, Catch Me If You Can and Toy Story 3. Throughout this time, the writer/director continued to take notes and build scenes as he reflected upon the idea of what would happen to a man who starts over at the point in his life in which many would find it unthinkable.

Shares Hanks: "Out of my experience in junior college came this character of Larry Crowne. He has his life completely altered by the fact that he gets fired. They let him go under the pretense that he couldn't advance because he didn't go to college. So what does Larry do? Much like when I was out of high school, thank goodness, there's a place called junior college, where nothing is expected of you except what you put into the day when you drive to campus.”

In 2006, Hanks further developed the concept with screenwriter Nia Vardalos, with whom he had collaborated as a producer on the blockbuster breakout fi lm My Big Fat Greek Wedding. He says, "I wanted to work with Nia because I needed her expertise. There are characters in this film that needed to have complete voices and complete arcs; they had to be authentic. She worked on Larry Crowne for many drafts, and then I took it and began to edit. The give and take with Nia continued right up until the end.”

In their screenplay, the writers explored the emotional toll of unemployment on a middle-aged navy vet who, until now, had been a standout worker at U-Mart. His frustration is matched by the financial toll of divorce, a whopping mortgage and a gas guzzling SUV. In an attempt to widen his job prospects, Larry enrolls in East Valley Community College (EVCC) to secure a degree and make himself more marketable. Little does he realize that this one small step will alter the course of his life.

The idea of the blue-collar guy who loses his job and has to reinvent himself was one that came to Hanks years before the recent fiscal crisis hit the U.S. economy. In the midst of co-writing the screenplay and witnessing the aftereffects that have left millions of Americans in financial turmoil and with uncertain futures, Hanks could not help but be influenced and incorporate these elements into the material.

Vardalos appreciated that the story Hanks had constructed was one that is not so far-fetched. She notes: "What I like about this story is that it's very real. It is for every man, every woman out there who has felt: ‘I'm working really hard, and I don't know if I'm appreciated or part of an infrastructure that will make America a better place.' All of us are replaceable, and that's a harsh reality. When that happens, you have to adapt. You have to reconstruct, pick up the pieces of your life and find a way to move on.”

It has been well over a decade since Hanks made his screenwriting/directorial debut with the 1996 comedy That Thing You Do!, but it has long been the plan for Hanks to direct this original screenplay. Though he took a supporting role in his last directorial fi lm, he always had an eye to portray the title character in this romantic comedy.

Goetzman elaborates on the details of our protagonist's life: "Larry is a regular, hard-working guy who has always tried to do the right thing. But look what happens to him? He has a home that he's underwater on, and the bank won't give him any leeway on his payments…so he gives up his house to fi nd a much simpler lifestyle.”

For Hanks' longtime collaborator, production fl owed in the efficient manner to which they had grown accustomed over their decades of work together. Says Goetzman: "As a filmmaker, Tom doesn't procrastinate or overthink every decision. He's very focused, and directing for him is a natural process. Even though he's the director and stars in the fi lm, he was able to divide his time between these roles efficiently and effectively.”

With the shooting script ready, Hanks would make one of his first casting calls to fellow Oscar® winner Julia Roberts. The writer/ director and the actress have been friends for years but it was their memorable pairing in director Mike Nichols' last film, Charlie Wilson's War, which, according to Roberts, "cemented” their friendship. She was in Rome on the set of Eat Pray Love when she was asked to consider working with Hanks again.

Roberts was impressed with the part of Mercedes Tainot, the lushy college professor who studied to become an expert in political comparative discourse between Shakespeare and Shaw before she arrived at junior college. Much like Larry, Mercedes has a catharsis of her own.

The performer didn't just bring her megawatt star power to the production, Roberts proved her commitment to the project daily. Goetzman commends the actress' work ethic on the set of Larry Crowne: "I've never seen anyone so prepared. She brought fascinating nuances to the character and shaped Mercedes into the complicated woman you see on screen. She's pitch perfect.”

Hanks describes that Mercedes has found herself in a place where she feels she is stuck. Of the character's arc, he notes, "There comes a time when you have to stop suffering fools…even if that means the one who sleeps in your bed every night and gets up every morning with you. Maybe that fool has to go.”

Roberts liked the challenge of portraying the teacher with an escalating need to drink her day away and a husband who was more interested in online porn than in his wife. Says the performer: "The story was charming, yet topical, for so many of the characters who are losing faith and trying to cope by rediscovering themselves. I was intrigued by it all, especially Mercedes and her drinking problem. As an actor to be able to play that, it is so fun and heartbreaking and challenging. She has pickled herself into this cocoon of an unhappy life. So without hesitation, I called Tom back and said I would hitch my wagon to his.”

The unlikely pairing of Larry and Mercedes plays out in the classroom, when Larry's yearning to express himself motivates the professor to challenge her numbed existence. "Mercedes has issues,” explains Roberts. "She's in a position where her dreams are not coming to fruition the way she pictured them. In a way, she's in opposition to what Larry has decided to do for his life. She's given up a bit, and he inspires her to reinvigorate herself.”

While it required a great deal of juggling, Hanks' actors were impressed that he was able to pull off his multiple roles on the set effortlessly. Says Roberts: "Tom gives 100 percent in every department all day long. He's happy. He's buoyant. He's present. It's mindboggling that this is his second time directing, and he has it down. He can shape-


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