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Tom Hanks on becoming Walt Disney in 'Saving Mr. Banks'

 Still from the Disney film
Still from the Disney film "Saving Mr. Banks" starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson.
Walt Disney Studios

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Actor Tom Hanks has had one of the most successful and longest lasting careers in the entertainment industry.

With multiple Academy-Award winning or nominated roles for films like "Forrest Gump", "Philadelphia" and "Saving Private Ryan," Hanks solidified his name into the film history books long ago. Now, at the young age of 57, his career shows no signs of slowing down or changing route. 

His most recent films are proof of his ability to slink into a variety of roles, including those that call on him to spring in to action against a gang of pirates —"Captain Philips" — or embody a historical figure so many people hold dear — "Saving Mr. Banks." 

Hanks recently sat down with Take Two  to talk about what it was like to play Walt Disney in "Saving Mr. Banks," a person he and so many others idolized as a child. 

"You don't understand. To be born in Northern California, a trip to L.A. encountered one thing and one thing only: Disneyland," said Hanks on Take Two. "Nothing else mattered. Going to Disneyland was a trip to Paris, are you going to keep them down on the farm now that they've been to Main Street USA?" 

Interview Highlights:

On why he decided to take on the role of Walt DIsney:
"I had read long ago a biography of Disney, and was fascinated by how checkered a past he had had...this self-made animator who started drawing goofy slides for silent movies in the back of a garage in Kansas City. He had been ubiquitous for me, there was no world that didn't have Walt Disney in it. Almost every piece of video I saw on Walt Disney was him saying, "Hello, I'm Walt Disney" was an intimidating process in order to take them and somehow dramatize the regular guy, the behind the scenes guy. Luckily I had an awful lot of anecdotal information, a lot of it firsthand from people who knew him and worked with him."

On Disney's first meeting with "Mary Poppins" author PL Travers:
"She hated him so much, and she hated movies, and she hated the cartoons, she hated Americans. I believe the only reason she was there was because she needed the money and she did have script approval. The way I translated it was Walt Disney was very used to getting his way. I mean, Salvador Dali would call up Walt Disney and want to hang out...everybody loved Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse and viewed him as this great artist...He was taken aback by the relationship he had with her. He came not to like her very much. It's odd that together they ended up making this classic motion picture that is revered and is as great as it is and was as state of the art as it was when it came out. I think even she still hated it when it came out."

On how their complicated relationship finally ended:
"There's a story about the ["Mary Poppins"] premiere — which he did not want her to come to, but she did — in which she said "Oh Walter, we have so much work to do, so much work." This is right after the movie has played. The last thing Walt Disney said to Pam L Travers was, "Pam, that boat has sailed." And he got up and walked away from her at the party and I don't think he ever said a word about it."

On getting into the brain of Disney:
"There is a note that was found by his daughter Diane, it is in the family museum. And it is a note that is left to his housekeeper and his cook, and it's a list of the foods he wants to eat and how many times he'd have them. He loved canned chili, he could eat that twice a week, he loved either green or yellow Jello, he could have that every night. He would have two vegetables, but one was either a salad and another vegetable or corn and another vegetable... It was the diet of a man who had grown up in the Great Depression, but what's unique about it is it's written in that fabulous Walt Disney script with the big circular "Ws" and the big capital lettera with swirls and whatnot. That's an odd kind of talisman in order to latch on to, but he was that kind of genuinely involved in everything, but at the same time there was whimsy involved there."