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FULL INTERVIEW: Hanks, Greengrass, Abdi

October 9th, 2013
03:22 PM ET

Full: Amanpour, Hanks, Greengrass

Full interview: Amanpour, Barkhad Abdi

Tom Hanks on career, 1960s

EDITOR'S NOTE: Above is Christiane Amanpour's full interview with Actors Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi, and director Paul Greengrass, of "Captain Phillips."

See also the interview as aired.

HANKS, GREENGRASS

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tom Hanks, welcome.

Paul Greengrass, welcome to the program.

TOM HANKS, ACTOR: Look at this, we're on the Christiane Amanpour show.

AMANPOUR: You are indeed, with a phenomenal film, I mean phenomenal film, full of suspense, full of foreboding, right from the very start.

I was struck by the fact that you know you, as your character, Captain Phillips, was talking about lockdown even before there was a threat.

What was going on in your mind there, in Captain Phillips' mind, and in the situation in Somalia at that time, which was 2009?

HANKS: Well, I think everybody that sails that route, it's always in the back of their heads of a possibility, even though it hadn't happened like this prior to it.

And there is a procedure. And if you're running a ship, you want the well-trained crew to be able to expedite that procedure, and he did, in fact, right off the bat, say, "We're going to have a drill, because the stuff is unlocked here and it seems a little sloppy."

AMANPOUR: It was really extraordinary.

And how did you, Paul Greengrass, make this suspense, when we all know the story; people have read the newspapers, know the story, know the ending?

PAUL GREENGRASS, FILM DIRECTOR: Well, I think it's all about detail, really, detail and character, I would say. I mean, in the end, if you can create a compelling portrait of the characters at the heart of the drama, and then if you can pack it filled with the details, the detail of what happened is what you can never get from the news, you know, because it's fast-moving.

And very often you're locked out, you know, what a movie can do is put you on the ship. And it can put you in the lifeboat and it can give you the experience as Phillips had it.

AMANPOUR: Well, I'm going to play one of the clips, and that is when the Somali pirates start to come on board and when you first meet the lead pirate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible).

"CAPTAIN PHILLIPS": We've got a problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible).

"PHILLIPS": We push the ship too hard, we're off the grid. That means the computer's now offline.

"MUSE": Captain…

"PHILLIPS": The ship's broken.

"MUSE": Captain, no one gets hurt if you don't play no games.

"PHILLIPS": Now it's - the ship's broken. We had to go –

"MUSE": Nobody gets hurt if –

Hey!

Look at me.

"PHILLIPS": Sure.

"MUSE": Look at me.

"PHILLIPS": Sure.

"MUSE": I'm the captain now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANKS: We did not know what they were saying. It wasn't until I saw the movie and read the subtitles that I got the, you know, their lines in the vernacular like that.

AMANPOUR: Are you serious?

HANKS: Yes. It wasn't really scripted.

AMANPOUR: So how did you - I mean, how did you do it, then?

HANKS: Well, Paul had kept us separate. We had never met those actors before. We were in Malta; we saw people that looked like they could be Somalis on the periphery of the staging areas, and sometimes also could see they were on the horizon working in the skiffs.

But we never met before - the two Barkhads, the two –

AMANPOUR: That's incredible.

HANKS: - until they - until they stormed the ship.

AMANPOUR: That is - so that was the first time you'd seen them?

HANKS: That was the first time we met, yes.

AMANPOUR: It's sinister, "Look into my - I'm the captain now," and there were you trying to basically dissemble and say the boat had been broken, the ship was broken.

HANKS: Yes. It seemed that Rich said would - for every lie he would tell the truth and for every truth he would tell a lie, one of the things he said. And because of the freeform way in which we were put, all put through this, he had a chance to say, where's your crew? And Rich would say, I don't know; I'm here with you.

In fact, he did know where they are. But it was also true that I'm here with you. So I'm not with them; so - and he just - he just kept trying to go up with a degree of subterfuge.

AMANPOUR: Rich Phillips, an amazing, amazing character.

So you kept them away, Paul. But where did you find them? Where did you find these Somali actors?

GREENGRASS: Well, it was the big challenge of the film, really. I knew that we had to cast Somali actors to play these parts, but there’s no obviously Somali acting community in Los Angeles or New York. So we went to Minneapolis, where the main Somali community in the U.S. is.

And to be honest, I thought it was going to be very, very hard to find four actors that could play opposite Tom; that's no small ask.

But when we got there, it was something like seven or eight hundred people turned up for the first casting. And that community is, is actually incredibly vibrant, incredibly creative, filled with musicians and actors and writers.

AMANPOUR: So were they, strictly speaking, actors?

GREENGRASS: No, they're young - I mean, they'd done some acting in school and things like that. They’d done bits of filmmaking. You know, they were - they were creative people.

But of course, they've had no opportunity to play in the mainstream. So when we went there, there were more quality actors than you could shake a stick at. It was incredible.

AMANPOUR: And what did you think? I mean, these were not actors who you'd ever seen or heard of before.

HANKS: Well, I know that if you can get past the self-consciousness of saying you're an actor and performing, the moviemaking racket is something you can figure out in a morning or an afternoon.

The other part of it, though, is a harder aspect, which is maintaining that characterization and being able to make believe in the most artistic sense. These guys have it in their DNA. They were not intimidated by anything. And they were very, very well prepared for this. They had worked for weeks. So they came in pumped. And they remained so throughout.

AMANPOUR: It was - it was extraordinary. And I've covered a lot of what happened in Somalia from the time when these actors left their country, the war, the warlords, "Black Hawk Down," it just happens to be the 20th anniversary this week since then.

And actually there have been stories in the news, which have suddenly drawn people to Somalia again. We had the Westgate Mall Al-Shabaab attack in Nairobi, Kenya; we've had Navy SEALs try to grab an Al-Shabaab leader in Somalia.

Is that good for you? Do you like to have these news pegs?

GREENGRASS: Well, listen I'm interested in what goes on in the world. That's - always happens, you know. In the old days when I made documentaries, it - to me, the world is a place filled with stories, filled with the future being made.

So if you can find a story that's got great characters and in this part of the world, that really goes to the core of where the planet's going, you've got a chance.

So you can't be surprised if the world is in ferment around your film. That's just –

AMANPOUR: And you actually have done a lot that is to do with the real world. You've done "Green Zone" about Iraq; you've done "Flight 93," United 93, about September 11th. You've done –

HANKS: "Bloody Sunday."

AMANPOUR: - "Bloody Sunday." You've sort of stayed in the real for a long time.

So what about, then, some critics might say is this just showing black against white? Is it - I think you try to give some context to these pirates, which I had never seen before, some humanity to these pirates.

GREENGRASS: I mean, I think - listen, I think movies can do lots of things. You know, I go to the movies; I take my kids to the movies and I like the big popcorn movies and I like the romantic comedies and I like the screwball comedies - you know, I like all sorts of movies.

But during the course of any given year, I think one of the wonderful central threads of moviemaking is to tell us about the world, tell us where we sit. And this story does that, with dramatic characters. And in the end, if you can make them as authentically as you can, you can - you feel that experience but also you get a little sense of the complex landscape of the world.

AMANPOUR: And you, Tom, and you've done obviously the great Hollywood movies that you've been awarded before and become famous for.

But many of yours have also been about the great dilemmas and stories of the world, whether it's "Philadelphia," whether it's "Saving Private Ryan," and a whole number of them.

What was important for you to achieve in terms of how these Somali pirates were portrayed?

HANKS: Well, ultimately the best non-fiction is a record of human behavior that is always checkered, that is always very complex motivations.

It almost always comes from someplace. They do not hew to the antagonist/protagonist, you know, storyline which is the basis of any kind of dramatic art.

That, the interaction between Richard Phillips and all four of the Somalis in the - say, for example, in the lifeboat - in reality, there were laughs. There were jokes. There were - there was a type of banter that went by, all at the same time Richard Phillips was convinced that big guy, particularly, was going to shoot him in the head for no reason whatsoever.

And that is a type of tension that brings out the most flinty, sharp-edged aspect of human nature. And at the end of the day, I - that's my job. You know, I got to hold the mirror up to nature.

AMANPOUR: And what - you talked obviously a lot to the real Captain Phillips. What sort of struck you about what he'd done? I mean, he saved his ship. He saved his crew. He allowed himself to be a hostage.

To me, he's a little bit like the seaborne version of Sully Sullenberger, who safely brought down his plane in the Hudson.

HANKS: You know, the name of his book is "A Captain's Duty," and I think the word "duty" there is what - there is one guy who was responsible for that entire ship, and that's him, whether for good or for bad, he was the captain and he's the guy who has to solve every problem that comes that way.

And in this case, there was - the primary motive was get these guys off this ship. If I can get them off the ship, in any way - for a while, it looked like they were just going to sail away with 30,000 bucks. And in the - they changed the game on him.

But he would never - he would never use the word "hero" in regard to himself. He says, "I was waiting for the heroes to show up."

AMANPOUR: Well, before we talk about that, whoever we think the heroes are, before we talk about that, I want to play another clip about their intentions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Captain, UK MTO.

"PHILLIPS": Operations?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Receiving.

"PHILLIPS": This is Maersk Alabama. Our position is 2 degrees 2 north by 39 degrees 19 east. Our course is 180; our speed is 17 knots. We have two skiffs approaching at a distance of 1.5 miles with a possible another ship following. Potential piracy situation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Copy, Alabama, you should alert your crew and get your fire hoses ready and follow lockdown procedures.

"PHILLIPS": Yes. It - is that it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm relaying your transmission now. But chances are it's just fishermen.

"PHILLIPS": They're not here to fish.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: Well, in my inimitable way I’ve played them out of sequence, of course this was before they boarded.

But you knew, Captain Phillips knew that these were a threatening group of boats.

Was - he was obviously surprised he didn't get more help from the authorities there.

HANKS: The authorities are a long way away and they - even the skiffs at that point were pretty far away. And I think that's one of the inexplicable cracks and holes that all this stuff can fall into.

AMANPOUR: About fishing: Apparently a lot of this piracy is because their fishing waters have been depleted.

How does that strike you?

HANKS: Well, it's one of the real tragedies that go on, that is one of the - that contributes to one of the problems. It was commercial fishing from other nations have come in, with big trawlers and they have swept the place clean of - I think some of the marine life is coming back now, oddly enough and because of piracy.

GREENGRASS: And also, I think that was - I think in the '80s and '90s, that was the response, you know, other fishing, toxic dumping, fishing communities responding - very, very quickly what you - what you saw was criminal bands get in there and the godfathers start organizing it because it becomes what it is today, which is hugely lucrative international organized crime.

I think the idea that these are just fishermen, one of the things I think that was quite successful in the film is we show how that actually is not true, that that may have been once true; now you're talking about international organized crime with its roots way away from the coast of Somalia, they lie in Kenya and Nairobi, in Europe and in some cases in the U.S.

AMANPOUR: And that was clear when you tried to palm them off with $30,000 and they said something about I have my boss. My boss won't be satisfied. And you said we all have bosses.

So they were clearly telegraphing that this was not just about a little piracy, a little kidnapping.

HANKS: There are corporations that have dropped by helicopter millions of dollars in cash. That happens.

So if you could get a million dollars in cash dropped from the sky, why would these robbers - and that's what they are; they're just robbers - who are willing to do some very violent things - why would they settle for $30,000, where if they played this right, they can get - they can get a couple of million?

AMANPOUR: It's still incredible to me how the Navy SEALs and how the U.S. Special Forces actually tricked them, actually got one of them off and then - and then killed them.

That is one of the most dramatic things that I've seen in a long, long time, that period inside the lifeboat, where you are trying to stay in your seat and the other three are going bananas, the other four in there are going bananas, the shouting, the claustrophobia, the lack of air, the lack of water.

GREENGRASS: I think what happened was that they - the problem was they had four guys on there and they wanted desperately to get some or one of them at least off, which they did by saying we'll do a deal with you.

What then happened was that the dynamic inside the boat started to shift, inside the lifeboat, because the command that Muse had exercised began to break down. And the big guy, who was much more violent than the other four, started to really threaten, and the young kid started to have second thoughts. And the entire sort of emotional complexion inside the boat became unstable.

And that really was what the principle problem was, that the events began to accelerate beyond the control –

HANKS: You know it was somebody at the Defense Department had picked up the phone just moments after this began, found out what it was and said, "I’m going to find out their names," of the hijackers, and he did. He just started using his contacts and called around to all the tribes in the villages or whatnot.

And in the film, there's a moment where announcers literally says the name over the loudspeaker of the four hijackers. Even they're astounded. They know who we are.

That's how intricate this - all the lines of defense are.

AMANPOUR: And it is kind of a story about - I mean, it is incredible to see this little lifeboat, this little skiff and two warships, an aircraft carrier, you know, the might of the U.S. Navy arrayed against this little group.

GREENGRASS: It is, in fact, part of what makes the story compelling because, in the end, how do we deal with the badlands of the world, these places that you know so well, where central governments gone, warlords, crime, you know, terrorism, the whole poverty, hopelessness, what a crime story does is tell you the world is divided between the haves and the have-nots.

And that's where the crime comes. And that's not to justify it; these were dangerous, very dangerous young men, because there's nobody more dangerous than a young man with a gun who's got nothing to lose.

But if it takes the might of the U.S. Navy to take on four scrawny kids with a couple of AK-47s, I mean, when we go forward from here, 10-20 years, how viable is that?

AMANPOUR: What was it like shooting on the open sea?

What was it like actually doing all that out there in the open sea?

HANKS: Well, it certainly was an environment aid, you know, at - it was - it was - we were out in the elements and it - you don't have to pretend anything. We had a little bit of seasickness on one day. But the willingness and the abilities of what are the four Somali actors did out there, this is priceless stuff.

And it was - it was a lot of safety concerns, it was a lot of drilling, it was - it was very well prepped and organized –

GREENGRASS: But it was fun, too.

HANKS: Without a doubt, it's an adventure.

GREENGRASS: You definitely felt the sun on your face and the wind at your back –

HANKS: But these four guys didn't even know how to swim. They didn't know how to swim.

AMANPOUR: You pushed one of them into the water.

HANKS: You know, he –

AMANPOUR: Did he know?

HANKS: Well, he had learned how to swim. They all had to go to the - they all had to get licensed, you know, and so there you - there's certificates.

AMANPOUR: In the end, the way it's resolved is the Navy SEALs pick off, targeting by snipers, three of those remaining hostage-takers. If it - if it wasn't a true story, it would be hard to believe.

GREENGRASS: Yes, I think one of the things I liked about the story and I think comes through is you understand how nobody in this sort of ratcheting hostage drama, nobody actually wants violence. You know, the four young smiles just wanted their money. Phillips obviously wanted to get free. And the Navy wanted to negotiate an end to this that obviously would have ended up with them in prison.

But you know, the point is everybody had got to a place where nobody could back down. That's what's really interesting in the story. And in the end, it got to a point where they were so close to the Somali coast that storming the lifeboat was inevitable.

AMANPOUR: The president was not going to let an American captain go to Somalia and whatever else might have happened there.

At the very end, it's excruciating. You are spattered in all this blood. They take you off. You're in the medical unit on the ship. And there's a woman who's looking after you. At first, we thought it was an actress, very, very realistic. But she wasn't. She was a real medic.

HANKS: Yes, we ended - that was a scene that we grabbed; it was not on the schedule and it wasn't in the screenplay. And those - that - she and her colleagues did not know they were going to be in a movie that day. We had shot some other stuff and it worked fine and we had some other things that we were doing as well that day.

But Frank Castellano, the actual captain of the Bainbridge said, well, you know, I met - I didn't meet Phillips till he came out of the infirmary and Paul said, "Infirmary?"

(LAUGHTER)

HANKS: We went down and they treated it like a training –

AMANPOUR: Exercise.

HANKS: - drill and, yes, we grabbed it. And it's one of - if we had - maybe had planned it or thought about it, I - it might not be as, you know, organic as it turned out to –

GREENGRASS: It was quite funny talking to her, because I said, listen, just imagine this is a training exercise. So just one small detail; it's only a small detail. It'll be Tom Hanks.

(LAUGHTER)

HANKS: And the next day she was on guard duty out in front of the ship. Hey, no movies for you today. Now you're just a - now you're just a sailor.

(CROSSTALK)

AMANPOUR: That was really amazing.

Tom Hanks, thank you very much indeed. Good luck.

Paul Greengrass, thank you very much. It's a wonderful film.

HANKS: Thanks.

GREENGRASS: Thanks.

ABDI

AMANPOUR: Barkhad Abdi, welcome to the program.

BARKHAD ABDI, ACTOR: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Did you ever think, in your wildest dreams, that you would be playing in a major Hollywood movie with the biggest Hollywood star ever, Tom Hanks?

ABDI: Oh, not at all. Not at all. It didn't come in my head. It's not something I planned for. It’s –

AMANPOUR: What happened? When did you get the call? How did you know?

ABDI: Well, I was just at my friend's house, just hanging out.

AMANPOUR: In Minneapolis –

ABDI: In Minneapolis, yes, in Minneapolis where I live. And he came on the local television, you know, and just the local channel, saying, casting call for Tom Hanks film, Somali actors. You know? So I kind of felt, you know, they came a little too close. I always loved acting; it's something that I wanted to do. But it’s not something - you know, I –

AMANPOUR: You had not been an actor before.

ABDI: I was –

AMANPOUR: Had you been a performer at all?

ABDI: Uh - no, I was just - used to shoot some videos, music videos and such. But I wasn't even in front of a camera.

AMANPOUR: Pretty amazing. OK. So I'm going to play this clip. We've already played it once in this program, but I want to show you yourself, as a Hollywood actor.

ABDI: OK.

(OFF MIKE COMMENTS)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible).

"CAPTAIN PHILLIPS": We've got a problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on.

"PHILLIPS": We push the ship too hard, we're off the grid. That means the computer's now offline.

"MUSE": Captain…

"PHILLIPS": The ship's broken.

"MUSE": Captain, no one gets hurt if you don't play no games.

"PHILLIPS": Now it's - the ship's broken. We had to go –

"MUSE": Nobody gets hurt if –

Hey!

Look at me.

"PHILLIPS": Sure.

"MUSE": Look at me.

"PHILLIPS": Sure.

"MUSE": I'm the captain now.

(Inaudible).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: It’s pretty amazing.

ABDI: Yes.

AMANPOUR: I mean, look at me, you say to Tom Hanks. You weren't intimidated at all.

ABDI: You know, that was the first time I met Tom.

AMANPOUR: Right there, that scene?

ABDI: Yes. That scene, that was the first time, you know. After we – because Paul, when we first got selected for the film, Paul put us through our training, he put us through our training –

AMANPOUR: What sort of training?

ABDI: Swimming. Swimming training, I didn't know how to swim, fighting, you know, climbing, weapons and I had to learn how to stand still in a skiff that was going real fast. So after we'd done all that training, we were all excited to see Tom, you know.

We wanted to see Tom and after that time, Paul comes to us, I remember, and said, no one's going to see Tom, until the first scene of the film you guys are doing with him.

We were sort of disappointed. I didn't - I understood the way of the scene, because it was the same scene that we did the auditioning for.

AMANPOUR: So he wanted to keep the drama.

ABDI: Yes.

AMANPOUR: He wanted to really make it like Tom, the captain, was seeing you, the pirate, for the first time.

ABDI: Correct. So, you know, I understood that aspect of it, and, you know, it made a lot of sense to me and I thought about it a lot. I didn't get much sleep that night thinking about it. And when I came the second day, Paul come to me and say you have to own it. You have to take control. And do what you got to do.

And then, just, I had no choice but to come to become that character and use a lot of imaginations and just believed in - as much as I can.

AMANPOUR: Well, it really does show. Who would have known that you weren't an actor or a pirate, by the way? I mean, that was pretty convincing.

ABDI: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: What do you think about portraying a pirate? I mean, Somalia has had a pretty bad rap for a long time. I've covered it for the last twenty years; you all, you know, went through a famine and a war and warlords and Al-Shabaab and terrorism.

What went through your mind? What did you think about what your country would say about it, your countrypeople?

ABDI: Well, right there and then, before the auditioning began, there was a lot of people around me even saying that this film will embarrass Somali people. And I didn't look at it that way. I did not look at it that way. It was a true story, that had been. And I understood why these pirates are doing what they're doing. They are some desperate guys.

And we all know Somalia has been a lot of this country for the twenty four years, the last 24 years, going now. And growing up, I heard all sort of bad stuff about my country and everything that was going on. And at this point, to me, it was just tell the story. It was something that I loved and I had to do it.

AMANPOUR: What do you hope the takeaway will be for your family in Somalia, for the people of Somalia? They're going to see it.

ABDI: You know, I hope they understand what the motivation that this people does.

AMANPOUR: You mean the pirates?

ABDI: The pirates –

AMANPOUR: The poverty –

ABDI: - yes, the poverty –

AMANPOUR: - the organized crime.

ABDI: - yes, its organized crime, and you know it's the people that really get out of it don't even live in Somalia. And these pirates mostly are just young men that's being used by older guys for tribes and whatever they use for their own purpose, they use them.

AMANPOUR: Yes.

What about – you know, how have you felt recently? You've had Somalis, Al-Shabaab, who have wreaked havoc in Nairobi, at a mall, the Westgate. You've had Navy SEALs try to get an Al-Shabaab leader just this week.

You know, there you are in Minneapolis, trying to have an American life and it's still bad in parts of your country.

ABDI: You know, as Somalis, we're kind of used to this –

AMANPOUR: Do you feel stigmatized?

ABDI: No, we're just sick and tired of these Al-Shabaab people. And you know, whatever they do and just giving a bad rep to for people, because also a lot of Somali people are not bad. There is a lot of success stories that's going on here in the U.S. and in Somalia.

But all we hear about it is just the bad parts. And we are just tired of it. We don't support these people and I really feel sorry for all the bad stuff that happened to them.

AMANPOUR: What went through your mind when there was initial reports, which apparently are not true, that it was some Somali Americans who were involved in the Kenya attack?

ABDI: You know, it was disappointing. It was disappointing. I know a lot of people that - some of the guys that left for Al-Shabaab. We had the stories, and we, as a community, we tried to fight it.

And find out, the people that’s behind it, it was a problem that we had, some of our youth and some people that I even went to school with were sent back. It was a disappointment. They go back, for what? To destroy and it didn't really make sense to me.

AMANPOUR: Do you have family still in Somalia?

ABDI: Yes. I do have a lot of family in Somalia that haven't met all my life.

AMANPOUR: You haven't ever met them?

ABDI: Yes, there's some (inaudible) met and some I left them when I was 7 years old.

AMANPOUR: Will you ever go back?

ABDI: I’m trying, only one day.

AMANPOUR: Yes. And what do you want to do with the rest of your life?

ABDI: For now, I want to see if I can act more, see how it goes from there.

AMANPOUR: Well, Barkhad Abdi, thank you so much indeed.

ABDI: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Great.

ABDI: It's an honor to be here.

AMANPOUR: Lovely to talk to you.

HANKS ALONE

AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

You do a lot of films that have somehow a lot to do with what's going on, breaking news, culture, whatever it is, we've had Capt. Phillips about the piracy off the Somalia coast. Twenty years ago, you did "Philadelphia." It was at the height of the AIDS crisis and who knew how this was all going to work out.

Could you imagine then that now gay marriage is legalized in many states, that now you can be openly gay and serve in the United States military, that now being gay is a much more acceptable thing here in the United States?

HANKS: I could. And part of that is just my basic - what's the word I'm looking for - positive attitude as far as where we are as Americans. We always seem to be moving forward on some sort of righteous front. We always seem to becoming a better version of ourselves.

Part of that is because I read my "Weekly Reader" when I was in grade school. And as - I read nonfiction for entertainment. And I think despite 49 percent of the time we seem to be taking a step backward, but I think inexorably, we're moving forward 51 percent of the time, which gives us - essentially it gives us a degree of forward progress.

And with "Philadelphia," what was happening there, it was - it was the beginning of the public acceptance of the debate. It was no longer gay strangers who danced in clubs in urban centers that were dying of the disease. It was the bank tellers at our bank and it was the people that we went to church to and it was people that we went to high school with.

And that meant to me at the time that this is just an example of America constantly redefines itself and the way we always redefine ourselves for the better, despite all the problems.

AMANPOUR: Well, you won the Oscar for that film in 1993 and you, in your speech, talked about many gay men and women who had inspired you.

You also went onto say this:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HANKS: I wish my babies could have the same sort of teacher, the same sort of friends.

And there lies my dilemma here tonight. I know that my work in this case is magnified by the fact that the streets of heaven are too crowded with angels. We know their names. They number a thousand for each one of the red ribbons that we wear here tonight. They finally rest in the warm embrace of the gracious creator of us all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANKS: Well, I'm sorry; that's the way I feel.

AMANPOUR: No, but you were emotional then. And even now you tell me you believe in the glass half-full and the inexorable progress –

HANKS: And that word correctly (inaudible).

AMANPOUR: No, really.

But then did you? Did you think then because you were so worried and sad about it back then?

HANKS: Well, that's a very emotional moment that plays itself out in front of billions of people.

But I did feel that the time would come where a common sense would prevail and we'd be able to understand our brothers' dilemma, more than we care about our own narrow sense of some brand of law that is beyond that, it would be made by men.

AMANPOUR: I want to ask you one other question. This is for a separate thing.

You are collaborating with CNN on a series of films about the '60s. The first one in November will be about JFK.

You were 7 or something when he was assassinated. What do you remember about that time?

HANKS: I remembered thinking that this doesn't happen in the real world. A president doesn’t get shot in front of everybody the way John F. Kennedy was. Now at 7 years old, I'm barely even a socially conscious being. But the overpowering sadness of every adult I came across was rattling quite frankly.

Everybody can remember where they were and what they were doing when - I was in the second grade, and our teacher started crying. I hadn't seen grownups cry ever, anywhere in my - (inaudible). And here, suddenly, this was going on. It was a type of confusion that - (inaudible) look in a lot of ways we're still reeling from, you know, ripples from that confusion.

AMANPOUR: What will the film show us?

HANKS: Well, the stuff we're doing for CNN is really taking how television covered these great moments, both of history and sort of like society, everything from news reports to like the British invasion of rock bands.

And it's how this medium that was really just coming into its first great technological muscles and how it now looks so incredibly primitive that we almost wonder how we hung so much importance on the truth that television told us, when really it was - it was dictated by copper wire and innuendo, almost.

And you might notice how in some ways, despite all the fabulous toys and gym cameras and projections that it's still - it might now be governed by optic fiber and innuendo. And that never seems to go away.

But it becomes the record, always the record that is malleable; you can go back and over and regig, rejig it. But when you've got Chet Huntley, who was arguably one of the most trusted names in the world, in America, or –

(CROSSTALK)

HANKS: - let's take Walter Cronkite, the man himself, on the phone, on TV, talking to an unseen voice, he said, yes, yes, all right. All right. Well, it's been confirmed the president is dead.

It ends up being this window that you - has - if it hasn't united us all, it has - television has empowered us to be able to have some vision beyond your teacher breaking down in tears for reasons that you don't understand.

AMANPOUR: Tom Hanks, thank you very much indeed.

HANKS: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Thank you. Thank you so much.

soundoff (One Response)
  1. mike rowhani

    christian amanpour is a brave, ittelligent herro and world should be proud to have her.

    October 12, 2013 at 6:45 am | Reply

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