Tom Hanks/Photo ©Bruce Talamon/Vendome International
Accuse us of having a one-track mind if you must, but there was only one thing we could think when we heard the news that Universal Studios optioned the film rights to Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts for Tom Hanks, along with Playtone partner Gary Goetzman, to produce: Hanks, get in front of the camera!
Tom Hanks is a man of many talents. His early career comedies like “Splash,” “Dragnet,” “The Money Pit,” and “Big” became fan favorites in the 1980s. The man clearly knew how to entertain. But then Hanks cut his teeth on roles significantly more complex — “Philadelphia,” “Forrest Gump,” “The Green Mile” (the latter two based on books by Winston Groom and Stephen King, respectively). In 2000 Hanks began producing, and turned out “Cast Away,” in which he also starred (alongside Wilson the Volleyball). Since then, Hanks has bounced back and forth between these two spots on set, but for this particular adaptation of Larson’s true tale of America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany in the 1930s, we see a role perfect for Hanks the actor.
Larson’s book follows the Dodd family from Chicago to Berlin in 1933. William E. Dodd, an unassuming professor, has taken the job as ambassador, and so moves to Germany with his wife, son, and daughter. There, they witness firsthand the events that unfold over the course of Hitler’s reign. Dodd’s disbelief turns to disgust and is only exacerbated by the U.S. State Department’s indifference to his reports of the events, which only become more and more horrific from then on.
Author Erik Larson has the gift of great storytelling. His various books have brought lesser-known stories set against the backdrop of world history to the masses, educating readers while entertaining them. In 2003 he published The Devil in the White City, a brilliantly written account of the 1893 Chicago World Fair and two men — one a genius architect and the other a sociopathic killer — who left their mark upon it. In 2010, Leonardo DiCaprio acquired the film rights to the book, and it was then announced that DiCaprio would play murderer Dr. H. H. Holmes in the adaptation. We’ve been anxiously awaiting more news on the film, but it’s kept pretty quiet since then. Now, it looks as though the race to the silver screen may be on for these two works by Larson.
Do you agree that Hanks should play the part of Dodd? And what about Dodd’s gallivanting daughter, Martha? Any ideas for which young starlet should step into those shoes?