Enjoy a Beautiful Day

Any day can be improved with the addition of a little Mr. Rogers.

For more than seven years, I’ve been urging readers to read Tom Junod’s tremendous profile of Mister Rogers, entitled “Can You Say…Hero?”. 21 years after it was first published, Junod’s work remains a wonderfully written piece worthy of your time. I still find myself re-reading every year or two.

This past weekend, I had occasion to do so once again, prior to seeing the new movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”. You’ve probably seen that Tom Hanks is portraying Rogers in this film, as natural a fit as there’s ever been, particularly in light of the rather amazing coincidence that the two are actually distant relatives. You may not realize, however, that the movie is not actually a bio-pic. In fact, Hanks’s Rogers is a supporting character, rather than the lead.

The movie is actually a semi-fictionalized re-telling of the story behind that original Esquire profile. Real-life writer Tom Junod has been fictionalized into Lloyd Vogel (at Junod’s request, as he notes in another tremendous piece published just this month):

“Well, basically everything in the script that’s about the relationship between you and Fred is very accurate!”

“That’s good!”

“But everything else—the relationship between you and your father and you and your wife—is made up!”

I read a copy of the script over the weekend, with an open mind. On Monday morning, I wrote Micah and Noah back, along with Peter Saraf, the producer at Big Beach, the company that had optioned my Esquire story, and asked them to change my name and the names of my family members. And that’s how I became Lloyd Vogel.

The change does nothing to take away from the movie. It’s a well-written, and fabulously well-directed, film. It’s also very true to the spirit of “Can You Say……Hero?”, and like that piece, it’s well worth your time.