Tom Hanks bookends London Film Festival, with 'Saving Mr. Banks' to close fest

Posted by · 7:10 am · August 9th, 2013

Two years ago, Rachel Weisz was the unofficial mascot of the London Film Festival, as “360” and “The Deep Blue Sea” opened and closed the fest, respectively. This year, Tom Hanks finds himself in that position, and this year’s festival will be bookended by both his Oscar-buzzed prestige dramas. Paul Greengrass’ thriller “Captain Phillips” was announced as the opening film last week; now John Lee Hancock’s “Saving Mr. Banks,” in which Hanks stars as Walt Disney opposite Emma Thompson’s P.L. Travers, will close things out on October 20.

Hanks, who is also attending the LFF opening with “Phillips,” will return to the red carpet for the Closing Night Gala, with Thompson and Hancock also confirmed to attend.

To my knowledge, this is the first festival date that has been announced for the film, which is only opening Stateside in mid-December. It is, however, listed as the “European premiere,” which means it’s going to pop up somewhere else beforehand. Does this mean another coup for the New York Film Festival? It could well do. The NYFF has been piling up the flashy world premieres this year, including “Captain Phillips,” “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and, most recently, Spike Jonze’s “Her.”

It wasn’t clear beforehand whether or not Disney wanted to go the festival route for what appears to be Oscar bait of the more mainstream variety, but it seems they do. Closing London is a non-competitive, relatively low-pressure festival gig, so whether or not it’s a film for critics, this appointment allows them to decorate their For Your Consideration ads with some prestigious-looking festival laurels. Win-win.

Previous films to have held the LFF Closing Night slot include “127 Hours,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Nowhere Boy,” “Babel,” “The Darjeeling Limited” and last year’s “Great Expectations” — which, incidentally, is finally opening in the US on October 11. It’s a slot that usually goes to UK productions or co-productions, and producer Alison Owen (an Oscar nominee 15 years ago for “Elizabeth”) took this news to remind us of the film’s British credentials: 

“‘Saving Mr. Banks’ is very much about British manners versus American values, as Pamela Travers and Walt Disney battle over the rights to Mary Poppins, so it feels absolutely fitting that the LFF Closing Night should be our European Premiere, and we feel very honoured. We hope Pamela Travers would approve wholeheartedly. We filmed the London sequences in the street where Pamela lived, and London was both the start of the journey for Mary Poppins and for our movie, so we feel like we’re beginning in the right place.”

The rest of this year’s LFF lineup will be announced on September 4.

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