Forster also explained how he built a creative language with Hanks to pull off the balance of tone with “A Man Called Otto,” which led to casting his son. He explained:
“[Me and Hanks] had this very similar set of sensibilities. I like everything to be real and underplayed and not too slapsticky, but in this case, because we go to a darker place, we can go a little bit down that slapstick road too. A lot of it is him massaging the movie. You have this play between the dark and the light, and then you have the same between the present and flashbacks. We had to weave flashbacks into the present day so that it doesn’t disconnect, especially as we used Truman Hanks, Tom’s son, to play a younger version of Otto. The reason we used him, someone who is not an actor, was to make sure that it felt embedded and you’re not taken out of the movie.”
Both father and son Hanks are crucial to building a believable character within a very specific tonal landscape. The film is at all times both a strong drama and a strong comedy, and while the older Hanks bares the brunt of balancing it between the two of them, the younger Hanks sets the foundation and gives the character the basis on which to change. The movie charts an emotional metamorphosis, where Otto is forced to reckon with his past and reframe his present—and it hinges on the right casting for the younger Otto role. When you’ve got a father and son taking on two versions of the same character, it makes sense that there would be a connection in these parts, but having such a strong performer bring his kid along, you know they are going to at least be pretty dang good. And they are.
“A Man Called Otto” is in theaters now.