The Polar Express is a modern Christmas classic with one of the world’s most beloved actors at the helm – but can you name every character played by Tom Hanks?
Released back in 2004, Robert Zemeckis’s festive adventure was the first entirely motion-capture picture. Back then, I was swept up in its holiday spirit; the train, spectral and luminous, filled with excitement and magic, seemed like a dream. Today, it’s actually terrifying.
I digress. Its achievements with animation not withstanding, one of its most notable choices was casting Hanks in not one, not two, but six different roles.
If I were to ask your everyday moviegoer, most would probably be able to name at least four; if they don’t get Conductor, then they’ve not seen the movie or they’re really not a fan.
The voice of Eddie, the homeless man on top of the train, is pretty unmistakable, and his adventures on the top of the carriages in the middle of a blizzard are a big takeaway. Then, of course, if you’re going to have Hanks in multiple roles, it was obvious from the get-go he’d end up voicing Father Christmas.
Over the course of The Polar Express, Hanks voices Hero Boy, Hero Boy’s father, Conductor, Hobo, Scrooge puppet and Santa Claus himself. At one point, he nearly played every single role in the movie; unfortunately, this quickly became tiresome and Zemeckis opted for a wider cast.
In an earlier interview with IGN, Hanks opened up about taking on all the characters. ‘When Bob explained it enough to me so that I could understand the process we were doing would make it possible for grown-ups to play the kids, that Nona could play the girl and I could play the boy and Eddie Deezen and Peter Scolari could come along with it, that opened up a lot of opportunities for one aspect of it,’ he said.
‘Bob at one point said, ‘I think you should play every role in this movie because then we could do it. You could play every role!’ Forgive me, Bob. But I said, ‘Well, wait a minute. There’s girls in this movie. I’m going to play every elf?’ He said, ‘Yeah, it’ll be great.’
‘There’s only so much that I can internally grasp as an actor and on the day of tests that we did I played five or six or seven roles in the course of that day, and I said, ‘Bob, I’m exhausted here.’ So in my mind, I had a track on the five characters that I played.
‘I could understand the differences between them all and I understood how they related to the boy and I understood what the boy’s perceptions of them were. And it was just a circumstance where it was doable.’
Hilariously, over the course of the movie’s production, Hanks kept fooling around by making Eddie swear. ‘I tell you this, this is a big motherf*cking train. This is the greatest f*cking train I ever rode. Jesus, this hot chocolate tastes like horsesh*t,’ he joked.
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