Tom Hanks Reveals How He Got into Character for ‘Sully’

Project Casting

Tom Hanks reveals his acting process behind Sully.

When it was revealed that Tom Hanks would play Miracle on Hudson pilot Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger in Clint Eastwood’s new movie Sully, it seemed like a match made in heaven. Who is better to play an American hero than one of the most talented American actors in recent history? Recently, Tom Hanks opened up about starring in the feature film and how he prepared for the role.

Hanks revealed that he initially planned on taking time off but, when the opportunity became available, Hanks couldn’t say no.

He explained, “Sometimes you read something that is so stirring and at the same time so simple, such a perfect blend of behavior and procedure. Now, I’m as competitive as the next actor, so I knew I wanted at least a shot at it, even though I’d been working pretty steadily for about six years.  Sure I was beat but, not unlike a solid jolt of adrenaline, this role, Sully, Mr. Clint Eastwood…they all came along.  I felt like I couldn’t pass up a chance at playing in this great double-header at the end of this long baseball season.”

Hanks explained that he found it intimidating to play an actual person on screen.

He explains, “You’re always intimidated.  You say to yourself, ‘I’ll never sound like him, I’ll never look like him.  Hopefully I can embody some aspect, capture some part of his personality, his characteristics, his gravitas, his charm,’ whomever the person may be.  And then you go to work.” For example, Hanks says one of the challenges was “to embody Sully’s level of experience and expertise in the cockpit.”

Hanks also explains that Sully told him that the super-realistic simulations would prepare Hanks for the role.

Hanks pointed out, “He kept saying, ‘You’ll see what it’s like to fly when you get in the simulator,’ and I’ll tell you, it was the most lifelike experience.  It feels exactly as though you are in a plane, it requires no imagination because the physics of it—the tilting, the motion—it’s amazing.”

One major advantage of the feature film was the amount of access to the real records of the “Miracle on Hudson”.

Hanks explains that it was incredibly helpful because he and his co-star Aaron Eckhart wanted to ensure they captured the professionalism in the cockpit. Hanks explains, “Luckily, we had the flight plan, we knew what we were supposed to do and pushed the buttons when we were supposed to, which we worked on a lot.  It was a fun way to spend a day, but you also got this experiential aspect of being in a real no-nonsense atmosphere, as well as how truly short a period of time this all happened in and how many decisions and feelings that had to have gone into it for Sully and Skiles.  In the end, Aaron and I were both eager to make sure we looked like we knew what we were doing in order to do right by them.”

While Hanks enjoyed the cockpit scenes, he also enjoyed the scenes in which Sully is getting interrogated by the National Transportation Safety Board representatives.

He explains, “I thought they were some of the most fascinating moments for the character and the movie. They were the most delicious things for me to play because the stakes are huge throughout that process.”

What do you think? Discuss this story with fellow Project Casting fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @projectcasting.