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The True Story Behind Tom Junod, the Inspiration for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

November 6th, 2019The True Story Behind Tom Junod, the Inspiration for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

This Thanksgiving, audiences will be treated to A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD, director Marielle Heller’s heartwarming drama inspired by a real-life interview with legendary children’s show host Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks). But if you think this film is a straightforward biopic, you’re mistaken.

In the film, actor Matthew Rhys plays central character Lloyd Vogel, a journalist who's writing a profile on the legendary creator of "Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood." Lloyd is actually a fictional depiction of writer Tom Junod, the man who wrote "Can You Say… Hero?" the 1998 Esquire piece around which the film bases its pseudo-biographical approach.

An award-winning journalist, Junod wrote for publications such as Life, Sports Illustrated and GQ before moving onto the magazine where he’d eventually make the mark that inspired A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD's narrative.

Writers Noah Harpster and Micah Fitzerman-Blue do seem to delve a bit into the psyche of Rogers and his affirmational legacy, much like the documentary feature WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? As seen in the film’s trailer above, there are even depictions of interviews that Fred Rogers gave throughout his life, such as the moment where he (Hanks) talks about cheering people up through acts like hitting the minor chords of a piano all at once.

But the narrative for A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD is not only more of a dramatically enhanced telling of true events, but it’s also more focused on Lloyd Vogel’s life story. As such, Tom Junod’s observations from his interview with Fred Rogers are the fuel for Marielle Heller’s drama about learning the very lessons that "Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood" taught children and adults in the show’s 33-year history.

Strangely enough, when interviewing Fred Rogers, Junod recalled that the questions were always turned back to him by Rogers. That fact only makes A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD’S approach to their interview all the more fitting, as Lloyd Vogel’s journey takes a similar, but more movie-friendly path.

A moving story about overcoming the past and embracing the person you’ve become, A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD uses a true encounter with a legendary force for good to tell a story that the world could use now more than ever. The film opens in theatres on November 22, but you can get advanced tickets for opening weekend now!

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