Tom Hanks Saddles Up for His First Western in the ‘News of the World'

This film is based on a 2016 book of the same name.

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

What to Know

  • This is Tom Hanks' first Western.
  • It's based on a best-selling book by Paulette Jiles.
  • He's reunited with his "Captain Phillips" director, Paul Greengrass.

Delivering the news in today’s world certainly has its challenges. But imagine delivering the news to people in the 1870s, riding around on horseback across the great frontier. That’s part of the story in the new Tom Hanks film, “News of the World.”

Universal Pictures
Tom Hanks as Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd in News of the World, co-written and directed by Paul Greengrass.

Hanks plays Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a veteran of three wars who travels from town to town reading newspapers from around the world. Each community is eager to pay a small fee to hear the news from outside their town and all react in a different way. Not unlike many people who hear the news today.

“The only difference between then and now is that you can move faster than a horse can walk,” Hanks says. “The concept of reading the news, we didn’t realize when we were making the movie, is that it would come down under the rubric of ‘Well, who says that’s the news?’” 

Hanks says Kidd is picking out the stories that may actually mean something to the listeners and open their eyes to the realities of their town and situation. But as with any news, it isn’t always well-received.

Universal Pictures
(from left) Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks) and Johanna Leonberger (Helena Zengel) in News of the World, co-written and directed by Paul Greengrass.

Along his travels, Kidd comes across a 10-year-old girl played by a German actress named Helena Zengel. She plays Johanna, an orphan whose family was brutally killed by the Kiowa, then raised as one of their own. Johanna is very untrusting given everything that she’s been through. But she senses something in Kidd that allows her to go with him.

The two form an unspoken bond as Kidd takes on a father figure role, protecting her as they travel across the dangerous Texas plains. Zengel's native language is German but she had to learn how to speak Kiowa for the film. 

“I started learning the language 3 weeks before we started filming the movie, for 1 and half hours every day,” Zengel says. “Learning that language and learning to respect that culture was important for me”

Zengel says working with Hanks was overwhelming and amazing. 

“He knows everything! He knows the rules about being a superstar,” Zengel says. 

Universal Pictures
(from left) Johanna Leonberger (Helena Zengel) and Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks) in News of the World, co-written and directed by Paul Greengrass.

Hanks has often been referred to as American’s Dad for his kind demeanor, and genuine sense of humor. He’s an actor that people find comforting, especially during uncertain times. So it’s no surprise that in this volatile Western, Hanks as Kidd manages to bring a sense of calm in a sea of uncertainty. And he delivers the story people need to hear, whether we like or not.

“New of the World” opens in select theaters on Christmas Day. It was directed by Paul Greengrass and is based on the best-selling book by Paulette Jiles.

Contact Us