Tom Hanks nearly played every role in this classic Christmas movie

We know that Tom Hanks played multiple roles in one of the most memorable Christmas movies of the 2000s, but it was almost a one-man show.

Tom Hanks was once in line to play every role in a classic Christmas movie

There aren’t many people who embody the spirit of Christmas more than Tom Hanks. He’s pretty much a physical manifestation of everything that’s merry and lovely in the world. That’s why it’s so weird that his most famous foray into the world of holiday movies is the uncanny valley nightmare of The Polar Express.

In fact, Tom Hanks very nearly ended up playing every single character in Robert Zemeckis’ motion-capture extravaganza. He eventually only played seven roles in one of his best animated movies, which is slacking if you ask me. The Polar Express stands among the best Christmas movies for those who grew up with it, though the visual effects have aged like egg nog left on the side until New Year. But it could have been even more extreme for Hanks.

He told IGN: “Bob [Zemeckis] 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!’ 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’.”

Early tests, however, made it clear that this simply wasn’t going to work. Hanks said: “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’.”

Tom Hanks plays several different characters in The Polar Express

Hanks said the costume process helped him to differentiate between his multiple roles, with a change of shoes allowing him to get into the right headspace for everyone from a small boy through to Santa Claus himself.

“There’s no trick to it because quite frankly, that’s my job,” said Hanks. “My job is to make manifest these other people and you just imagine what they are and you come up to a kind of physiological understanding of who they are and then you stick to it.”

For one of Hollywood’s best actors, The Polar Express was something of a passion project. The actor first got hold of the rights to the children’s book in the ’90s, under the condition that any new movies based on the story wouldn’t be animated. Oops!

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When Zemeckis came on board, though, his idea of using innovative motion-capture technology was too good to miss. Many massive blockbusters now use enhanced versions of the same tech that Zemeckis was helping to pioneer 20 years ago. In The Polar Express, it’s fair to say that the effect isn’t always warm and lovely. It’s unintentionally one of the best horror movies ever made.

But we love Christmas, and we love Hanks. So let’s not worry too much about his weird CGI face. Instead, we’ll relax and revisit some of the best Tom Hanks movies. Alternatively, find out why Tom Hanks thinks one musical is “perfection”.

And with the holiday season in full swing, learn about the stories we’d love to see in a Harry Potter Christmas special. You can also find out about Keira Knightley’s other Christmas movie, which is really bleak, and learn where the Elf cast has been since one of the best movies of all time – we stand by it – arrived.