Back left
Back right

Tom Hanks Plays Hero Pilot in Sully

Sep 06, 2016

By: Lynn Barker

The story of the new true-life film Sully, goes like this: In 2009, just eight years after the disaster of 9/11, a U.S. Airways flight from New York to North Carolina, sucked a flock of Canadian geese into its engines shortly after take-off forcing the pilot Sully Sullenberger to land….somewhere. The only real option was the middle of the Hudson River! Nobody died. Popular actor Tom Hanks plays Sully in the movie and tells us about the man he plays and how the event grabbed the world.

Tom as Sully tells the tower he has to ditch the planeTom as Sully tells the tower he has to ditch the planeCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: Tom, you were planning a vacation when this role came your way?

  • Tom: Yeah. Show business gets in the way of everything. One of my kids was born while I was shooting a movie. I knew I was tired and had (planned) a period of non-activity. I read the screenplay in seventeen minutes and I was infected with the bug of imagining the story. Once that’s happened, you are doomed. You can only hope it works out schedule-wise.

Sully (Tom Hanks) about to ditch the plane in the HudsonSully (Tom Hanks) about to ditch the plane in the HudsonCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: Having never worked with Clint Eastwood (director) but knowing him a bit, how did you feel working with him?

  • Tom: I’ve seen all the Clint Eastwood movies and the ones that are amazing are super amazing. When I see what Clint has done with minimum funds and every cinematic trick that exists, it’s quite astounding. And, he’s got some pretty iconic actor performances. I’m a fan and co-worker.  I made a survey of people who have worked with Clint. Are the stories true? Do you only get one take? Do you not know sometimes when the camera is rolling? They all said “There’s not a lot of takes but there is a lot of coverage” which means you have seven, eight, nine, maybe more opportunities to do what you want to do in a scene.

Sully (Tom Hanks) waits for the NTSB hearing on the crashSully (Tom Hanks) waits for the NTSB hearing on the crashCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: You spent time with the real pilot Sully Sullenberger. What stuck with you about this man and became very important that you get right?

  • Tom: You don’t want to screw up somebody’s life (story). I do not ever want to impose upon them some editorial aspect of their behavior. I want to be authentic and accurate to (everything that happened to them). Even though, in a movie, I will be interpreting moments that are nothing like what actually happened but, I want to do all those armed with as much authenticity as possible. Sully, he walked me through the script. He had a big dog-eared, notated version of one of the early drafts. He was going through it, even scenes I wasn’t in. “I know you’re not in this Tom, but I want you to know…” as though it were the Bible. I was like “You know, that’s easy to change Sully We can change these names and any other (dialogue) in there can be altered”.
  • Oddly enough, there was procedure in the screenplay that, by altering it, became more emotionally authentic to what went on. There were other things slapped on for the sake of (drama, that he objected to), “Well then it’s out!”. There were some things where (I said) “Well, you may have to fight with Clint on that” but, by and large, all of it was to get to this place where I heard the same drums that he heard.

The real Sully SullenbergerThe real Sully SullenbergerCourtesy of

Q: Why was this event in 2009 just so remarkable do you think?

  • Tom: Because of what didn’t happen. We had gone through 9/11. The last thing the world and New York City wanted to experience was a bunch of dead people (in a plane crash) against the skyline of New York City. They did not need to see more wreckage, more flames on the water. They did not need to see everything fall apart one more time. The opposite happened which, on one hand, is something to celebrate but the bullet dodged, I think is why it has this emotional resonance.
  • Can you imagine what the next ten days would have been like in New York City, with the river right there with the bodies that would have had to have been pulled out of the water? The New York Times would have run the story with pictures of all the people that would have been lost, regular, ordinary lives (snuffed out). You would have seen all of that again and it would have been a massive, long moment of national mourning.
  • Instead, everyone did their job and we all survived what seemed to be an act of God by way of a flock of Canadian geese (flying into the plane’s engine). You can celebrate Sully’s instincts and what he did certainly but the residents of New York City were seeing another low-flying passenger plane coming in at the level of the buildings. No one wanted to see that again. They did but it was one of the best good news stories of the decade.

Sully tries to help passengers get off the downed planeSully tries to help passengers get off the downed planeCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Sully Movie PosterSully Movie PosterCourtesy of Warner Bros.

You can see Tom as Sully in theaters now!


Have Your Say

Do you like Tom Hanks movies? Are you old enough to remember when the plane crashed into the Hudson River? Do you think pilot Sully is a hero? Give us a comment below.