Director Marielle Heller has explained why Tom Hanks was the right actor to play the US children’s entertainer Fred Rogers in her latest movie.

The Forrest Gump actor takes on the role of the TV star, musician and puppeteer, who hosted the pre-school television series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

Arriving at the premiere of A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood at the BFI London Film Festival with her husband, The Lonely Island star Jorma Taccone, she told the PA news agency: “There are very few celebrities who hold as much adoration and love and people feel as much ownership over them as Tom and Mr Rogers and in many ways he was really the perfect choice.

“He also worked really hard at this part, he didn’t just go in and do Tom Hanks, he really channelled something very deep.”

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood UK Premiere – BFI London Film Festival 2019
Director Marielle Heller and Jorma Taccone (Ian West/PA)

Heller also addressed how the film would play to international audiences who did not grow up with Mr Rogers, saying: “I think the thing about him is his message is so resonant, no matter what.

“He went on the air in 1968 and yet everything he believed in feels so relevant today and so timely.

“It’s almost weird how long ago it was, his last shows were in 2001, he really went off the air in 98.

“So I hope people who didn’t know him and didn’t grow up with him and have the same sort of major nostalgic response to him would feel that way.”

She added: “He’s not an icon in that way, it’s not like he was ever cool. He means something to people’s hearts, somebody who people feel ownership of, so I did feel like that felt like a big responsibility.”

A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood is released in UK cinemas on December 6.