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VOGEL: This piece will be for an issue about heroes. Do you consider yourself a hero?
ROGERS: I don't think of myself as a hero, no, not at all.
VOGEL: What about Mister Rogers? Is he a hero?
ROGERS: I don't understand the question.
~ Lloyd Vogel and Fred Rogers.

Fred McFeely Rogers is the heroic primary antagonist of the 2019 drama film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. A member of Family Communications and the creator of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, Rogers was known to young children as Mister Rogers and adored nationally for his gentle demeanor. 

In 1998, Rogers strikes a friendship with Lloyd Vogel, a self-absorbed, embittered journalist who is assigned to interview him for the magazine Esquire. After learning that Vogel assaulted his father Jerry for cheating on his cancer-stricken mother and abandoning his family, Rogers challenges Vogel to forgive Jerry and acknowledge his emotional problems, breaking through the journalist's callous front and slowly winning him over through his gentle kindness, patience, friendship, and preternatural empathy.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood employs Rogers and the format of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood as storytelling devices, framing its events within an episode of Rogers' show to make it an access point to Rogers' friendship with the Vogel family.

Rogers, who is based on his real-life counterpart, is portrayed by Tom Hanks, who also voiced Woody and portrayed Forrest Gump.

Role in the film

Opening

RogersBeginning

Rogers greets his television neighbor

I'd like you to meet a new friend of mine. His name is Lloyd Vogel.
Someone has hurt my friend Lloyd. And not just on his face. He’s having a hard time forgiving the person who hurt him.
Do you know what that means? To
forgive? It's a decision we make to release a person from the feelings of anger we have at them.
It's strange that sometimes it's hardest of all to forgive someone we love...
~ Fred Rogers to the viewer.

Rogers begins the film by singing the opening song to his television show and performing the routine he has on almost every episode: changing out of his suit and into a sweater and slipping on his sneakers while greeting the viewer, whom he regards as his neighbor.

Rogers shows the viewer a picture board with doors that reveal pictures of several of his friends and cast members of the show. He opens two doors that reveal King Friday XIII and Lady Aberlin, two residents of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, and another door that reveals Mr. McFeely, his mailman. He introduces the viewer to a "new friend" of his, Lloyd Vogel, by opening a fourth door to reveal Lloyd's bloodied face. Rogers explains that Lloyd is struggling with forgiveness and invites the viewer to visit Lloyd with him.

Reflecting on anger and Mr. McFeely's tape

RogersMadThatYouFeel

Rogers talks about anger and hurt feelings

When I was a boy, I was very chubby.
And the other kids would chase me and call me names, like "Fat Freddy".
It made me very sad.
Sometimes, when I was by myself, I'd cry.
And other times, it made me very angry.
There is always something you can do with the mad that you feel.
~ Fred Rogers to the viewer.

After Lloyd's scuffle with his father Jerry, the film returns to Rogers, who sympathizes with Lloyd and reminisces upon crying after being called "Fat Freddy" as a child. He explains to the viewer that while it is important to feel angry at being hurt, healthy ways to deal with anger exist and are just as important.

Rogers receives a visit from Mr. McFeely, who has a magazine and a video cassette that details the creation of magazines. Rogers explains what magazines are and how they are made while he and Mr. McFeely watch the tape on Picture Picture, through which they eventually see Lloyd walking into his office at Esquire.

Meeting Lloyd

RogersVogel

Rogers and Vogel meet in person

ROGERS: Who did you get into a fight with?
VOGEL: It's not important... Jerry.
ROGERS: And who is Jerry?
VOGEL: My father.
ROGERS: Oh my.
VOGEL: I'd rather not talk about it—
ROGERS: Well, what were you and your father fighting about?
VOGEL: I'm here to interview
you, Mister Rogers.
~ Fred Rogers and Lloyd Vogel.
When Esquire seeks out subjects for Lloyd to profile for its article about heroes, the magazine reaches out to Rogers and several other candidates. Rogers and Family Communications president Bill Isler read all of Lloyd's articles before Rogers agrees to the interview. In fact, Rogers is the only candidate to agree to interview with Lloyd after learning of the journalist's reputation for tearing his subjects down.

Lloyd first conducts a phone interview with Rogers, who explains that he wants to "look through the camera into the eyes of a single child" on his show and that talking to Lloyd is the most important thing to him at the moment. Rogers meets with Lloyd the next morning at the WQED studio in Pittsburgh for an in-person interview, where Rogers dismisses his fame and displays concern for Lloyd's nose injury.

Rogers presses Lloyd, who lied about his nose contusion by claiming it was a "play at the plate", into revealing its true origin: Lloyd had started a fistfight with Jerry over Jerry's actions in the past, and this fight left Lloyd with a broken nose. Rogers is disturbed at this revelation, but before he can continue his interview with Lloyd, an associate calls him back on set for more filming.

He returns to the set to film a sequence of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, performing as Daniel Striped Tiger through a hand puppet with Betty Aberlin; they sing "What Do You Do With the Mad That You Feel" at Daniel's clock, flummoxing Lloyd, who watches the production with suspicion.

Traveling in New York City

RogersDaniel

Rogers with Daniel Striped Tiger, one of his puppets

Until recently, my eldest son didn’t tell anyone about me. He’s a very private person. And that’s okay.
~ Fred Rogers.

Rogers, his wife Joanne, and his crew travel through New York City to tape more footage for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, and he invites Lloyd to join them. After listening to a string quartet play "You Are My Friend", Rogers returns to his hotel room with Lloyd for a second interview. He dodges Lloyd's questions on whether his empathy is a burden and instead shows Lloyd the hand puppets he uses in his show. Rogers reflects on his struggles as a father to his two sons (now adults), learns that Lloyd owned a toy rabbit named Old Rabbit that his mother gave to him, and asks Lloyd about Jerry; this last question provokes Lloyd into stomping out of Rogers' hotel room.

Taking a minute

VOGEL: You love people like me.
ROGERS: What are people like you? I've never met anyone like you in my entire life.
VOGEL: Broken people.
ROGERS: I don't think you are broken.
~ Lloyd Vogel and Fred Rogers
TakeAMinute

Rogers and Vogel reflect on their loved ones

Lloyd collapses out of exhaustion on the set of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe during a day of filming, and Rogers and his crew surround him. He and Joanne take Lloyd back to their home, and after Lloyd awakens from a nightmare about his repressed anger, his mother Lila, and being shuffled into an episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, Rogers and Lloyd eat lunch at a restaurant. Lloyd admits that he is "broken" because of his relationship with Jerry, but Rogers disagrees and convinces Lloyd to forgive his father. He and Lloyd think in silence about the people who "loved us into being" for one minute.

Visiting Jerry and Dorothy

RogersJerry

Rogers visits Jerry

I asked him [Jerry] to pray for me. I figure anyone who is going through what he is going through must be awfully close to God.
~ Fred Rogers telling Lloyd Vogel what he told Jerry

Rogers, Lloyd's sister Lorraine, and her husband Todd visit Jerry and Dorothy's home, where Lloyd, his wife Andrea, and their son Gavin have been staying because of Jerry's impending death. He assures the Vogel family that talking about death -- particularly Jerry's impending death -- should not be avoided for the cessation it causes on human life, but because "to die is human". Before he departs, he asks Jerry to pray for him and makes an ASL sign for "friend" to Lloyd before departing with Isler from Jerry's home.

Denouement

I'm so glad I had a chance to tell you about my friend Lloyd and his family. I have a new picture of Lloyd with his family. Would you like to see it?
~ Fred Rogers to the viewer.
RogersEnd

Rogers plays the piano to end a day of filming for his show

After Jerry dies and is laid to rest, the film returns to Rogers' show as he returns the Neighborhood Trolley to its station. Rogers thanks the viewer for letting him talk about Lloyd before he reveals one more picture on his board of Lloyd and his family enjoying a Christmas party. He muses that seeing Lloyd happy gives him "such a good feeling" and affirms to the viewer that he likes them just the way they are; he then sings the closing theme and changes back into his suit and dress shoes. Rogers exits the set and looks at the recorded footage with approval, and he plays the lowest keys on the studio piano to signify the end of a day of taping for his show.

Personality

VOGEL: How does it feel to be married to a living saint?
JOANNE: I'm not fond of that term. If you think of him as a saint, then his way of being is unattainable. He works at it all the time. It's a practice. He's not a perfect person. He has a temper. He chooses how he responds to that anger.
VOGEL:That must take a lot of effort.
JOANNE: Well, he does things every day that help ground him. Reads scripture, swims laps. Prays for people by name. Writes letters, hundreds of them. He's been doing that since I met him.
~ Lloyd Vogel and Joanne Rogers
To be added

Behind the scenes

  • Hanks, who portrays Rogers in the film, is actually Fred Rogers' sixth cousin in real life, a fact that Hanks learned merely days before the film's release.
    • Hanks was also Rogers's favorite actor, with Rogers having seen Forrest Gump 40 times.
  • Hanks turned down the role of Rogers three times before he viewed the work of Marielle Heller, who directed the film.
  • Hanks watched over 8 million hours of footage of Rogers and researched archive material at St. Vincent's College's Fred Rogers Center to prepare for his role.
  • Hanks had previously starred in The Burbs, in which Mister Rogers sang "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" on Ray Peterson's television, and would go on to star as Rogers thirty years later.
  • Hanks received nominations from the Golden Globes, Critics' Choice, Screen Actors Guild Awards, BAFTA Awards and Academy Awards for his performance as Rogers.

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