A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood director Marielle Heller wanted "an authenticity" in Tom Hanks' recreation of the renowned Fred Rogers

By Conchita Margaret Widjojo
November 26, 2019 09:00 AM

Despite their personalities being acutely similar (and even being distant relatives), Tom Hanks and Fred Rogers look nothing alike.

When it came to shooting A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, director Marielle Heller planned to give Hanks a subtle transformation to help him capture the aesthetic of the beloved television personality.

“We decided to go with the wig is because Tom’s hair is so different than what Fred Rogers’ hair was,” hairstylist Tony Ward tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “We didn’t really want to try to make him look exactly like Fred Rogers. We just wanted him to have the feeling of Fred Rogers.”

For more about Tom Hanks’ transformation, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on stands Friday.

12/9/19 cover featuring Tom Hanks

In a conversation with actress Renee Zellweger during Variety’s Actors on Actors, the Oscar winner, 63, disclosed the details of his discussion with Heller on the parameters to recreate Mr. Rogers in the movie.

“How far are we gonna go to reconstruct our body into these very well-known icons? And Mari just said, ‘We’ll do a wig and we’ll do some eyebrows, and that’s that,’” Hanks told Zellweger. “And I said, ‘Great.’ Knowing that that’s the parameters, that tells me where I’m going to have to make the construct of everything else that goes on.”

Other than creating hair pieces for the Toy Story star to don, it was all up to Hanks to channel Mr. Rogers, which ultimately isn’t too far off from his real-life persona.

“The director wanted the character to have a realism, an authenticity, and a simplicity. She didn’t want any pieces on him,” makeup artist Kalaadevi Ananda tells PEOPLE. “She wanted Tom Hanks to look like Mr. Rogers, but with no pieces.”

Credit: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic;/Sony Pictures

She adds, “The first time Tom walked out as Fred Rogers — it’s quite amazing. Some alchemy happened… There was alchemy from every end, from inside Tom, from outside.”

Known for his kindness and humility, the Forrest Gump actor displayed all kinds of acts that proved he truly was the beloved person everyone raved about.

With hair and makeup taking up to an hour and 15 minutes each time, Hanks sat patiently in his trailer as both Ward and Ananda transformed him into Mr. Rogers.

“He’s just a doll. He’s very cooperative and he’s willing to do whatever needs to be done. He’s always in a good mood. He’s never cross or irritated,” Ward says. “He’s just easy to get along with and kind. He’s probably very similar to Fred Rogers.”

RELATED VIDEO: Fred Rogers’ Widow Says Her Husband Was a ‘Huge Fan’ of Tom Hanks

“He’s like the last, I want to stay, the last of an era. That era where he has a larger-than-life aura about him,” Ananda says. “He feels aware and responsible to everyone. He has that quality where he’s very aware of everyone, very respectful of everyone, very appreciative to everyone.”

Ward recalls the last night they were all working on a cold evening, and the background actors were held in a room when they weren’t on set to keep them warm. And when they wrapped up filming, “Tom came in and sang the ‘Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood’ [opening theme song] to all the background [actors].”

“It was very sweet,” Ward tells PEOPLE.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is now playing in theaters.