'Larry Crowne' premiere: Tom Hanks makes a peppy entrance [Video]
Flanked by a crew of fellow scooter riders, Hanks motored up and down the carpet outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre and out onto Hollywood Boulevard to the delight of a thick row of screaming fans.
"Watch out babies!" Hanks yelled as an emotional woman in jean shorts and a wide-brimmed, fuzzy blue hat broke loose from the crowd of onlookers across the street and ran onto the carpet shrieking, "Tom Hanks!" only to be chased into traffic by security.
Hanks' costars Julia Roberts, Rita Wilson, Wilmer Valderrama, Cedric the Entertainer, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bryan Cranston, Nia Vardalos, Rami Malek, George Takei and more soon appeared on the carpet. The night was warm and balmy, a fact much remarked upon by the attendees, and the mood was light and excitable.
And apparently light and excitable was how things felt most of the time on set, according to Roberts, who said that Hanks, who cowrote, directed and starred in the film, likes it that way, and that his cast's happiness was of great importance to him.
Said Hanks: "The best part about being an actor as a director is when the whole cast comes in for the first time and they are better than you imagined and you can't imagine the film without them in it."
From remarks made by members of the cast, it was clear they were touched to be chosen to be a part of Hanks' latest project, about a Navy veteran who gets unceremoniously laid off from his job at a big-box store and decides to attend community college for the first time. There he meets and falls for Roberts, his speech teacher, along with a scooter-riding crew of free spirits who transform his life.
"It was a blessing, a privilege and an honor," to work with Hanks, said Valderrama, who played Dell Gordo, the wisecracking head of the scooter crew.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who plays Valderrama's good-intentioned girlfriend, echoed the sentiment, saying she grew up watching Hanks and Roberts in movies and that at first it was totally surreal to find herself working with them. But she soon felt at ease thanks to Hanks, who she said never failed to crack a joke.
"It's a privileged life, it's a lovely way to make a living," Mbatha-Raw said of acting.
Speaking of making a living, Hanks said he hoped that the film resonated with people going through hard times during the recession.
"It's a tough time, but we're going to be OK," said Hanks. "Things are going to change. Fight the cynicism."
"Larry Crowne" opens Friday. Click the photo above or this link for a gallery from the red carpet.
-- Jessica Gelt
Photo: Tom Hanks arrives at the "Larry Crowne" premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Credit: Jason Merritt / Getty Images