The best films connect with audiences on a visceral level, and the romantic comedy Larry Crowne is no exception. Directed, co-written and starring Tom Hanks, it’s the story of Larry Crowne, a divorced blue-collar worker who is unexpectedly let go from his position at a big box store because he has no college education. He does what anyone with ambition and a bit of courage might do — heads back to school. At his community college, he meets a public speaking professor (Julia Roberts) whose own ambitions have not panned out. He also sheds his gas-guzzling SUV for a scooter and is recruited into the local scooter culture by a classmate who helps him increase his cool factor.
Hanks went on a hunt for just the right scooter and found the perfect bike at California State University, Dominguez Hills, where the college scenes would be shot. Hanks left a note on the 1983 Yamaha Riva 180 for the owner, a middle-aged man who had himself recently returned to college. The owner initially thought it was a prank but eventually lent the scooter to the production, which also found three identical Yahama scooters to use in the film. Contacts with local scooter clubs and repair shops found an assortment of scooters for the cast, who all went to training camp to get comfortable handling the bikes.
But nothing could prepare Roberts for work in front of a classroom. “One of my first days of filming, we shot in the classroom and I was standing in front this group of 10 people. I was unhinged. If I locked eyes with somebody, I would forget my place. It was nerve-wracking. ” But, she notes, when it was time for each cast member to stand in front of the “class” and give an essay, everyone including Hanks said it was horrible up there.
“Larry Crowne” is available starting Nov. 15 on Video On Demand. Check your cable system for availability.
© 2011 Universal Studios