News & Politics

Tom Hanks Comes to Washington for HBO Series ‘John Adams’

Chris Matthews, Kathleen Matthews, and Tom Hanks chat at the HBO screening of "John Adams."

Tom Hanks, Paul Giamatti, and author David McCullough descended on the US Capitol’s stately Statuary Hall last night for the screening of HBO Films’ John Adams. The seven-part miniseries, which debuts March 16, translates McCullough’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book to the small screen.

But enough about the miniseries, which we’re sure is fabulous (we did catch a sneak peak, and it’s beautifully done.) On to the important questions! Was Tom Hanks, the miniseries’s executive producer, shorter in person? He was the height you—or at least I—would expect, maybe a couple inches shy of six feet. Was he nice? Yup. Smart, funny, and relaxed—joking about the uncomfortable banquet-style chairs that had been rented for the screening and knocking his HBO colleagues (“We’re gonna watch a part of episode two, for reasons only the crack executives can understand”) and lead actor Giamatti, who would “be forever monikered as the Italian John Adams.” He made sure to sign autographs and greet as many well-wishers as he could … and there were quite a few, including Chris and Kathleen Matthews, Senator Christopher Dodd, and Congressmen Tom Davis, Mike McIntyre, and Rush Holt.

All photos by Rachel Cothran.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi welcomed the Hollywood imports and paid homage not just to the country’s second president but also to his beloved wife, Abigail, saying, “If Abigail’d had it her way, she could have become Speaker.”

Politics was in the air and on the tongues of inquiring journalists. Hanks made it clear that he’d like to see Barack Obama follow in Adams’s footsteps (Adams was the first President to live in the White House), while Giamatti remained mum. Are there any similarities between Adams and George Bush? “Well, they both lived in The White House,” Hanks said. “They’re both married. They both have kids.”

Perhaps screenwriter Kirk Ellis, who called Adams “the most complex character I’ve ever written,” spelled the sentiment out for them both. When asked about his favorite episode in the series (number 6), Ellis said with a pointed look, “Despite the pressure to go to war with France, Adams staked his entire presidency on keeping us out of war.”

The miniseries debuts with the first two installments on Sunday, March 16, from 8 to 10:45 PM, with other episodes airing on subsequent Sundays at 9 PM through April 20.