It was a standout opening night for the 57th BFI London Film Festival — the most successful launch in recent years in terms of star power, film quality and a buoyant afterparty.
When people were picking up tickets ahead of going into the cinema, there was a palpable buzz that Captain Phillips was a selection that had the must-see quality.
Hanks was classic old-school Hollywood, thoughtful and charming at his press conference and on the red carpet with wife Rita Wilson.
When he took to the stage ahead of the film’s screening, he paid special tribute to the four young Somali-born actors who he co-stars with, saying “if these four gentlemen are the only people you ever meet from Somali, you will have a good impression of their country.”
“We all survived a journey on the SS Paul Greengrass,” he joked.
Hanks even got some cheers for carrying off his own mic stand from the stage — hey, the guy does his own stunts!
Greengrass said working with Hanks had been a priority for him: “I’ve wanted to work with him for so many years, the experience was everything I’ve hoped for and more.”
Greengrass, noting he was in his hometown, paid a touching tribute to his father, a former merchant marine, who was in attendance at Odeon Leicester Square. “He’s one of the reasons I made this film,” he said.
The European premiere of the Sony Pictures release was also cinecast into 30 other screens across the UK.
LFF head Clare Stewart called the film “both a high stakes thriller and a layered drama,” and the audience responded well to both.
Hanks also stars in LFF closing night film Saving Mr Banks, and he is the producer of another LFF pick, Parkland.
Stewart joked: “Tom Hanks has practically become a theme of this festival. Next year we’ll have to create a programme category called ‘Hanks’.”
Opening with a film by a British director was also quite telling and Stewart added: “This is a superlative year for film, and it’s especially true for British filmmaking talent both in front of and behind the camera.”
The afterparty was held at the Bloomsbury Ballroom, winning rave reviews for its multi-room layout and copious delicious canapes. Guests included Ed Milliband, Tom Ford, James Nesbitt, Julian Fellowes, plus the good and the great of the British film industry. Plus, it wasn’t the trek out to Saatchi Gallery that this reporter once lamented. All in all a fantastic opening to a strong festival line-up.