News Of The World star Helena Zengel: I didn’t know Tom Hanks was a big deal

Laura Harding, PA Deputy Entertainment Editor
·3-min read

The young star of new western News Of The World has described meeting co-star Tom Hanks for the first time, saying she did not realise he was “a real big deal”.

Helena Zengel, 12, has landed Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award nominations for her role as a girl on the Texan frontier in 1870, who speaks no English and who has been living with Native Americans before being taken from them.

Hanks plays a Civil War veteran who travels from town to town reading out the news and who reluctantly agrees to return the youngster to her distant settler family, travelling hundreds of miles across dangerous terrain.

Zengel, who is from Germany, was just 11 when she made her first Hollywood movie, which is directed by British film-maker Paul Greengrass, and met Hanks.

She told the PA news agency: “If you had said ‘Tom Hanks is in another movie’, I would have known he’s an actor and I knew he was a bigger deal than some other actors, but I didn’t quite know that he’s a real big deal.

“So, when I knew I was going to play the role, I knew he’s an actor, but then later on I learned he’s such a big actor and it was such an honour to work with him.

“He’s just great, he’s very nice and I was really impressed by him, he’s a gentleman.”

Tom Hanks and Helena Zengel in News Of The World (Bruce W Talamon/Universal Pictures/Netflix/PA)
Tom Hanks and Helena Zengel in News Of The World (Bruce W Talamon/Universal Pictures/Netflix/PA)

She added: “At the beginning I was a little bit in awe, not quite as self-confident as I am usually because he’s tall, he can be loud, he’s American and he’s such a big actor.

“But then, later on, we really had fun because he’s funny, he’s so nice, he is totally not like a superstar you would expect.

“Maybe you think he’s coming with his Mercedes or whatever, coming to set, driving in with his sunglasses like you see in the movies, but no!

“He’s coming in very loose jeans and very loose shoes, as if he was just chilling out, and I was like ‘OK, he’s not as superstar as you would think of him.

Helena Zengel said Tom Hanks is ‘a gentleman’ (Bruce W Talamon/Universal Pictures/Netflix/PA)
Helena Zengel said Tom Hanks is ‘a gentleman’ (Bruce W Talamon/Universal Pictures/Netflix/PA)

“He made it really easy and we became close friends pretty fast because he’s just amazing, and I think he likes me too.

“At the beginning I was like ‘OK, he is obviously older than me, he did so many movies and we are going to be acting partners but it is never going to be like a friendship or anything’, but it did, it just happened, and I think it’s great to get a relationship with an actor because it makes it so much easier to play with each other.”

– News Of The World is streaming now on Netflix.