It’s a long way from Chatham Road to Hollywood, California, but it’s a journey Springfield native Aaron Schneider has made over the course of his 54 years. The filmmaker, who cut his teeth as a cinematographer on videos for Eminem and Cyprus Hill, as well as the films Kiss the Girls (1997) and Simon Birch (1998), made his directorial debut with Get Low (2009), a compelling piece of southern gothic starring Robert Duvall, Bill Murray and Sissy Spacek that was met with widespread critical acclaim and was a favorite on the film festival circuit both here and abroad.
Schneider’s latest film is Greyhound, a World War II adventure starring Tom Hanks, based on a novel by C.S. Forster. It tells the story of Captain Ernest Krause, a naval officer who is charged with leading a convoy of 37 Allied ships across the North Atlantic to deliver vital supplies for the European war effort. While the weather itself makes the crossing hazardous, of greater concern is the pack of German U-boats that’s following them, intent on sinking as many ships in Krause’s charge as possible.
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Though the film only covers a period of three days and has a running time of 90 minutes, the production has an epic feel to it, what with the number of ships and pyrotechnics involved as well as the many battle scenes that take place on the high seas. It also sports a relatively modest budget – just north of $50 million – for a movie of this sort. To bring a story of this size to the screen for a relative pittance when compared to today’s superhero extravaganzas presented its own set of unique challenges, yet when this project came his way, Schneider knew it was one he couldn’t pass up.
“Obviously, when a Tom Hanks World War II movie is put in front of you to read, you get excited,” the director told me when I spoke to him on the phone recently. “Right away, what struck me as unusual was that Tom had written it. Artists like him have done so much and have been so successful, you forget that there are times when they are trying to challenge themselves, to push themselves in different directions. I felt as though he was trying to create his own experience working as a writer and producer. It was something he had never done before and I really wanted to be a part of it.”