Tom Hanks plays Civil War veteran from San Antonio in engaging new film News of the World

Jeph Duarte San Antonio News

click to enlarge Tom Hanks stars as Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a Confederate veteran who takes responsibility for a 10-year-old orphan. - UNIVERSAL PICTURES

  • Universal Pictures
  • Tom Hanks stars as Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a Confederate veteran who takes responsibility for a 10-year-old orphan.

If you like historical tales set in Texas and haven’t seen the drama News of the World from Oscar-nominated director Paul Greengrass (United 93) yet, you’re missing out.

The film, released on Christmas Day at local theaters, stars two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump) as Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a Confederate veteran who takes responsibility for a 10-year-old orphan he finds during his travels across the Texas plains in 1870.

The former owner of a newspaper printing press in San Antonio, Kidd now earns a living as a news reader. Leaving his wife in the Alamo City to fight in the war, he rides from town to town with a handful of newspapers from different regions and charges people a dime to hear him read about “the great changes” happening across the quickly developing country.

“When [the war] was over, it was all gone,” Hanks’ Kidd says in the film. “I lost everything. Had to make a new life for myself right there. I couldn’t print the newspapers anymore, but I could read ’em.”

News of the World was adapted by Greengrass and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Luke Davies (Lion) from a 2016 American Western novel of the same name by Paulette Jiles, who once lived in San Antonio’s King William Historic District.

“Cities often overwhelm me, [but] San Antonio is different,” Jiles told Texas Monthly during a 2016 interview. “I love that city. I’m glad I’m out of there because it’s still a big city. But its culture is so rich. There are the people who came across the border during the Revolution of 1911 because they were escaping the violence in north Mexico. Then, there are the people from very wealthy families in Mexico who send their children to Incarnate Word and the other colleges there to be educated.”

SPOILER ALERT: In the film and novel, the family of the young girl Kidd finds has been killed by a Native American tribe. When Kidd learns she has an aunt and uncle living in Castroville, he reluctantly volunteers to escort her 400 miles to safety.

After a long journey through rough terrain and run-ins with kidnappers, outlaws and sandstorms, Kidd makes good on his promise, traveling to what looks to be a town square in San Antonio. A sign on one building reads “The Buckhorn,” but according to downtown’s Buckhorn Museum, the Buckhorn Saloon didn’t open until 1881. That would be 11 years after News of the World takes place.

Maybe Greengrass and Davies made the Buckhorn reference as a homage to the saloon that has a long history in San Antonio, or maybe it was just a decision made by the production design team. Unfortunately, News of the World doesn’t get into the history of San Antonio as much as Jiles’ novel, which mentions landmarks including Mission Concepción, Plaza de Armas and the San Fernando Cathedral. Such omissions happen when you only have two hours to condense an entire novel.

Maybe as a history buff, Hanks will find News of the World interesting enough to produce a TV miniseries in the future and delve deeper into San Antonio’s past. That’s what happened when he finished Saving Private Ryan in 1998. He went on to produce Band of Brothers with Steven Spielberg. There are, of course, plenty of other battles during the Texas Revolution besides the Alamo to choose from.

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