'She is an extraordinary presence;' Meet Tom Hanks' 12-year-old 'News of the World' co-star Helena Zengel

Helena Zengel stars opposite two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks in director Paul Greengrass' Western, "News of the World."

ByGeorge Pennacchio OTRC logo
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
Young star shares screen with Tom Hanks in new Western
Helena Zengel is a 12 year old German actress sharing the screen with two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks in the new Western "News of the World."

Tom Hanks is the star of the new western, "News of The World." And he's the first one to tell you his leading lady is one to watch. And Helena Zengel is only 12!

In director Paul Greengrass' film, Hanks plays a Civil War veteran who makes his living traveling through frontier towns, reading the news. During his trek, he meets a young orphan with no place to call home.

He decides he'll deliver the girl to her next of kin; it becomes a dangerous, deadly and gritty mission. Zengel is side-by-side with Hanks for the whole, dusty ride.

"You go into the make-up trailer, you usually go inside to be really beautiful, to get brushed and everything. And I'd go out and look like I was in the dust for years," said Zengel.

"Working with her was not working with her," said Hanks. "It was just being with her because we were attached at the hip. I mean, I'm dragging her around by the scruff of her neck for half of this movie."

Zengel did feel a responsibility with this big role.

"And I know that this is something not every 12-year-old German girl has to play in a Western in America with Tom Hanks and Paul Greengrass, which I think is really amazing and overwhelming," said Zengel. "And I think it was just an honor for me to do that and a great step in my career."

"It was not like a job. It was like - it was an experience," said Hanks. "And we don't have a movie without that role. She is an extraordinary presence. I fell in love with her."

"News of The World" is available on demand beginning Friday.