DAVID GREENE, HOST:
The family friendly Mr. Rogers is the subject of a new movie, "A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood." As Tim Greiving reports, it was a family affair behind the camera as well.
(SOUNDBITE OF NATE HELLER'S "WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR")
TIM GREIVING, BYLINE: Like many kids over the past 50 years, the Heller siblings - Marielle, Nate and Emily - grew up watching "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" on PBS.
MARIELLE HELLER: I remember getting to a point as the oldest where I kind of became a little too cynical and jaded for "Mister Rogers" but I remember you guys still liking it.
NATE HELLER: Mmm hmm.
GREIVING: They were also busy putting on their own shows with Marielle, the eldest, calling the shots.
M HELLER: I think it's pretty fair to say that I was pretty bossy, and I used to make Nate and all the other kids in the neighborhood act out little plays and stuff. It's weird that I didn't realize I should be a director earlier in my life (laughter).
GREIVING: They grew up in the Bay Area in a house full of creativity. Mom's an art teacher; Dad's a chiropractor.
N HELLER: But he does have artistic aspirations.
GREIVING: This is Nate Heller, the middle child.
N HELLER: He was a clown, and that was how he wooed our mother, apparently, was she saw him juggling on the street and thought he was a little hot nugget.
M HELLER: (Laughter) Yep.
GREIVING: Marielle became an actor, then a director. She made the "Diary Of A Teenage Girl" in 2015; in 2018, "Can You Ever Forgive Me?" And she brought Nate, a musician who's always played in bands, along for the ride.
M HELLER: It was a really selfish move on my own part because I was afraid that I didn't know how to describe what I needed from a composer. And music is really hard to find that common language about.
N HELLER: There's no hesitation to tell me if something I've done totally sucks...
M HELLER: (Laughter).
N HELLER: ...Because a lot of times what I do does totally suck the first time. Obviously, we're both precious about what we do, but I think that layer of sort of dancing around your true feelings is kind of stripped away with the way that we work together.
(SOUNDBITE OF NATE HELLER COMPOSITION)
GREIVING: Their younger sister, Emily, is a stand-up comedian who writes and produces on the HBO series "Barry." She was confused when her sister chose to make a movie about Mr. Rogers.
EMILY HELLER: Because she usually likes making movies about women.
GREIVING: But then she saw the movie, which cast Mr. Rogers as a supporting character in the complicated life of a cynical journalist played by Matthew Rhys.
E HELLER: It's a lot more interesting and less corny than you might expect it to be. I think my sister is really interested in what makes people complicated. I was really struck by how many questions that are on everyone's minds right now that it seems to answer in a way that doesn't flatten that out.
(SOUNDBITE OF NATE HELLER'S "LLOYD TYPING")
GREIVING: Nate Heller wrote a score that pays homage and expands on the jazz combo music from "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood." You can also spot him in the background of one scene playing in a wedding band. But big sister Marielle Heller says he's in the fabric of the movie in an even deeper way.
M HELLER: One of the things that I feel like was driving me with this movie that was really important was showing images of men on screen that are things we don't tend to see - showing a father and a son expressing their emotions and dealing with the hard pains of being alive, saying things like I'm sorry and I love you and maybe even crying.
(SOUNDBITE OF NATE HELLER COMPOSITION)
M HELLER: Part of why that resonated with me is because I grew up in a household of feeling men who weren't afraid to cry. Our dad is a very sensitive guy, and Nate is a very sensitive man. So working with my brother on this project meant a lot because it felt like we were also tapping into this sort of idea of masculinity that I feel like we don't get to see in movies as much.
GREIVING: Nate Heller said his dad blubbered during "A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood." So, fellas, don't be afraid to do the same. For NPR News, I'm Tim Greiving.
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