'A Hologram For The King' Isn't A True Story, But There's An Inspiring Tale Behind The New Movie

In the new film A Hologram for the King, Tom Hanks plays a down-on-his-luck businessman named Alan Clay who travels to Saudi Arabia in pursuit of a massive tech contract that could skyrocket him to fame and fortune (or at least save his finances and reputation). Hanks' character recalls many a desperate white-collar salesman who struggled to stay afloat during the recession in America in the 2000s, begging the question: is A Hologram for the King based on a true story?

As it turns out, the movie is based on a previous story, but not a real-life one. A Hologram for the King, in theaters April 22, is actually an adaptation of Dave Eggers' 2012 novel of the same name. Eggers first conceived of the story when the character of Alan Clay popped into his head. He told the New Yorker in 2012 that he thought of the character as a salesman of a specific background and mindset who suddenly finds his life up in the air in the midst of a strained economy. Said Eggers of the character, "like so many in that line of work, his place now is unclear, his expertise superfluous." It therefore seemed like a natural progression for Clay to search for something to revitalize his career and reestablish his sense of purpose, and so his life-affirming journey came to be in A Hologram for the King.

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Eggers never saw the novel as a plausible basis for a film, though. It was Tom Tykwer, the German director most famously known for the film Cloud Atlas, who was first inspired to adapt A Hologram for the King for the big screen. Tykwer explained to the New York Times in April that, immediately after reading the book, he saw great potential in it for a movie. He said, "...It’s one of those mysterious things, which you cannot really explain. I immediately felt I had an instinctive film approach." Tykwer was already acquainted with Eggers from working together on a previous project, and so he approached the author to discuss the possibility of an adaptation. Eggers was skeptical but trusted Tykwer to translate the book in a way that would make for an engaging film. Tykwer wrote the screenplay, and then switched into the role of director. He also channeled his efforts into recruiting the one actor who he thought he could capture the essence of Alan Clay: Tom Hanks.

Tykwer had previously directed Hanks on Cloud Atlas, and reached out to try to convince the actor to take the role of Alan Clay even though the movie would be a small production in comparison to many of Hanks' other projects. Luckily, Hanks didn't need much convincing, and willingly signed on. The wheels were set in motion and, three years later, the film has come to fruition.

Will all of Tykwer's hard work result in a surprise hit? It may be too soon to tell, but even if A Hologram for the King doesn't rake in huge numbers at the box office, it will certainly be exciting for Eggers fans to see how the book translates to film. And having Hanks as the star has certainly never hurt a movie. So even though A Hologram for the King isn't based on a true story, the tale of how the film came to be is pretty fascinating.

Images: Lionsgate (2)