It's a long way from Da Nang to the North Pole, but Bill Broyles has somehow found the way. In 1970, while walking knee-deep through a rice paddy near Da Nang in the Vietnam War, Lt. Broyles wondered if he'd ever make it back home. He did make it back, and went on to enjoy an acclaimed career as a journalist-founding Texas Monthly magazine and later serving as editor-in-chief at Newsweek-before turning to screenwriting. Broyles wrote such well-loved films as Apollo 13 and Cast Away, both starring Tom Hanks. Now Broyles, Hanks and director Robert Zemeckis, who teamed up for Cast Away, are together again for The Polar Express, based on the Chris Van Allsburg children's book of the same title. Hanks plays the role of five different characters in the film, which technologically is a cross between live action and animation-a new Zemeckis-developed technique called "performance capture."

The Polar Express, which opens in theaters next Wednesday, November 10, is the story of a doubting boy who takes an extraordinary ride to the North Pole on Christmas Eve. Ultimately, it's a tale of faith, hope and love, as the boy's skepticism melts away into the wide-eyed wonder of belief. That's what attracted Broyles to the story in the first place-the journey from doubt to faith-because it so much mirrors his own odyssey.

Were you familiar with the book before you got involved in this project?

Bill Broyles: Yes. I've been reading it to my five children since it came out [in 1985]. The reason I did the movie was because the book was such an incredible bonding experience with my kids.

The story is about childlike wonder at Christmastime. Did you have that wonder as a kid?

Broyles: Yes. I was always lying awake on Christmas Eve, wanting to hear the ...

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