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Oscar Hype For <i>The Green Mile</i>

As The Green Mile opens Friday, the movie's backers are lobbying hard for a strong presence come Oscar season, reports CBS News Correspondent Manuel Gallegus.

Based on a serialized novel by author Stephen King, the film stars Tom Hanks. The two-time Oscar winner plays a death row prison guard whose life is changed by an illiterate prisoner who also is a faith healer.

"It really is a myth in the best way that the great myths - or even folk tales - were told before they were sanitized," Hanks told The Early Show.

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Michael Duncan, who plays the mystical inmate, is also being hyped for supporting actor accolades.

"That would be one of the greatest accomplishments of my life," Duncan said recently.

Duncan's exuberance sounds refreshing during the pre-Oscar period in Hollywood - the awards are given out in March - when so many actors fend off questions about the awards even though their publicists want them to talk.

For his part, Hanks says he has "no reaction" to questions about the possibility of winning a third Academy Award after those honoring his performances in Philadelphia and Forrest Gump.

Hanks said it was "all part of the big sweepstakes competition," but added that any accolades "would be great for the movie" because it would draw more people to theaters.

The Green Mile, adapted for the movies and directed by Frank Darabont of The Shawshank Redemption fame, takes place in 1935 behind the walls of a penitentiary in the South. Paul Edgecomb, portrayed by Hanks, runs the death row in an orderly fashion with a strong hand but a compassionate mind.

The electric chair, dubbed "Old Sparky" by the guards, is routinely cleaned and fine-tuned to make sure no prisoner dies a cruel death. The long hallway leading to the chair is tiled in mint-green squares, eading to the movie's title.

But all the order on the green mile is thrown into chaos when a little mouse invades the rows of steel-barred cells and can't be caught. Oddly, the mouse joins the prisoners at the same time as the 7-foot tall John Coffey (Duncan), a poor black transient who fears disclosing his powers.

Movie fans expecting another Shawshank, about one man's personal redemption in prison, or Dead Man Walking, also set on death row, should know the differences in The Green Mile.

The Green Mile, which weighs in at an Academy-pleasing 3 hours, mixes the metaphysical experiences for which King is famous in his horror novels with a sly sense of humor as it looks at race relations, pride, prejudice and the inability to understand people who exist outside society's norms.

CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Reuters Limited contributed to this report

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