Hanks, Tom

views updated May 23 2018


Nationality: American. Born: Concord, California, 9 July 1956. Education: Attended California State University, Sacramento. Family: Married 1) Samantha Lewes, 1978 (divorced 1985), two children; 2) the actress Rita Wilson, 1988, sons: Chester, Truman Theodore. Career: Intern with the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival, Cleveland, Ohio, and actor with the Riverside Shakespeare Company, New York City; 1980—film debut in He Knows You're Alone; TV work includes Bosom Buddies, 1980–82, Happy Days, 1982, and Family Ties, 1983–84. Awards: Best Actor Award, Los Angeles Film Critics, for Big and Punchline, 1988; Best Actor Academy Awards, for Philadelphia, 1993, and Forrest Gump, 1994. Agent: c/o Creative Artists Agency, 9830 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212, U.S.A.

Films as Actor:


He Knows You're Alone (Mastrioianni) (as Elliot)


Mazes and Monsters (Stern—for TV)


Splash (Ron Howard) (as Allan Bauer); Bachelor Party (Israel) (as Rick Gasko); The Dollmaker (Petrie—for TV)


The Man with One Red Shoe (Dragoti) (as Richard); Volunteers (Meyer) (as Lawrence Bourne III)


The Money Pit (Benjamin) (as Walter Fielding); Nothing in Common (Garry Marshall) (as David Basner); Everytime We Say Goodbye (Mizrahi) (as David)


Dragnet (Mankiewicz) (as Pep Streebek)


Big (Penny Marshall) (as Josh Baskin); Punchline (Seltzer) (as Steven Gold)


The 'Burbs (Dante) (as Ray Peterson); Turner and Hooch (Spottiswoode) (as Scott Turner)


The Bonfire of the Vanities (De Palma) (as Sherman McCoy); Joe versus the Volcano (Shanley) (as Joe Banks)


Radio Flyer (Donner) (as narrator); A League of Their Own (Penny Marshall) (as Jimmy Dugan)


Sleepless in Seattle (Ephron) (as Sam Baldwin); Philadelphia (Jonathan Demme) (as Andrew Beckett)


Forrest Gump (Zemeckis) (title role)


Apollo 13 (Ron Howard) (as Jim Lovell); Toy Story (Lasseter) (as voice of Woody); The Celluoid Closet (Epstein and Friedman—doc) (as interviewee)


I Am Your Child (doc) (Reiner—for TV)


From the Earth to the Moon (Carson, Field—mini) (as Jean-Luc Despont); Saving Private Ryan (Spielberg) (as Captain John Miller); You've Got Mail (Ephron) (as Joe Fox III)


Toy Story 2 (Brannon, Lasseter) (as voice of Woody); The Green Mile (Darabont) (as Paul Edgecomb)

Film as Director:


Tales from the Crypt


A League of Their Own: "The Monkey's Curse" (for TV); Fallen Angels: "I'll Be Waiting" (for TV)


That Thing You Do (+ ro, sc)


From the Earth to the Moon, Part 1 (for TV + pr +sc on parts 6,7,11,12)


By HANKS: articles—

Interview, in Films (London), July 1984.

Interview, in Photoplay (London), September 1984.

Interview, in Time Out (London), 26 October 1988.

Interview with Beverly Walker, in Film Comment (New York), March/April 1989.

"An Interview with Geena Davis," in Interview (New York), March 1992.

Interview with Brendan Lemon, in Interview (New York), December 1993.

"A Philadelphia Story," interview with Brad Gooch, in Advocate, 14 December 1993.

"Peaking Tom," interview with Brian D. Johnson, in Maclean's (Toronto), 11 July 1994.

"I Wonder, How Did This Happen To Me?" interview with Andrew Duncan, in Radio Times (London), 16 September 1995.

"What on Earth Do I Do Next?" interview with Jane E. Dickson, in Radio Times (London), 1 February 1997.

"Hanks for the Memories," interview with Trevor Johnston, in Time Out (London), 22 January 1997.

On HANKS: books—

Trakin, Roy, Tom Hanks: Journey to Stardom, 1987; rev. ed.1995.

Salamon, Julie, The Devil's Candy: "The Bonfire of the Vanities" Goes to Hollywood, Boston, 1991.

Wallner, Rosemary, Tom Hanks: Academy Award-Winning Actor, Edina, Minnesota, 1994.

Pfeiffer, Lee, The Films of Tom Hanks, Secaucus, New Jersey, 1996.

Quinlan, David, Tom Hanks: a Career in Orbit, B. T. Batsford Limited, 1998.

McAvoy, Jim, Tom Hanks, Broomall, 1999.

On HANKS: articles—

Current Biography 1989, New York, 1989.

Troy, C., "It's a Cool Gig," in American Film (Hollywood), April 1990.

DeNicolo, David, "Right behind Mr. Nice Guy Lurks an Edgy Tom Hanks," in New York Times, 20 June 1993.

Conant, Jennet, "Tom Hanks Wipes That Grin off His Face," in Esquire (New York), December 1993.

Andrew, Geoff & Floyd, Nigel, "No Hanky Panky: The 'Philadelphia' Story/Straight Acting," in Time Out (London), 23 February 1994.

Ebert, Roger, "Thanks, Hanks," in Playboy (Chicago), December 1994.

* * *

It is a cliché of press-agentry that comedians are always looking for a "stretch," seeking to redefine themselves as serious actors. Much rarer is the remarkable transformation of Tom Hanks from moderately successful television sitcom co-star to one of America's most beloved actors, matching only Spencer Tracy in winning two consecutive Oscars for Best Actor. Having firmly established his own comic persona, Hanks went on to roles that seemed to play deliberately against his type, or used it as a subtext, while in certain recent roles, notably his kindly country prison guard in The Green Mile, he seems to have abandoned it altogether. Less a comedian with acting ability than an actor with a wry sensibility that lends itself to comic roles, Hanks managed better than any comic actor of his generation to make a transition to dramatic leads.

Looking back on the 1984 Splash, which gave the young actor his first leading role and immediate stardom, one finds that he does not give an "apprentice" performance, one that affords mere glimpses of his future screen persona, but rather a fullblown Tom Hanks performance. Already in evidence is the distinctive combination of shyness and a cool knowingness. He makes full use of his slightly pudgy boyish face with its crooked, impish smile; in particular he has mastered a great variety of facial reactions to others' bizarre or obnoxious behavior (a brother's outrageous schemes, a scientist's rudeness, a mermaid eating a lobster, shell and all), as if he were engaged in an inner dialogue with himself. In the scene where the mermaid rejects the youth's marriage proposal, one sees a glimpse too of the petulant sarcastic anger that he will display more prominently in dramatic roles in Nothing in Common and Punchline. He is often funniest when his character is unhappiest, as in the wedding scene, where the guests' queries about his absent fiancee (who has just rejected him) provoke increasingly exasperated reactions.

Splash also establishes a favorite situation for a Tom Hanks comedy: a relatively normal, reasonably sophisticated person reacting with surprisingly little hysteria to the most preposterous situations: here a mermaid, later a collapsing house, spooky neighbors, an insufferable dog, a human sacrifice to a volcano, or the vicissitudes of the Peace Corps. With the special exception of Big, the light comedies do not develop the Hanks persona so much as reprise it; indeed, they offer only a pale reflection of the original when the writing and direction are weak, as in The 'Burbs.

Hanks's boyish looks and, sometimes, air of mischief suited him for roles in which an immature youth, not so much callow as heedless or self-centered, must grow up. In Volunteers the involuntary Peace Corps hero must (however perfunctorily) shape up; in Nothing in Common a self-characterized "childish, selfish" advertising executive has not yet become a "bona fide adult" because his estrangement from his parents has left him emotionally arrested; and in Punchline, a would-be comedian is (again) estranged from his father and capable only of an Oedipal crush upon an older woman. Even in Sleepless in Seattle, where the older Hanks is a widower with a small son and none of the impishness, the role calls for him to replay those anxious boyish days of having to learn the "rules" for dating all over again.

The maturity issue is treated most interestingly in Big, which critiques the perennial appeal of the American child-man to American women and to popular film audiences (while capitalizing upon that appeal at the same time). To portray a 13-year-old inside a man's body Hanks must eliminate the hip side of his persona altogether, but a surprising amount of the Hanks manner remains: the shyness, the wary alertness, the moments of exuberance and playfulness. Perhaps the really new dimension in this role is the occasional moment of naked vulnerability, notably in the moving scene of the man-child's first night in a sinister hotel.

Released the same year as Big, Punchline features one of Hanks's most complex dramatic performances. Here, besides successfully handling several virtuoso scenes, such as the on-stage emotional breakdown and the comic-pathetic "Singin' in the Rain" number, Hanks is able to make something consistent, scene by scene, of an extremely mercurial character, not to mention creating some sympathy for a frequently rude egotist. Of his performance as a gay lawyer with AIDS in the didactic Philadelphia, the cynical could argue that much of his physical decline is accomplished with makeup, and that much of the power of his "Maria Callas" monologue, virtually an aria in itself, comes from the diva's own voice and the director's near-expressionistic lighting and high camera angles. But certainly the actor must be credited for conveying the character's moments of overwhelming terror, determination to achieve justice, sardonic bitterness, and, with a touch of the Hanks boyish smile in the scene on the witness stand, an idealistic love for the law. Of his other pre-Gump dramatic roles, only in The Bonfire of the Vanities, valiantly sporting an upper-crust accent but sabotaged by an ill-conceived script (and incidentally by his own nonpatrician looks), does Hanks fail to create a coherent character, although he at least gets to do a splendid display of outrage in the scene where he drives away the party guests.

As for his incarnation of the "simpleton" Forrest Gump, it must suffice to say that behind the American-Gothic frown and near-monotone delivery, Hanks finds a remarkably subtle range of voice tones and glances to suggest an inner life for a fantasy character—one who is already "old" in suffering but never crushed by sorrow, an Ancient Mariner with a story to tell America but no guilt to expiate. The weight behind each reiteration of "That's all I have to say about that"; the merest hint of knowing disapproval in references to Richard Nixon; the rare outbursts of glee in reunions with Lieutenant Dan: these and countless other details add shadings to what could have been a stiffly allegorical figure.

It is indicative of Hanks' post-Gump status as an all-American icon that his decent, solid performance as a decent, solid astronaut in Apollo 13 was widely touted as deserving yet another Oscar, and he did receive a nomination for what might be called a study in heroic decency, in Saving Private Ryan. It is instructive to compare his performance with that of, say, Lee Marvin in Samuel Fuller's The Big Red One (1980), another WWII story of a man leading a small group of soldiers through combat. Marvin's grizzled veteran, equally decent but the essence of the tough Sarge, is worlds (but really just a generation) away from Hanks' and the screenwriters' dryly ironic but close-to-cracking Captain Miller. Firm enough to be plausibly in command, sensitive enough to break down weeping when the other soldiers can't see him, capable of outrage when one of his men disobeys orders to "rescue" a little girl, and also of ironic banter with his men, Miller is one of Hanks' richer roles. It allows him big speeches, as when he tries to justify the number of men he has lost under his command, and subtle moments, as when—in quite different ways, with different inflections—he tells two different Pvt. Ryans (the first the wrong man) that all of his brothers have been lost in action. When the first Ryan realizes that a mistake has been made, and tearfully says, "Well, does that mean that my brothers are OK?" Miller's reply, "Yeah, I'm sure they're fine," is pure Hanks, without breaking character, in its irony verging upon sarcasm and disgust over the whole situation.

Hanks' only altogether "light" roles in recent films have been the voice of Woody in the Toy Story films. Of course, You've Got Mail is a romantic comedy, but rather than replay the character in Sleepless in Seattle, his previous outing with Meg Ryan, he is refreshingly (in the character's own words) an arrogant, spiteful and condescending "Mr. Nasty," a megabookstore entrepreneur who relishes the opportunity to drive Ryan's genteel neighborhood shop out of business. The plot calls for the character's underlying decency to surface in the anonymous e-mail friendship he shares with Ryan, and for a change of heart after his initial outrage that his electronic penpal is his insufferable business foe; but fortunately Hanks never turns smarmy, and never calls upon his old boyish cuteness, when his character becomes a pursuing lover. (He also never reminds us of James Stewart, another all-American icon, who played the original role in The Shop Around The Corner in 1940.) Indeed, he remains a little snotty even to the end.

While convincingly saintly and low-key American heroes are always in short supply on the screen, one can hope that Hanks doesn't choose too many such roles. He remains most memorable when he takes a risk in parts with curious mixtures of comedy and drama, like his comedian in Punchline, his Gump, or—a true character role—his drunken baseball coach in A League of Their Own.

—Joseph Milicia

Tom Hanks

views updated May 18 2018

Tom Hanks

Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks (born 1956) embraced his budding theater career as a high school student in the San Francisco Bay area. In 1984 he established a foothold in films, starring as the romantic interest of a mermaid in the movie Splash. Four years and seven films later he won a Golden Globe Award and by 2000 had won back-to-back Academy Awards as best actor.

Hanks was born Thomas Jeffrey Hanks on July 9, 1956, in Concord, California. His father, Amos, was a restaurant chef; his mother, Janet, was a waitress. Hanks, the third of the couple's four children and the second of three sons, was five years old in February 1962 when his parents separated. Leaving their younger brother behind with their mother, Hanks and his two older siblings went with their father to Reno, Nevada, where they lived in a basement flat at 529 Mills Street. By April their father had married Winfred Finley, the owner of the Mills Street residence. Finley was herself divorced and living with five of her eight children, and the large Finley brood merged to become step-siblings with the Hanks children.

In 1964 the 10-member household moved to Pleasant Hills, California. Soon afterward, Amos Hanks and Finley divorced. The Hanks children were shuffled continuously between the homes of various relatives while their father established a residence near his family in the San Francisco Bay area. For a time the three children stayed in Red Bluff with their mother, who was three-times remarried by then. After leaving Red Bluff they spent time with assorted relatives of their father in San Mateo and Oakland.

The living arrangement stabilized after Amos Hanks met and married Frances Wong who brought three daughters of her own into the marriage. Thus a large family was created anew, with six siblings in all. Hanks coped admirably with the unpredictability of his home life. He took judo lessons and participated in Little League, and the family enjoyed camping when circumstances allowed. He maintained above average grades at Oakland's Bret Harte junior high school and had by adolescence learned to be flexible above all else. Hanks, in fact, demonstrated a remarkable sense of resilience in the face of continuous upheaval. At home he and his siblings learned to fend for themselves by doing their own laundry and preparing meals as much as possible.

Found His Focus

When Hanks entered Oakland's Skyline High School in the early 1970s, he found an emotional anchor in a social group based at the First Covenant Church. Having been raised alternately as a Catholic and as a Mormon and later as a member of the Nazarene Church, he gravitated easily toward the group. In his senior year he left home and took up residence with a family from the church, supporting himself by working as a bellhop at the Oakland Hilton Hotel.

In high school, Hanks, with encouragement from a friend, joined the school's drama program. Beginning with a role in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, Hanks appeared in a number of plays under the direction of the school's drama teacher, Rawley Farnsworth. Many years later, Hanks—in accepting his first Academy Award in 1994—publicly thanked Farnsworth for his help and encouragement.

After high school graduation in 1974, Hanks enrolled at Chabot Community College in nearby Hayward. For the next two years, he began a metaphorical love affair with the theater, appearing on stage and working as a stagehand. He took acting classes and developed a sincere appreciation of live theater. By the time he enrolled at California State University at Sacramento (CSUS) in 1976, his fascination with the theater could no longer be contained.

Through an extracurricular involvement with the Sacramento Civic Theater, Hanks developed a fortuitous acquaintance with director Vincent Dowling. A visitor to the Sacramento area, Dowling was affiliated with the Great Lakes Shakespearean Festival (now Great Lakes Theater Festival) in Cleveland, Ohio. Hanks appeared as Yasha in the Sacramento community theater production of Anton Chekhov's Cherry Orchard and at Dowling's invitation spent the summer of 1977 at the Shakespeare Festival in Cleveland as a volunteer intern.

When Hanks returned to Sacramento in the fall of 1977 he became an assistant stage manager for the Civic Theater and quickly lost interest in academics. He returned to Cleveland in the summer of 1978, where he appeared in Two Gentlemen of Verona at the festival and received the Cleveland Drama Critics Award for his effort. Attracted by the smell of the greasepaint, he abandoned school altogether and opted to try his luck as a professional actor. At the end of the festival season, he moved to New York City to embark on a serious acting career.

After a disappointing first season in New York, spent largely in the unemployment office, Hanks summered at the Shakespeare Festival in Cleveland for a third time in 1979. After appearing in Do Me a Favor, he returned to New York where a small movie role materialized in a grade B horror film— He Knows You're Alone —about a deranged stalker of brides. He came to mainstream notoriety soon afterward in the unlikely television role of Kip Wilson—also known as Buffy—in Bosom Buddies, co-starring Peter Scolari. A weekly comedy series, Bosom Buddies was based on an outlandish situation wherein Hanks and Scolari portrayed two advertising men who dressed up regularly as women in order to rent rooms in a women's hotel. The series ran from 1980 to 1982, and Hanks emerged from the experience secure in his name and face recognition before the viewing public.

Movie Stardom

In 1984 Hanks teamed with actor-turned-director Ron Howard in Splash. A whimsical romantic comedy about a man who meets a mermaid, Splash was a perfect vehicle to movie stardom for Hanks whose boy-next-door image had survived the quirky sitcom role of Buffy. Secure in his appeal as a comedic actor, he was cast in the spoof film Bachelor Party that same year. His 1985 film offerings— Man with One Red Shoe and Volunteers —were less than successful, although he did attract some attention that year in portraying an attorney named Walter Fielding, opposite Shelley Long, in The Money Pit. He appeared in three films in 1986; and in 1987 provided the comedy relief as detective Pep Streebek in Dragnet. The film, a reprise of an old detective series from the early days of television, was a mild success.

Hanks, who subscribes to a classic style of method acting, immerses himself in the experiences and feelings of each character that he portrays. In 1988 he captivated the movie-going public with in a charming movie, called Big, in which he depicts a 12-year-old boy in a 30-something body. To prepare for the role Hanks spent much of his time in observing and learning to mimic the mannerisms of his 13-year-old co-star in that movie. Hanks prepared for a subsequent role as a stand-up comic in Punchline by performing several times on-stage at a comedy club in order to comprehend the daily life of a comic.

After two lighter-side films, The 'Burbs and Turner & Hooch in 1989, and two box office duds in 1990 ( Joe Versus the Volcano and Bonfire of the Vanities ), Hanks took an overdue sabbatical to spend time with his family. He made a comeback in 1992 with a cameo role in Radio Flyer.

With his professional battery re-charged, he ramped up his output and gained 30 pounds for his next film. In the movie he played a middle-aged alcoholic baseball coach, opposite Geena Davis, Madonna, and Rosie O'Donnell, cast as lady baseball players. The film, called A League of Their Own, was a box office hit. He followed in 1993 with a highly controversial role, as an attorney who becomes stricken with AIDs. For his role as the homosexual Andrew Beckett, Hanks did a great deal of research, talking openly with AIDs patients and with gay men. Under careful medical supervision he lost a large amount of weight so as to appear gaunt and dying. The movie, called Philadelphia, earned widespread critical acclaim.

Early in 1994 Hanks won an academy award as best actor for his role as Beckett, and that same year he delivered a second successive Oscar-winning performance, as the mentally challenged hero of Forrest Gump. The movie depicts the serendipitous adventures of a simple-minded man named Forrest Gump, who in spite of the mental handicap lives a life that proved to be more eventful and more fulfilling than the lives of many folks with twice his IQ. Hanks successfully brought the fictional character of Gump to life on the silver screen and turned the controversial character into a beloved folk hero.

Behind the Scenes

Hanks by 1995 was earning eight-figure salaries for his films, augmented by a percentage of the box office receipts. That year he starred as the Apollo 13 commander James Lovell, a true-life astronaut who steered an aborted moon mission safely back to earth. The film, called Apollo 13, was directed by Howard.

Among the most powerful films of his career was the critical favorite, Saving Private Ryan, directed by Steven Spielberg and released in 1998. Hanks and seven other actors underwent rigorous boot camp conditions for many days in preparation for their roles as a company of soldiers in World War II. The movie grossed $190 million at the box office, and Hanks was recognized with an Oscar nomination for the effort. Equally compelling that year was Hanks's portrayal of a uniquely compassionate prison guard in The Green Mile, based on a Stephen King series about a supernaturally endowed inmate on Louisiana's death row in the 1930s.

Behind the scenes, Hanks contributed his voice to the character of the cowboy Sheriff Woody in a computer animated film called Toy Story in 1995, and to the 1999 sequel, Toy Story 2. He also experimented with production work. He wrote and directed That Thing You Do! and served as executive producer of a 12-part Emmy-winning miniseries for Home Box Office (HBO), called From the Earth to the Moon, in 1998.

Hanks directed the war drama Road to Perdition in 2001 with David Frankel and was involved in several projects in 2002 and 2003. Among them, Lady Killers and Polar Express were scheduled for release in 2004.

Family Ties

In 1977 while a student at CSUS Hanks became close friends with a classmate, Susan Dillingham. An aspiring actress herself, Dillingham went by the stage name of Samantha Lewes. The two were married in 1978. Their son Colin was born in 1978 and a daughter Elizabeth was born in 1981. Sadly the marriage was fragile and the couple divorced in the mid 1980s.

Hanks, fearful of entering into a succession of unstable relationships, went into therapy before encouraging a close relationship with a colleague, Rita Wilson, who had appeared with him in several films. They were married on April 30, 1988. Their first child, Chester, was a born in 1990; a second son, Truman Theodore, was born in 1995. Hanks, who spends virtually all of his free time with his family, maintains homes in Los Angeles, Malibu, and New York City.

The family name of Hanks might stimulate interest among history buffs because Hanks, through his father's family tree, shares a common ancestor with Nancy Hanks, the mother of Abraham Lincoln.


Gardner, David, Tom Hanks, Blake Publishing Ltd., 1999.

Kramer, Barbara, Tom Hanks Superstar, Enslow Publishers Inc., 2001.

McAvoy, Jim, Tom Hanks, Chelsea House Publishers, 2000. □

Hanks, Tom

views updated Jun 27 2018

Hanks, Tom (1956– ) US film actor and director. Initially typecast in comedy roles, his early films included Splash (1984) and Big (1988). Hanks' performance as a gay AIDS victim in Philadelphia (1993) demonstrated his versatility and won him an Academy Award for best actor. He won a second Oscar for Forrest Gump (1994). In 1996 he made his directorial debut with That Thing You Do! He was acclaimed for his role in Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan (1998). Other films include Road to Perdition (2002).