Thomas Jeffrey “Tom” Hanks (born July 9, 1956) is an American actor and filmmaker. He is known for his roles in Big (1988), Philadelphia (1993), Forrest Gump (1994), Apollo 13 (1995), Saving Private Ryan, You’ve Got Mail (both 1998), Cast Away (2000), The Da Vinci Code (2006), Captain Phillips, and Saving Mr. Banks (both 2013), as well as for his voice work in the animated films The Polar Express (2004) and the Toy Story series.
Hanks has been nominated for numerous awards during his career. He won a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Philadelphia, as well as a Golden Globe, an Academy Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and a People’s Choice Award for Best Actor for his role in Forrest Gump. In 2004, he received the Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award for Excellence in Film from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA).
Hanks is also known for his collaboration with film director Steven Spielberg on Saving Private Ryan, Catch Me If You Can (2002), and The Terminal (2004), as well as the 2001 miniseries Band of Brothers, which launched Hanks as a successful director, producer, and writer. In 2010, Spielberg and Hanks were executive producers on the HBO miniseries The Pacific (a companion piece to Band of Brothers).
As of 2014, Hanks’ films have grossed over $4.2 billion at the U.S. and Canada box offices, and over $8.4 billion worldwide, making him one of the highest-grossing actors in film history.
Early life and education
Hanks was born in Concord, California. His father, Amos Mefford Hanks, was an itinerant cook. His hospital-worker mother, Janet Marylyn (Frager), was of Portuguese ancestry (her family’s surname was originally Fraga), while two of Hanks’ paternal great-grandparents emigrated from the United Kingdom. Hanks’ parents divorced in 1960. The family’s three oldest children, Sandra (later Sandra Hanks Benoiton, a writer), Larry (Lawrence M. Hanks, PhD, an entomology professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and Tom, went with their father, while the youngest, Jim, who became an actor and filmmaker, remained with their mother in Red Bluff, California.
While Hanks’ family religious history was Catholic and Mormon, he has characterized himself as being a “Bible-toting evangelical” for several years as a teenager. In school, Hanks was unpopular with students and teachers alike, later telling Rolling Stone magazine: “I was a geek, a spaz. I was horribly, painfully, terribly shy. At the same time, I was the guy who’d yell out funny captions during filmstrips. But I didn’t get into trouble. I was always a real good kid and pretty responsible.” In 1965, Amos Hanks married Frances Wong, a San Francisco native of Chinese descent. Frances had three children, two of whom lived with Tom during his high school years. Hanks acted in school plays, including South Pacific, while attending Skyline High School in Oakland, California.
Hanks studied theater at Chabot College in Hayward, and transferred to California State University, Sacramento two years later. Hanks told New York magazine in 1986: “Acting classes looked like the best place for a guy who liked to make a lot of noise and be rather flamboyant …I spent a lot of time going to plays. I wouldn’t take dates with me. I’d just drive to a theater, buy myself a ticket, sit in the seat and read the program, and then get into the play completely. I spent a lot of time like that, seeing Brecht, Tennessee Williams, Ibsen, and all that.”
During his years studying theater, Hanks met Vincent Dowling, head of the Great Lakes Theater Festival in Cleveland, Ohio. At Dowling’s suggestion, Hanks became an intern at the festival. His internship stretched into a three-year experience that covered most aspects of theater production, including lighting, set design, and stage management, prompting Hanks to drop out of college. During the same time, Hanks won the Cleveland Critics Circle Award for Best Actor for his 1978 performance as Proteus in Shakespeare’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona, one of the few times he played a villain.
Early acting career (1979-85)
In 1979, Hanks moved to New York City, where he made his film debut in the low-budget slasher film He Knows You’re Alone (1980) and landed a starring role in the television movie Mazes and Monsters. Early that year, he was cast in the lead, Callimaco, in the Riverside Shakespeare Company’s production of Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Mandrake, directed by Daniel Southern. As a high profile Off Off Broadway showcase, the production helped Tom land an agent, Joe Ohla, with the J. Michael Bloom Agency.
The following year, Hanks landed one of the lead roles, that of character Kip Wilson, on the ABC television pilot of Bosom Buddies. He and Peter Scolari played a pair of young advertising men forced to dress as women so they could live in an inexpensive all-female hotel. Hanks had previously partnered with Scolari on the 1970s game show Make Me Laugh. After landing the role, Hanks moved to Los Angeles. Bosom Buddies ran for two seasons, and, although the ratings were never strong, television critics gave the program high marks. “The first day I saw him on the set,” co-producer Ian Praiser told Rolling Stone, “I thought, ‘Too bad he won’t be in television for long.’ I knew he’d be a movie star in two years.” However, although Praiser knew it, he was not able to convince Hanks. “The television show had come out of nowhere,” Hanks’ best friend Tom Lizzio told Rolling Stone. “Then out of nowhere it got canceled. He figured he’d be back to pulling ropes and hanging lights in a theater.”
Bosom Buddies and a guest appearance on a 1982 episode of Happy Days (“A Case of Revenge,” in which he played a disgruntled former classmate of Fonzie) prompted director Ron Howard to contact Hanks. Howard was working on the film Splash (1984), a romantic comedy fantasy about a mermaid who falls in love with a human. At first, Howard considered Hanks for the role of the main character’s wisecracking brother, a role that eventually went to John Candy. Instead, Hanks landed the lead role and subsequent career boost from Splash, which went on to become a surprise box office hit, grossing more than US$69 million. He also had a sizable hit with the sex comedy Bachelor Party, also in 1984. In 1983-84, Hanks made three guest appearances on Family Ties as Elyse Keaton’s alcoholic brother, Ned Donnelly.
Period of successes and failures (1986-91)
With Nothing in Common (1986) – a story of a young man alienated from his father (played by Jackie Gleason) – Hanks began to extend himself from comedic roles to dramatic roles. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine Hanks commented on his experience: “It changed my desires about working in movies. Part of it was the nature of the material, what we were trying to say. But besides that, it focused on people’s relationships. The story was about a guy and his father, unlike, say, The Money Pit, where the story is really about a guy and his house.”
After a few more flops and a moderate success with the comedy Dragnet, Hanks’ stature in the film industry rose. The broad success of the fantasy comedy Big (1988) established Hanks as a major Hollywood talent, both as a box office draw and within the industry as an actor. For his performance in the film, Hanks earned his first nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actor. Big was followed later that year by Punchline, in which he and Sally Field co-starred as struggling comedians.
Hanks then suffered a run of box-office under-performers: The ‘Burbs (1989), Joe Versus the Volcano (1990), and The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990). In the latter, he portrayed a greedy Wall Street figure who gets enmeshed in a hit-and-run accident. Only the 1989 movie Turner & Hooch brought success for Hanks during this period.
Progression into dramatic roles (1992-95)
Hanks climbed back to the top again with his portrayal of a washed-up baseball legend turned manager in A League of Their Own (1992). Hanks has admitted that his acting in earlier roles was not great, but that he has improved. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Hanks noted his “modern era of moviemaking … because enough self-discovery has gone on … My work has become less pretentiously fake and over the top”. This “modern era” began in 1993 for Hanks, first with Sleepless in Seattle and then with Philadelphia. The former was a blockbuster success about a widower who finds true love over the radio airwaves. Richard Schickel of TIME called his performance “charming,” and most critics agreed that Hanks’ portrayal ensured him a place among the premier romantic-comedy stars of his generation.
In Philadelphia, he played a gay lawyer with AIDS who sues his firm for discrimination. Hanks lost 35 pounds and thinned his hair in order to appear sickly for the role. In a review for People, Leah Rozen stated, “Above all, credit for Philadelphia? ‘s success belongs to Hanks, who makes sure that he plays a character, not a saint. He is flat-out terrific, giving a deeply felt, carefully nuanced performance that deserves an Oscar.” Hanks won the 1993 Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Philadelphia. During his acceptance speech, he revealed that his high school drama teacher Rawley Farnsworth and former classmate John Gilkerson, two people with whom he was close, were gay.
Hanks followed Philadelphia with the 1994 hit Forrest Gump which grossed a worldwide total of over $600 million at the box office. Hanks remarked: “When I read the script for Gump, I saw it as one of those kind of grand, hopeful movies that the audience can go to and feel … some hope for their lot and their position in life … I got that from the movies a hundred million times when I was a kid. I still do.” Hanks won his second Best Actor Academy Award for his role in Forrest Gump, becoming only the second actor to have accomplished the feat of winning consecutive Best Actor Oscars. (Spencer Tracy was the first, winning in 1937-38. Hanks and Tracy were the same age at the time they received their Academy Awards: 37 for the first and 38 for the second.)
Hanks’ next role–astronaut and commander Jim Lovell, in the 1995 film Apollo 13–reunited him with Ron Howard. Critics generally applauded the film and the performances of the entire cast, which included actors Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris, and Kathleen Quinlan. The movie also earned nine Academy Award nominations, winning two. Later that year, Hanks starred in the DisneyoPixar film Toy Story, as the voice of Sheriff Woody.
Continued success (1996-99)
Hanks made his directing debut with his 1996 film That Thing You Do! about a 1960s pop group, also playing the role of a music producer. Hanks and producer Gary Goetzman went on to create Playtone, a record and film production company named after the record company in the film.
Hanks executive produced, co-wrote, and co-directed the HBO docudrama From the Earth to the Moon. The 12-part series chronicled the space program from its inception, through the familiar flights of Neil Armstrong and Jim Lovell, to the personal feelings surrounding the reality of moon landings. The Emmy Award-winning project was, at US$68 million, one of the most expensive ventures undertaken for television.
Hanks’ next project was no less expensive. For Saving Private Ryan, he teamed up with Steven Spielberg to make a film about a search through war-torn France after D-Day to bring back a soldier. It earned the praise and respect of the film community, critics, and the general public. It was labeled one of the finest war films ever made and earned Spielberg his second Academy Award for direction, and Hanks another Best Actor nomination. Later in 1998, Hanks re-teamed with his Sleepless in Seattle co-star Meg Ryan for You’ve Got Mail, a remake of 1940’s The Shop Around the Corner. In 1999, Hanks starred in an adaptation of the Stephen King novel The Green Mile. He also returned as the voice of Woody in Toy Story 2, the sequel to Toy Story. The following year, he won a Golden Globe for Best Actor and an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of a marooned FedEx systems analyst in Robert Zemeckis’s Cast Away.
International recognition (2000-09)
In 2001, Hanks helped direct and produce the Emmy-Award winning HBO miniseries Band of Brothers. He also appeared in the September 11 television special America: A Tribute to Heroes and the documentary Rescued From the Closet. He then teamed up with American Beauty director Sam Mendes for the adaptation of Max Allan Collins’s and Richard Piers Rayner’s graphic novel Road to Perdition, in which he played an anti-hero role as a hitman on the run with his son. That same year, Hanks collaborated once again with director Spielberg, starring opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in the hit crime comedy Catch Me If You Can, based on the true story of Frank Abagnale, Jr. The same year, Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson produced the hit movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding. In August 2007, he along with co-producers Rita Wilson and Gary Goetzman, and writer and star Nia Vardalos, initiated a legal action against the production company Gold Circle Films for their share of profits from the movie. At the age of 45, Hanks became the youngest ever recipient of the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award on June 12, 2002.
In 2004, he appeared in three films: The Coen brothers’ The Ladykillers, another Spielberg film, The Terminal, and The Polar Express, a family film from Robert Zemeckis. In a USA Weekend interview, Hanks discussed how he chooses projects: “[Since] A League of Their Own, it can’t be just another movie for me. It has to get me going somehow … There has to be some all-encompassing desire or feeling about wanting to do that particular movie. I’d like to assume that I’m willing to go down any avenue in order to do it right”. In August 2005, Hanks was voted in as vice president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Hanks next starred in the highly anticipated film The Da Vinci Code, based on the best-selling novel by Dan Brown. The film was released May 19, 2006, in the US and grossed over US$750 million worldwide. He followed the film with Ken Burns’s 2007 documentary The War. For the documentary, Hanks did voice work, reading excerpts from World War II-era columns by Al McIntosh. In 2006, Hanks topped a 1,500-strong list of “most trusted celebrities” compiled by Forbes magazine.
Hanks next appeared in a cameo role as himself in The Simpsons Movie, in which he appeared in an advertisement claiming that the U.S. government has lost its credibility and is hence buying some of his. He also made an appearance in the credits, expressing a desire to be left alone when he is out in public. Later in 2006, Hanks produced the British film Starter for Ten, a comedy based on working class students attempting to win on University Challenge.
In 2007, Hanks starred in Mike Nichols’s film Charlie Wilson’s War (written by screenwriter Aaron Sorkin) in which he played Democratic Texas Congressman Charles Wilson. The film opened on December 21, 2007, and Hanks received a Golden Globe nomination. In the comedy-drama film The Great Buck Howard (2008), Hanks played the on-screen father of a young man (played by Hanks’ real-life son, Colin) who chooses to follow in the footsteps of a fading magician (John Malkovich). His character was less than thrilled about his son’s career decision. In the same year, he executive produced the musical comedy, Mamma Mia and the miniseries, John Adams.
Hanks’ next endeavor, released on May 15, 2009, was a film adaptation of Angels & Demons, based on the novel of the same name by Dan Brown. Its April 11, 2007, announcement revealed that Hanks would reprise his role as Robert Langdon, and that he would reportedly receive the highest salary ever for an actor. The following day he made his 10th appearance on NBC’s Saturday Night Live, impersonating himself for the Celebrity Jeopardy sketch. Hanks produced the Spike Jonze film Where the Wild Things Are, based on the children’s book by Maurice Sendak in 2009.
Recent projects (2010-present)
In 2010, Hanks reprised his voice role of Woody in Toy Story 3, after he, Tim Allen, and John Ratzenberger were invited to a movie theater to see a complete story reel of the movie. The film went on to become the first animated film to gross a worldwide total of over $1 billion as well as the highest grossing animated film of all time. This record held until the 2013 Disney film, Frozen, surpassed it. He also was executive producer of the miniseries, The Pacific.
In 2011, he directed and starred opposite Julia Roberts in the title role in the romantic comedy Larry Crowne. The movie received poor reviews, with only 35% of the 175 Rotten Tomatoes reviews giving it high ratings. Also in 2011, he starred in the drama film Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. In 2012, he voiced the character Cleveland Carr for a web series he created titled Electric City. He also starred in the Wachowskis-directed film adaptation of the novel of the same name, Cloud Atlas and was executive producer of the miniseries Game Change.
In 2013, Hanks starred in two critically acclaimed films– Captain Phillips and Saving Mr. Banks–which each earned him praise, including a BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role and Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama for the former role. In Captain Phillips, he starred as Captain Richard Phillips with Barkhad Abdi, which was based on the Maersk Alabama hijacking. In Saving Mr. Banks, co-starring Emma Thompson and directed by John Lee Hancock, he played Walt Disney, being the first actor to portray Disney in a mainstream film. That same year, Hanks made his Broadway debut, starring in Nora Ephron’s Lucky Guy, for which he was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play.
In 2014, Hanks’ short story “Alan Bean Plus Four” was published in the October 27 issue of The New Yorker. Revolving around four friends who make a voyage to the moon, the short story is titled after the Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean. Slate magazine’s Katy Waldman found Hanks’ first published short story “mediocre”, writing that “Hanks’ shopworn ideas about technology might have yet sung if they hadn’t been wrapped in too-clever lit mag-ese”. In an interview with The New Yorker, Hanks said he has always been fascinated by space. He told the magazine that he built plastic models of rockets when he was a child and watched live broadcasts of space missions back in the 1960s.
In March 2015, Hanks appeared in the Carly Rae Jepsen music video for “I Really Like You”, lip-syncing most of the song’s lyrics as he goes through his daily routine.
Hanks was married to American actress Samantha Lewes from 1978 until they divorced in 1987. Together, the couple had two children, son Colin Hanks, born in 1977, and daughter Elizabeth Hanks.
In 1988, Hanks married actress Rita Wilson, with whom he costarred in the film Volunteers They have two sons. The elder, Chester (Chet) Marlon Hanks, had a minor role as a student in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and released a rap single in 2011. Their younger, Truman Theodore, was born in 1995.
On October 7, 2013, on The Late Show with David Letterman, Hanks announced that he has Type 2 diabetes.
Before marrying his second wife, Hanks converted to the Greek Orthodox Church, the religion of Wilson and her family. Hanks said, “I must say that when I go to church–and I do go to church–I ponder the mystery. I meditate on the ‘why?’ of ‘why people are as they are’ and ‘why bad things happen to good people,’ and ‘why good things happen to bad people’… The mystery is what I think it is, almost, the grand unifying theory of mankind.”
Hanks collects manual typewriters, writing an article about them in The New York Times in August 2013.
Hanks has made donations to many Democratic politicians and has been open about his support for same-sex marriage, environmental causes, and alternative fuels. Hanks made public his presidential candidate choice in the 2008 election, uploading a video to his MySpace account in which he announced his endorsement of Barack Obama.
A proponent of environmentalism, Hanks is an investor in electric vehicles and owns both a Toyota RAV4 EV and the first production AC Propulsion eBox. Hanks was a lessee of an EV1 before it was recalled, as chronicled in the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? He was on the waiting list for an Aptera 2 Series.
Hanks was extremely outspoken about his opposition to the 2008 Proposition 8, an amendment to the California constitution that defined marriage as a union only between a man and a woman. Hanks and others who were in opposition to the proposition raised over US$44 million, in contrast to the supporters’ $39 million, but Proposition 8 passed with 52% of the vote. It was only overruled in June 2013, when the Ninth Circuit lifted its stay of the district court’s ruling, enabling Governor Jerry Brown to order same-sex marriage officiations to resume.
While premiering a TV series in January 2009, Hanks called supporters of Proposition 8 “un-American” and criticized the LDS Church members, who were major proponents of the bill, for their views on marriage and their role in supporting the bill. About a week later, Hanks apologized for the remark, saying that nothing is more American than voting one’s conscience. Hanks narrated a video created by Obama for America, titled The Road We’ve Traveled.
A supporter of NASA’s manned space program, Hanks has said that he originally wanted to be an astronaut, but “didn’t have the math.” Hanks is a member of the National Space Society, serving on the Board of Governors of the nonprofit educational space advocacy organization founded by Dr. Wernher Von Braun. He also produced the HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon about the Apollo program to send astronauts to the moon. In addition, Hanks co-wrote and co-produced Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D, an IMAX film about the moon landings. Hanks provided the voice over for the premiere of the show Passport to the Universe at the Rose Center for Earth and Space in the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
In 2006, the Space Foundation awarded Hanks the Douglas S. Morrow Public Outreach Award, given annually to an individual or organization that has made significant contributions to public awareness of space programs.
In June 2006, Hanks was inducted as an honorary member of the United States Army Rangers Hall of Fame for his accurate portrayal of a Captain in the movie Saving Private Ryan; Hanks, who was unable to attend the induction ceremony, was the first actor to receive such an honor. In addition to his role in Saving Private Ryan, Hanks was cited for serving as the national spokesperson for the World War II Memorial Campaign, for being the honorary chairperson of the D-Day Museum Capital Campaign, and for his role in writing and helping to produce the Emmy Award-winning miniseries, Band of Brothers. On March 10, 2008, Hanks was on hand at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to induct the Dave Clark Five.
Legacy and impact
Hanks is perceived to be amiable and congenial to his fans. In 2013, when he was starring in Nora Ephron’s Lucky Guy on Broadway, he had crowds of 300 fans waiting for a glimpse of him after every performance. This is the highest number of expectant fans post-show of any Broadway performance.
Hanks is ranked as the highest all-time box office star with over $3.639 billion total box office gross, an average of $107 million per film. He has been involved with 17 films that grossed over $100 million at the worldwide box office, the highest grossing of which was 2010’s Toy Story 3. As of 2014, Hanks’ films have grossed over $4.2 billion at the United States and Canada box office and over $8.4 billion worldwide, making him the highest all-time box office star. Asteroid 12818 Tomhanks is named after him.
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