Oscar winning actor, Tom Hanks. He’s the ‘every man’ man who sometimes finds himself in extraordinary situations. Depending upon when you first discovered this seemingly regular guy who isn’t so ordinary in his career, you may think of him as a young Shakespearian thespian, a comic, a high energy screwball, a passionate WW2 hobbiest, a family man, a devoted husband, a philanthropist, an entertainer, or a deeply moving Oscar-winning actor. As for me, I first discovered him as the silly yet charasmatic young man so desperate to secure affordable housing he was willing to dress up as a woman.
Now before I proceed, I must provide the disclaimer that this Hollywood actor is also the only man alive I’ve proclaimed would be my ideal Hollywood star husband. Dead? Well that goes to Cary Grant, of course. So please forgive my bias if this comes across slightly as a school-girl crush, won’t you? Not sure if my husband has just yet.
Born Thomas Jeffrey Hanks in Concord, California on July 9, 1956, he was raised by his father and older siblings after his parents divorced when he was five. It was during college at California State University at Sacramento that he began studying dramatic arts and took on Shakesperian summer stock in both Ohio and Sacramento. He even won the Cleveland Critics Circle Award for Best Actor in 1978, for his portrayal of Proteus in The Two Gentlemen of Verona. But before long, he was bit hard enough by the thespian bug to drop out of college and move to the big apple to audition for the small and big screen.
After a small role in the slasher film HE KNOWS YOU’RE ALONE (1980), Hanks landed the part as one of two ad execs who dress in drag in order to live in an all-female residence. While the silly sitcom only lasted a couple of seasons, “BOSOM BUDDIES” (1980-1982) highlighted Tom Hanks’ magnetic personality and energy. He also found guest spots in a variety of popular sitcoms during the early 80s. Ron Howard recalled Hanks from working together on “HAPPY DAYS” (1974-1984) and suggested him to audition for a supporting role in his directorial debut film, SPLASH (1984), a romantic comedy about a mermaid. Instead, that role went to John Candy and Tom landed the lead opposite Daryl Hannah. It was a big success and so was Hanks.
Now that Tom was becoming a household name, he secured leads in a string of films that decade, comedies and a few dramas. It wasn’t until Penny Marshall’s BIG (1988), that he truly hit it big. His performance earned him his first Oscar nomination for Actor. The late 80s and early 90s was a very busy time for Tom Hanks’ film career. Some hits, some misses. But I’d like to focus on two films in particular, Jonathan Demme’s PHILADELPHIA (1993) and Robert Zemeckis’ FORREST GUMP (1994).
It’s not only a rare privelege to be nominated and win an Oscar, but to win more than one? It’s a special accomplishment in the craft of acting that even the most famous actors of all-time can rarely boast the claim. How about two consecutive Oscar wins for Best Actor? Now that’s like winning the mega Powerball with all the stars aligned in your favor. But that’s exactly what Hanks did with those two films and he was only the second actor ever to do so. The first actor to earn this unique distinction was Spencer Tracy, who won back-to-back for CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS (1937) then BOYS TOWN (1938).
PHILADELPHIA (1993) marked a dramatic turn in Tom’s career. He went through a dramatic physical transformation to reflect the story of a man struggling for his life and his rights, inside and outside the courtroom. Hanks is Andrew Beckett, a highly successful attorney suing his company for wrongful dismissal. Beckett is battling AIDS in the workplace at a time few facts are commonly known and much paranoid hysteria spreads like wildfire. It doesn’t help that his defense attorney (Denzel Washington as Joe Miller) is battling his own prejudices of homophobia.
On the surface, it seems obvious that this is a courtroom drama about social injustice. About the tragic wrongs of hateful bigotry that can destroy a life, especially as he’s struggling to keep it. Washington’s performance is authentic and terrific. Miller becomes transformed in the process. The experience opens his eyes. Hanks is incredibly moving as Beckett. He embodies the soul of this man so that we look deeply into his beauty, love, anguish and fears. We see below the surface of the physical transformation to who this man truly is underneath his weakening, fading exterior.
The next year brought his second consecutive Oscar for an enormously popular character with FORREST GUMP (1994). This is the story of a low-IQ man who overcomes unusual obstacles and odds of mental, physical and otherwise yet comes out ridiculously successful. On the surface this film seems to show how a man with no advantages or assets turns out to be the most unrealistically lucky man on the planet. But at the heart of this film is a message of pure optimism (a life message of which I’m a firm believer) but it also centers on love and friendship that Tom Hanks’ Forrest Gump shares generously with those lucky enough to cross his path. In the end, Gump is a man whom no one believes in and repeatedly turns their backs on, yet he ultimately teaches them life’s greatest lessons of love and hope.
It’s hard not to like and to root for Forrest. Much of the charm of this iconic character is must be attributed to the on-screen and off-screen charm of Tom Hanks. It’s hard-pressed to think of another actor who would make a better Gump. This lovable role could only be portrayed by an actor who would bring the right amount of humanity, kindness and a humbled charisma. Over the top would be insulting and unlikable. Too subtle and there’s no spark. Hanks was the perfect man to bring the integrity needed for Forrest. We trust him. And it earned him the Oscar. Again.
The nineties were good to Tom. In the mix of his duo Oscar wins, he also starred in other popular films such as A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN (1992), SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE (1993), APOLLO 13 (1995), his directorial and screen-writing debut in THAT THING YOU DO! (1996), his beginning of a beautiful friendship/movie collaborations with Steven Speilberg in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998), THE GREEN MILE (1999) and both THE TOY STORY (1995) and TOY STORY 2 (1999).
He ushered in the new century with continued successes in his acting career with CAST AWAY (2000), CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (2002), THE POLAR EXPRESS (2004), CARS (2006), THE DA VINCI CODE (2006), TOY STORY 3 (2010), CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013), SAVING MR. BANKS (2013), and the recently six Oscars nominated BRIDGE OF SPIES (2015). These highlights of incredibly successful films is not even the complete list of his work. What’s also impressive is the long list of his producing and directing work. You can see the full list of his TV and film acting, writing, producing, directing and voice work here.
Tom Hanks is no slouch; likely one of the hardest working actors in Hollywood. He’s also known for his marriage to former co-star Rita Wilson. Although his second marriage (married to Samantha Lewes from 1978-1987), Tom and Rita have been married for twenty eight years. Which in modern Hollywood terms, is practically a miracle. All the more reason to adore Tom Hanks, too. Hanks on hard work being the key to a successful marriage: “It’s just as hard . . . staying happily married as it is doing movies.”
He’s also a bit of a history buff, especially of the WW2 era which is evident in his work. Hanks: “I am a lay historian by nature. I seek out an empirical reflection of what truth is. I sort of want dates and motivations and I want the whole story. But I’ve always felt, unconsciously, that all human history is that connection from person to person to person, event to event to event, and from idea to idea.”
Some have compared this highly likable actor to classic actors like Henry Fonda and Jimmy Stewart. Although his style is very different from each of those iconic leading men, Hanks also has a terrifically goofy comedic nature which he taps into for some roles, but I can see the parallel. Like the stars of classic Hollywood we love, Tom Hanks is the man we implicitly trust. There’s an underlying hint of humility. He’s the very approachable, regular guy we see in ourselves. Or wish we did.
Hanks: “I love what I do for a living, it’s the greatest job in the world, but you have to survive an awful lot of attention that you don’t truly deserve and you have to live up to your professional responsibilities and I’m always trying to balance that with what is really important.”
Look for more work to come for Hanks in A HOLOGRAM FOR A KING (2016), THE CIRCLE (2016), SULLY (2016), INFERNO (2016), TOY STORY 4 (2017) and as producer on the highly anticipated MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 2 (2016). He may be humble about his work: “Some people go to bed at night thinking, “That was a good day.” I am one of those who worries and asks, “How did I screw up today?” Don’t worry, Tom. You did good. REAL good.
This tribute to the Oscar-winning acting talents of Tom Hanks is part of the 31 DAYS OF OSCAR BLOGATHON, hosted by Aurora of ONCE UPON A SCREEN, Paula of PAULA’S CINEMA CLUB and me. Look for the Acting week contributors on Aurora’s site this weekend. Next week’s theme is all about Oscar Snubs, hosted at OUTSPOKEN & FRECKLED by yours truly. Don’t forget Crafts Week kicks off the third weekend, hosted by Paula. For the final week, Aurora and I bring it all in with Best Pictures and Directors. Enjoy all these marvelous bloggers!