Tom Hanks: The Actor Who Made Us Take Notice of Him

By Rinshi Ansari

Tom Hanks established himself as one of the most admired performers of his time with an on-screen demeanour that was so endearing that he was frequently referred to as “America’s Dad.”

A brief look at Tom Hanks, the person

Amos “Bud” Hanks, an itinerant cook, and hospital worker Janet Marylyn Hanks welcomed Thomas Jeffrey Hanks, aka Tom Hanks, into the world on July 9, 1956 in Concord, California. His mother was Portuguese, and the family’s last name was originally “Fraga.” Most people don’t know this, but Hanks is a distant relative of President Abraham Lincoln and the children’s host he portrayed, Fred Rogers, because of his father’s English lineage.

In 1960, his parents divorced. Their youngest child, Jim (who went on to become an actor and director), stayed in Red Bluff, California, with their mother. Their three oldest children, Sandra, Larry (who went on to become an entomology professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign), and Tom, left with their father. While he was a child, Hanks’ family relocated frequently; by the time he was 10, he had lived in 10 different houses.

Despite having Mormon and Catholic ancestry, one journalist described Hanks as a “Bible-toting evangelical” throughout his adolescent years for a number of years. His father married Frances Wong, a Chinese-born resident of San Francisco, in 1965. Two of Frances’ three children, who lived with Hanks when he was in high school, while attending Skyline High School in Oakland, California, Hanks performed in several school productions, including South Pacific.

He attended Chabot College in Hayward, California, where he studied theater for two years before transferring to California State University, Sacramento. Hanks was asked in a 2001 interview with sportscaster Bob Costas if he preferred to win the Oscar or the Heisman Trophy. He retorted that he preferred to play halfback for the California Golden Bears and win the Heisman Trophy.

The beginning of a career

Hanks met Vincent Dowling, director of the Great Lakes Theater Festival in Cleveland, Ohio, while he was studying theater. Hanks joined the festival as an intern at Dowling’s recommendation. Hanks left college after his three-year internship, which covered the majority of theatrical productions’ features, such as lighting, set design, and stage management. Hanks received the Cleveland Critics Circle Award for Best Actor at the same time for his portrayal of Proteus in The Two Gentlemen of Verona by Shakespeare, one of the few times he played a villain. Hanks was listed as one of the “Top 10 College Dropouts” by Time magazine in 2010.

Hanks relocated to New York City in 1979, where he appeared in the low-budget slasher flick He Knows You’re Alone (1980) and the television film Mazes and Monsters as a leading man. Early that year, under the direction of Daniel Southern, he received the role of Callimaco in the Riverside Shakespeare Company production of Niccol Machiavelli’s The Mandrake. 

Tom Hanks was cast in the starring role of Kip Wilson in the ABC television series Bosom Buddies the following year. He and Peter Scolari portrayed two young ad men who were coerced into dressing as women in order to reside in a low-cost all-female motel. Hanks relocated to Los Angeles after being cast in the role. It lasted successfully for two seasons.

The Hollywood Debut

Hanks met the writers Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel while he was a guest star in an episode of Happy Days from 1982 called “A Case of Revenge,” in which he played a displeased former classmate of Fonzie. Splash (1984) was a romantic comedy fantasy about a mermaid who falls in love with a human and was going to be directed by former Happy Days actor Ron Howard. Ganz and Mandel advised Howard to think about getting Hanks for the movie. 

Hanks was once a candidate for the part of the main character’s witty brother, which ultimately went to John Candy. Instead, Hanks was cast as the star of Splash, a film that went on to earn more than US$69 million at the box office. In 1984, he also enjoyed a huge hit with the sex comedy Bachelor Party. Hanks made three cameo appearances in Family Ties in the years 1983–1984 as the drunken brother of Elyse Keaton.

With Nothing in Common (1986), a Jackie Gleason-played drama about a young man who is estranged from his father, Hanks started to transition from humorous to tragic parts. He had signed a contract with The Walt Disney Studios in 1987, and as part of an acting/producing deal, he had contributed to a talent pool. Hanks’ reputation in the film industry grew after a couple more failures and the middling success of the comedy Dragnet. 

Hanks became a well-known Hollywood personality after the success of the fantasy comedy Big (1988), both as a box office draw and as an actor. Hanks received his first nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his work in the movie. Later that year, after Big, he and Sally Field co-starred as struggling comedians in the film Punchline. 

The ‘Burbs (1989), Joe Versus the Volcano (1990), and The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990) were among a string of Hanks movies that failed to perform well at the box office (1990). In the most recent, he played a Wall Street businessman who is involved in a hit-and-run. The only Hanks movie to be commercially successful during that time was 1989’s Turner & Hooch.

The Rise of a Movie Legend

With his portrayal of a retired baseball hero who becomes a manager in A League of Their Own, Hanks once more rose to the top (1992). Hanks has claimed that while his acting in his earlier roles was not excellent, it later became better. 

For Hanks, this “modern period” started in 1993 with Sleepless in Seattle and continued with Philadelphia. The former was a huge hit about a widower who discovers true love on the radio. He portrayed a gay lawyer with AIDS who sued his firm for discrimination in Philadelphia. Hanks trimmed his hair and shed 35 pounds (16 kg) in order to play a sickly character. For his work in Philadelphia, Hanks received the Best Actor Academy Award in 1993.

With the 1994 success of Forrest Gump, which brought in more than $600 million worldwide, Hanks followed up with Philadelphia. Hanks became just the second actor to achieve the accomplishment of winning consecutive Best Actor Oscars when he earned his second Best Actor Academy Award for his performance in Forrest Gump. And this went on to inspire actor Aamir Khan to remake it in Hindi as Laal Singh Chaddha, which was released in August 2022 that featured Khan himself and Kareena Kapoor Khan along with Naga Chaitanya.

Hanks and Ron Howard worked together again in 1995’s Apollo 13 in their subsequent roles as astronaut and commander Jim Lovell. Additionally, the film received nine Academy Award nominations and two wins. Later that year, Hanks voiced Sheriff Woody in the Disney/Pixar hit CGI animated movie Toy Story.

That Thing You Do!, a 1996 movie about a 1960s musical group, marked Hanks’ debut as a director and music producer. Hanks subsequently co-wrote, co-directed, and executive produced the HBO documentary From the Earth to the Moon. The 12-part series followed the history of the space programme from its beginnings to the familiar moon landing flights of Jim Lovell and Neil Armstrong, as well as the emotions that each individual experienced. At US$68 million, the Emmy Award-winning project was one of the most costly television projects ever produced.

Hanks’ subsequent endeavour in 1998 wasn’t any less pricey. In Saving Private Ryan, he collaborated with Steven Spielberg to create a movie about a soldier being sought in war-torn France following D-Day. The film industry, critics, and the general public all praised and respected it. As one of the best war movies ever produced, it brought Spielberg his second Academy Award for directing and Hanks another nomination for Best Actor. 

Later that year, Hanks and Meg Ryan collaborated once more on You’ve Got Mail, an adaptation of The Shop Around the Corner from 1940. Hanks starred in The Green Mile, a 1999 adaption of the Stephen King book. In Toy Story 2, the follow-up to Toy Story, he also made a comeback as Woody’s voice.

Hanks played a marooned FedEx systems analyst in Robert Zemeckis’ 2000 film Cast Away, for which he won the Golden Globe for Best Actor and garnered an Academy Award nomination.

Hanks collaborated in the Emmy Award-winning HBO miniseries Band of Brothers’ direction and production in 2001. Additionally, he made an appearance in the documentaries Rescued From the Closet and the September 11 television special America: A Tribute to Heroes. Then, he collaborated with Sam Mendes, the director of American Beauty, on the adaptation of Max Allan Collins’ and Richard Piers Rayner’s DC Comics graphic novel Road to Perdition, in which he portrayed an anti-hero character as a hitman on the run with his son. 

Hanks worked with director Steven Spielberg once more that year, co-starring with Leonardo DiCaprio in the popular biographical crime drama Catch Me If You Can, which was based on the real-life events of Frank Abagnale, Jr. The popular film My Big Fat Greek Wedding was created in the same year by Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson. On June 12, 2002, Hanks, then 45, became the first winner of the American Film Institute Life Achievement Award.

Hanks made appearances in three movies in 2004: The Ladykillers by the Coen brothers, The Terminal by Spielberg, and The Polar Express, a family movie by Zemeckis for which he performed various motion capture parts. Hanks was elected as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ vice president in August 2005.

The Da Vinci Code, a highly anticipated 2006 film based on the best-selling book by Dan Brown, stars Tom Hanks as the sequel. Over 750 million dollars were made by the movie worldwide.

The Simpsons Movie was the setting for Hanks’ subsequent cameo appearance as himself. In this film, he made the assertion that the U.S. government has lost its legitimacy and is now buying some of his products. He also made a cameo in the credits, when he stated that when he is out in public, he prefers to be left alone. 

Later in 2006, Tom Hanks worked as a producer on the comedy Starter for Ten, a British movie about working-class students competing in the University Challenge.

Hanks portrays Democratic Texas Congressman Charles Wilson in the 2007 movie Charlie Wilson’s War, directed by Mike Nichols. The movie was released in 2007, and Hanks was nominated for a Golden Globe.

Angels & Demons, based on the Dan Brown novel of the same name, was Hanks’ subsequent project and was released on May 15, 2009. Hanks returned to the role of Woody in Toy Story 3 in 2010. The movie went on to become both the highest-grossing animated movie at the time and the first animated movie to earn a worldwide total of over $1 billion. 

Hanks received recognition for his roles in the critically acclaimed films Saving Mr. Banks and Captain Phillips in 2013. For the former part, Hanks received nominations for the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama. Hanks made his Broadway debut in the same year.

In his subsequent movie, Bridge of Spies, which was directed by Steven Spielberg, he played James B. Donovan, a lawyer who bargained for the Soviet Union to free pilot Francis Gary Powers in exchange for KGB agent Rudolf Abel. It received a favourable response after its debut in October 2015. Hanks played Alan Clay in the comedy-drama A Hologram for the King, which was released in April 2016 and was based on the same-titled novel from 2012. 

The next movie received much critical acclaim. Tom Hanks portrayed Chesley Sullenberger, an airline captain, in Clint Eastwood’s Sully, which was released in September 2016. Hanks portrayed Chesley Sullenberger, an airline captain, in Clint Eastwood’s Sully, which was released in September 2016. He then played Robert Langdon again in Inferno (2016).

On June 21, 2019, the release of Pixar’s Toy Story 4, Hanks returned to voice Sheriff Woody. Hanks played Fred Rogers in Marielle Heller’s biographical movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood later that year, for which he received his first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

In 2020, Hanks had two new movies come out. Hanks starred in and penned the screenplay for the military movie Greyhound in July 2020. Hanks reunited with filmmaker Paul Greengrass later that year to star in the western drama movie News of the World, which was released on December 23, 2020. Hanks starred in Miguel Sapochnik’s science fiction drama Finch in 2021. Hanks played Tom Parker, Elvis Presley’s sole manager, in the Baz Luhrmann film Elvis, which was released in 2022.

Awards and Honours

Hanks has been nominated for numerous awards during his acting and producing careers. Hanks has been nominated for six Academy Awards, including two consecutive victories for Best Actor for the films Forrest Gump and Philadelphia in 1993 and 1994, respectively.

In 2013, Hanks was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his work in Nora Ephron’s Lucky Guy. That wasn’t all, but he was nominated for 12 Primetime Emmy Awards, with 7 of those wins coming for his work as a producer on various television movies and limited series, such as From the Earth to the Moon (1998), Band of Brothers (2002), John Adams (2008), The Pacific (2010), Game Change (2012), and Olive Kitteridge (2015).

The legend lives on!

With his cheerful disposition, Tom Hanks will continue to mesmerise us with his unique roles that will be etched in our hearts. As a huge fan, I will be at the forefront of cheering him on in his challenging roles from afar.

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