Tom Hanks

Thomas "Tom" Jeffrey Hanks (born July 9, 1956) is a two-time Academy Award-winning American film actor, Emmy winning director, voice-over artist and movie producer who starred in family-friendly and screwball comedies before achieving notable success as a dramatic actor in Philadelphia and Forrest Gump.

As of September 24, 2006, Hanks is the highest-grossing lead actor of all time, with a combined gross of over USD$3.3 billion and a worldwide gross of nearly $6 billion.

  • Early life
    Hanks's parents, Amos Mefford Hanks (a chef, related to President Abraham Lincoln's mother) and Janet Marylyn Frager (a hospital worker) divorced in 1960. The three oldest children, Sandra, (now Sandra Hanks Benoiton, a writer), Rufus (now Lawrence M. Hanks, PhD, a renowned entomology professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), and Tom, went with their father; while the youngest, Jim, now an actor and film maker, remained with his mother in Red Bluff, California. Both parents remarried. The first stepmother for Sandra, Larry (Rufus), and Tom came to the marriage with five children of her own. Hanks once told Rolling Stone magazine: "Everybody in my family likes each other. But there were always about fifty people at the house. I didn't exactly feel like an outsider, but I was sort of outside of it." That marriage ended in divorce after just 2 years, and Amos Hanks became a single parent, working long hours and relying on the children to fend for themselves often, an exercise in self-reliance that served the siblings well.

    In school, Hanks was unpopular with students and teachers alike, 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."

    Amos Hanks remarried in 1965 to the former Frances Wong, a San Francisco native of Chinese descent. Frances had three children, two of whom lived with Tom during his high school years. Tom acted in school plays, including "South Pacific", while attending Skyline High School in Oakland, California.

    Hanks studied theater at Chabot College, and after two years, transferred to Sacramento State University. Hanks told the New York Times: "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 Bertolt Brecht, Tennessee Williams, Henrik Ibsen, and all that."

    It was during his years studying theater that Hanks met Vincent Dowling, head of the Great Lakes Theater Festival in Cleveland. At Dowling's suggestion, Hanks became an intern at the Festival, which stretched into a three-year experience that covered everything from lighting to set design to stage management. Such a commitment required that Hanks drop out of college, but with this under his belt, a future in acting was in the cards. Hanks won the Cleveland Critics Circle Award for best actor for his performance as Proteus in Shakespeare's The Two Gentlemen of Verona, one of the few times he played a villain.

    From Cleveland, Hanks moved to New York, where he scratched out a living until being "discovered" during open auditions that the ABC was conducting. He landed the role of Kip Wilson on the ABC situation comedy "Bosom Buddies" at the age of 23.

  • Career
    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, and got a part in a television movie entitled Mazes and Monsters. He continued to audition and finally landed a role on an ABC television pilot called Bosom Buddies. "It was flukesville", Hanks told Newsweek about the show. Hanks flew to Los Angeles, California where he was teamed with Peter Scolari as a pair of young advertising men forced to dress as women so they could live in an inexpensive all-female hotel. He had previously partnered with Scolari in the 1970s game show, Make Me Laugh. 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", the show's 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." But if 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 cancelled. He figured he'd be back to pulling ropes and hanging lights in a theater."

    It was Bosom Buddies and a guest appearance on a 1982 episode of Happy Days ("A Case of Revenge") where he played a disgruntled former class mate of The Fonz that drew director Ron Howard to contact Hanks. Howard was working on 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 which eventually went to John Candy. Instead, Hanks got the lead role and a career boost from Splash, which went on to become a box-office hit, grossing more than $69 million.

    Period of hits and misses
    More comedies followed, but none clicked with audiences. With Nothing in Common (1986)—about a young man alienated from his parents who must re-establish a relationship with his father, played by Jackie Gleason—Hanks began to establish the credentials of not only a comic actor but of someone who could carry a serious role. "It changed my desires about working in movies", Hanks told Rolling Stone. "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 (1986), where the story is really about a guy and his house."

    After three more flops, Hanks succeeded with the fantasy Big (1988), both at the box office and within the industry, establishing Hanks as a major Hollywood talent. "It's not easy being successful in this town," his friend Scolari told Rolling Stone, "particularly for a man of conscience. You get fed a steady diet of adulation. You get fed things that aren't necessarily bad or poisonous or toxic in any way. But they're not really on your meal plan. You have to stop and say, 'Wait a minute—I didn't order this.' You have to take your life by the horns. You have responsibilities that have nothing to do with being an actor. Tom Hanks has dealt with his success. I have never known him to be happier."

    It was followed by the 1989 movie of Turner and Hooch. In a 1993 issue of Disney Adventures, Hanks said, "I saw Turner and Hooch the other day in the SAC store and couldn't help but be reminiscent. I cried like a babe." He did admit to making a couple of "bum tickers," however, and blamed his "...deductive reasoning and decision making skills."

    Hanks’ choice of roles continued to land him in trouble. He had another string of box-office failures. First, there was The Burbs (1989), then Joe Versus the Volcano (1990) and finally The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990).

    Progression into dramatic roles
    Hanks again climbed back to the top with his portrayal of an unsuccessful baseball manager in A League of Their Own (1992). Tom admits that his acting in earlier roles was not great and that he has improved. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Hanks called the work that he's done since his "modern era of moviemaking ... because enough self-discovery has gone on.... My work has become less 'pretentiously fake."

    This "modern era" welcomed in a spectacular 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 (in the character of Meg Ryan) over the airwaves. Richard Schickel of Time called his performance "charming", and most agreed that his portrayal ensured him a place among the premiere romantic-comedy stars of his generation, making him bankable. In Philadelphia Hanks played a gay lawyer with AIDS who sues his firm for discrimination (Hanks lost thirty-five 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 1994 Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Philadelphia. During his acceptance speech he revealed that his high school drama teacher was gay. The revelation inspired the 1997 film In & Out, starring Kevin Kline as an English Literature teacher who was outed by a former student in a similar way.

    Forrest Gump
    Hanks followed Philadelphia with the 1994 summer hit Forrest Gump.

    Hanks explained what appealed to him about the script: "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 back-to-back Best Actor Oscars. (Spencer Tracy was the first, winning in 1937-38.)

    Apollo 13
    Hanks’ next project reunited him with Ron Howard in the movie "Apollo 13", in which he played astronaut and commander James Lovell. 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 a nomination for an Academy Award in 1996.

    1996 and on
    Hanks turned to directing and producing with his next movie "That Thing You Do", about a 1960's pop group. Hanks and producer Gary Goetzman went on to create Playtone, a record and film production company named for the record company in the film.
    Hanks executive produced, co-wrote and co-directed the HBO docudrama From the Earth to the Moon. The twelve-part series chronicles 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 $68 million project is one of the most expensive ventures taken for television. Hanks' next project was no less expensive. For Saving Private Ryan he teamed up with Steven Spielberg to make a film about D-Day, the landing at Omaha Beach, and a quest through war-torn France to bring back a soldier who has a ticket home. 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, earning Spielberg his second Academy Award for direction and Hanks a Best Actor nomination. Later in 1998, Hanks reteamed with his Sleepless in Seattle co-star Meg Ryan for another romantic comedy, You've Got Mail, a remake of 1940's The Shop Around the Corner, which starred Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan.

    Tom Hanks in Road to Perdition
    In 1999, Hanks starred in an adaptation of Stephen King's novel The Green Mile. The following year he won a Golden Globe for Best Actor and an Academy nomination for his portrayal of a shipwrecked FedEx systems analyst in Robert Zemeckis' Cast Away. In 2001, Hanks helped direct and produce the acclaimed HBO mini-series Band of Brothers. He also appeared in the September 11 television special America: A Tribute to Heroes and the documentary Rescued From the Closet.

    Next he teamed up with American Beauty director Sam Mendes for the adaptation of Max Allan Collins' 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 with director Spielberg again, starring opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in the hit crime comedy Catch Me if You Can, based on the true story of Frank Abagnale, Jr.

    In 2002, he and wife Rita Wilson produced the hit movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

    Hanks was subsequently absent from the screen until 2004, when he appeared in three films: The Coen Brothers' The Ladykillers, another Spielberg helmed film, The Terminal, and The Polar Express, a family film from Robert Zemeckis.

    In a USA Weekend interview, Hanks talked about 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."

    He became the youngest ever recipient of the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award on June 12, 2002.

    In August 2005 Hanks was voted in as vice-president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

    Hanks also starred in the highly anticipated film The Da Vinci Code, based on the bestselling novel by Dan Brown. The film was released May 19, 2006 in the US and grossed over USD$750 million worldwide. A film adaptation of Angels and Demons, the prequel to The Da Vinci Code, has been announced, and on April 11, 2007 it was revealed that Hanks would reprise again his role as Robert Langdon and that he will reportedly receive the highest salary ever for an actor.

    In Ken Burns' 2007 documentary "The War", Hanks did voice work, reading excerpts from WWII-era columns by Al McIntosh.

    In a play on the expression "art imitating life", Hanks will play an onscreen dad to a young man (Colin Hanks) who chooses to follow in the footsteps of a fading magician (John Malkovich) in The Great Buck Howard. Hanks' character is less than thrilled about his son's career decision.

  • Personal life
    Hanks was married to Samantha Lewes from 1978 to 1987. The couple had two children, son Colin Hanks (now an actor in his own right) and daughter Elizabeth.

    In 1988 Hanks married actress Rita Wilson, converting to Orthodox Christianity at the same time. The two first met on the set of Hank’s hit television show Bosom Buddies but later developed a romantic interest while working on the film Volunteers. They have two sons, Chester and Truman.

    Hanks is a fan of the Oakland Raiders football team, English Premier League football team Aston Villa and of baseball's Cleveland Indians.

  • Other activities
    A fan of NASA's manned space program, Hanks 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 and was the producer of 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 also provides the voiceover for the Hayden planetarium show at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

    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.

    Although he gives money to many Democratic politicians, Hanks usually keeps his opinions about politics to himself, though he has been open about his support for environmental causes and alternative fuels.

    About the Author

    Tom Hanks' biography from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
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