The following biography
Thomas Jeffrey Hanks (born July 9, 1956) is
a two-time Academy Award-winning American actor who starred in
family-friendly comedies before achieving notable success as a dramatic
actor. He is one of the highest-grossing actors of all time, with a
combined gross of over $3.1 billion and an international gross of $5.7
billion. Hanks is regarded by some as one of the best and most versitile
actors ever to grace the screen. He is on the upper tier of film actors
along with names such as Jimmy Stewart, Jack Nicholson, and Anthony
Hanks was born in Concord, California to Amos
Mefford Hanks, a Southern cook of English and Welsh heritage, and Janet Merilyn
Frager, a hospital worker who was also of mostly English descent. As a child,
Hanks experienced a wandering, middleclass life with neither ambition nor talent
much in evidence. By the time he was five, his parents had separated. They
remarried several times before divorcing for good. His father later married an
Asian woman with a large family. "Everybody in my family likes each other,"
Hanks told Rolling Stone. "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."
When his parents divorced, Hanks, his older brother Larry, and his sister went
off with their father, a roving cook who rambled through various cities until
settling in Oakland, California when Tom was eight. His younger brother stayed
with his mother.
In school, Hanks also was unremarkable. "I was a
geek, a spaz," he told Rolling Stone. "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." Although he acted in a few school plays (the names of which he
says that he can't remember), acting never seemed a real possibility until Hanks
transferred from San Francisco Bay Area junior college Chabot College to
Sacramento State University. "Acting classes looked like the best place for a
guy who liked to make a lot of noise and be rather flamboyant," Hanks told New
York. "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 these acting classes 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 by the end of the three years, he had decided that he wanted to become an
actor. Part of the bug was due to the Cleveland Critics Circle Award, which he
won as best actor for his performance as Proteus in Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen
of Verona, one of the few times that he played a villain.
In 1978 he moved to New York, where he married
actress-producer Samantha Lewes. Seven years and a son and daughter later they
were divorced, but Hanks still sees his children regularly. While in New York,
Hanks acted for the Riverside Shakespeare Company. In addition, he made his film
debut in a low-budget slasher movie 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. Hanks
flew to Los Angeles, California where he was teamed with Peter Scolari as a pair
of young ad men forced to dress as women so they could live in an inexpensive
all-female hotel. The series 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 wasn't able to convince Hanks.
"The television show had come out of nowhere," Hanks's 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."
But it was Bosom Buddies that drew director Ron
Howard to contact Hanks. Howard was working on Splash, a romantic comedy 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. Hanks instead got the lead and a career boost from Splash,
which went on to become a box-office blockbuster, grossing more than $100
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, where the story is really about a guy and his house."
After three more flops, Hanks succeeded again with
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
Despite this success, Hanks's choice of roles again
landed him in trouble with another string of box-office failures. First The 'Burbs
(1989), then Joe Versus the Volcano (1990), and finally the colossal bomb The
Bonfire of the Vanities (1990), which saw Hanks as a greedy Wall Street type who
gets enmeshed in a hit-and-run accident.
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).
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Hanks called the work that he's done since
League 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 summer smash about a widower who finds true love 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. But it was in the latter film that Hanks truly made his mark.
Playing a gay lawyer with AIDS who sues his firm for discrimination, Hanks
proved that he had the depth and talent to be one of the greats. (To make his
performance in the film even more realistic, Hanks lost thirty-five pounds and
thinned his hair in order to appear sickly.) In a review for People, Leah Rozen
praised Hanks's skill: "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." And Hanks's peers agreed, honoring him with the 1994 Academy Award for
Hanks followed Philadelphia with the 1994 summer
blockbuster hit Forrest Gump. The film is a bittersweet tale of a simple-minded
young man who finds himself in the middle of most of the major events of recent
American history. In the process, the character's very real wisdom shines
through and positively affects the lives that he touches. In Vanity Fair, the
film's director Robert Zemeckis praised Hanks's performance: "[Hanks] brings to
this role what any great actor does--and I mean great actor--which is a real
In the same article, 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." What Hanks also
got from his performance in the movie was a 1995 Academy Award, his second for
best actor. In winning back-to-back Oscars, Hanks became only the second actor
to have accomplished the feat. (Spencer Tracy was the first, winning in 1937-8.)
Hanks's next project reunited him with director Ron
Howard in a movie about Apollo 13, in which he played astronaut and commander
James Lovell. In 1970, Apollo 13 was on its way to the Moon when an oxygen tank
exploded, and the spacecraft almost failed to return to Earth. Critics applauded
the film and the performances of the entire cast, which included actors Kevin
Bacon, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris, and Kathleen Quinlan. Audiences
flocked to theaters to see Apollo 13 and to witness what was perhaps the
American space program's greatest moment in the face of possible tragedy.
Hanks turned to the role of executive producer (and
co-writer and co-director) for the HBO docucrama 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 expansive. 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. Saving Private Ryan earned the
praise and respect of the film community, critics, and the general public; it
was labeled one of the finest films ever made, earning Spielberg his second
Academy Award for direction and Hanks a Best Actor nomination. Later in 1998,
Hanks co-starred with his Sleepless in Seattle counterpart Meg Ryan for another
romantic comedy. The two made You've Got Mail, a remake of the 1940 movie The
Shop Around the Corner which starred Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan.
In 1999, Hanks starred in an adaption 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.
Hanks was subsequently absent from films until
2004, when he appeared in three films: The Coen Brothers' The Ladykillers, yet
another Spielberg helmed film The Terminal, and The Polar Express, a family
picture 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
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 is also starring in the highly anticipated
film The Da Vinci Code, based on the bestselling novel by Dan Brown. The film is
to be released May 19, 2006.
Hanks has been married to actress Rita Wilson since
1988. They became involved while working on the movie Volunteers (1985),
although they first worked together in an episode of Bosom Buddies. (Wilson
guest starred as a romantic interest of Peter Scolari's Henry Desmond
character.) They have two children together. Hanks was married previously to
Lewes from 1978 to 1987. That union also produced two children (one of whom is
actor/son Colin Hanks). Through his contact with Wilson, Hanks joined the Greek
Hanks claims to be a relative of James Hanks, one
of several possible fathers of Nancy Hanks, mother of United States president
Abraham Lincoln. A map of his family tree showing the purported connection can
be found in the External links section.
Hanks is a fan of the Cleveland Indians baseball
team and English Premier League football (soccer) team Aston Villa.
Hanks is a Democrat and has supported many
candidates, including Hillary Clinton, Dianne Feinstein, Al Gore, and John
Kerry. Hanks is also a noted environmentalist who drives a hybrid car and is a
member of the Nature Conservancy. He has appeared in radio and television public
service announcements for the organization and even serves on the board of
trustees in Idaho, where he has a home.
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. Hanks also provides the voice over for the Hayden
planetarium show at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
Year Title Role Notes
2007 Mamma Mia! Unknown (Director)
2006 The Great Buck Howard Unknown (in production)
The Risk Pool Sam Hall (producer; film just
A Cold Case Andy Rosenzweig (producer;
Charlie Wilson's War Charlie Wilson
The Da Vinci Code Robert Langdon (completed)
2004 The Polar Express Older Hero Boy, Father,
Conductor, Hobo, Scrooge, & Santa Claus (executive producer; voices only)
Elvis Has Left the Building Mailbox Elvis (cameo)
The Terminal Viktor Navorski
The Ladykillers Professor G.H. Dorr
2002 Catch Me If You Can Carl Hanratty
Road to Perdition Michael Sullivan
2000 Cast Away Chuck Noland (producer)
1999 The Green Mile Paul Edgecomb
Toy Story 2 Sheriff Woody (voice only)
1998 You've Got Mail Joe Fox
Saving Private Ryan Captain John H. Miller
1996 That Thing You Do! Mr. White (writer and
1995 Toy Story Sheriff Woody (voice only)
The Celluloid Closet Himself (documentary)
Apollo 13 Jim Lovell
1994 Forrest Gump Forrest Gump (received Academy
Award-Best Actor for his role)
1993 Philadelphia Andrew Beckett (received Academy
Award-Best Actor for his role)
Sleepless in Seattle Sam Baldwin
1992 A League of Their Own Jimmy Dugan
Radio Flyer Older Mike (uncredited)
1990 The Bonfire Of The Vanities Sherman McCoy
Joe Versus The Volcano Joe Banks
1989 Turner & Hooch Det. Scott Turner
The 'Burbs Ray Peterson
1988 Punchline Steven Gold
Big Josh Baskin
1987 Dragnet Pep Streebeck
1986 Every Time We Say Goodbye David Bradley
Nothing in Common David Basner
The Money Pit Walter Fielding, Jr.
1985 Volunteers Lawrence Whatley Bourne, III
The Man With One Red Shoe Richard Harlan Drew
1984 Bachelor Party Rick Gassko
Splash Allen Bauer
1980 He Knows You're Alone Elliot
Bosom Buddies (1980-1982)
Mazes and Monsters (1982)
Vault of Horror I (1994) (also director)
From the Earth to the Moon (1998) (miniseries)
(also executive producer/director/writer)
Band of Brothers (2001) (miniseries) (producer,
The Rutles 2: Can't Buy Me Lunch (2002) (Cameo)
Worldwide Film Grosses
These figures do not account for inflation.
Total 16 Over $100,000,000 Grossing Films
Year Title Gross
2004 The Polar Express $297,775,955
2004 The Terminal $218,686,156
2002 Catch Me If You Can $351,112,395
2002 Road To Perdition $181,001,478
2000 Cast Away $429,632,142
1999 The Green Mile $286,801,374
1999 Toy Story 2 $485,015,179
1998 You've Got Mail $250,821,495
1998 Saving Private Ryan $481,840,909
1995 Toy Story $361,958,736
1995 Apollo 13 $355,237,933
1994 Forrest Gump $677,386,686
1993 Philadelphia $206,678,440
1993 Sleepless In Seattle $227,799,884
1992 A League of Their Own $132,440,069
1988 Big $151,668,774
See boxofficemojo.com. Figures are subject to minor
adjustments (usually upwards) when studios release revised official figures,
which sometimes occurs years after first release.
Awards and nominations
1988 Nominated Best Actor for Big
1993 Won Best Actor for Philadelphia
1994 Won Best Actor for Forrest Gump
1998 Nominated Best Actor for Saving Private Ryan
2000 Nominated Best Actor for Cast Away
for Scent of a Woman Academy Award for Best Actor
for Forrest Gump Succeeded by:
for Leaving Las Vegas
==Triv buff and a fan of NASA's manned space
program. He said that he originally wanted to be an astronaut but "didn't have
He has said that one of his favorite films is 2001:
A Space Odyssey (1968). In interviews he has said that he has seen it around
thirteen times in theaters and owns the VHS, LaserDisc, and DVD releases of the
Hanks, whose daughter attended Vassar College,
spoke at the 2005 graduation ceremony.
He often portrays resourceful, self-reliant, and
likeable characters in his film roles.
In Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, Saving Private Ryan,
and A League of Their Own, socks play a role in the plot. During his service in
the Vietnam War, the main advice that Forrest Gump receives from Lieutenant Dan
(portrayed by Gary Sinise) is to keep his feet clean and dry and to change his
socks often. In Apollo 13, a mission control operator walks the crew through the
construction of an ad hoc machine to scrub carbon dioxide gas from the air of
the space craft. Hanks' character Jim Lovell takes off his sock to use it in the
filter. In Saving Private Ryan, Hanks' character and his men use socks to create
"sticky bombs" to destroy the German tanks during the confrontation at the
bridge. Another event involving socks can be found in the HBO miniseries Band of
Brothers, produced by Tom Hanks. In this miniseries, the medic warns the soldier
to wear dry socks to avoid gangrene. Finally, before the Peaches' final game in
A League of Their Own, Hanks' character asks, in the locker room, "What the
hell's that smell?," to which he's told, "Alice thinks it's bad luck to change
her socks." "You're killin' me, Alice," he says. "You're God damn killin' me."
Hanks' characters also have a recurring theme of
bladder problems. In Forrest Gump, Forrest meets JFK and blurts out, "I really
have to pee!" In The Green Mile, Paul Edgecombe is afflicted with an extremely
painful urinary tract infection, which John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan)
cures. In A League of Their Own, Jimmy Dugan makes his entrance into the locker
room highly hung over, seemingly unaware of all the female ballplayers present,
and takes a very long stretch at the urinal, as the women look on in disbelief.
When he finally finishes, Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis) can only say, "Nice pee!"
Hanks' characters are also seen urinating in the movies The Money Pit, Big,
Castaway, and Apollo 13, making a total of seven films.
Hanks is 5'11" (1.80 m).
Hanks appears in the animated series Foster's Home
for Imaginary Friends in an episode called "One False Movie," where Bloo hires
him to play a robot. His face isn't shown. He is voiced by Keith Ferguson in a
muffling voice. (His head is covered by a trash can.)
While interviewing for Inside the Actor's Studio,
Hanks comments how he hates the sound of a ringing telephone. As Hanks nods his
head, the audience begins to burst into laughter because of an earlier incident
in where a student's cell phone rang, interupting Hanks' interview with James
Lipton. As a demonstration of how to react to a cell phone going off while
acting on stage in live theatre to the students, Hanks got up from his seat and
walked across the stage yelling "TURN OFF THAT CELL PHONE!"
Hanks was considered for roles in Batman Forever,
Jerry Maguire, Hook, Field of Dreams, Nixon and Groundhog Day.
Trakin, Roy, Tom Hanks: Journey to Stardom, 1987;
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
Films, July 1984
Photoplay (London), September 1984
Time Out (London), October 26, 1988
Film Comment (New York), March/April 1989
Interview (New York), March 1992
Interview (New York), December 1993
Advocate, December 14, 1993
Maclean's (Toronto), July 11, 1994
* * * *
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