For most of us, Tom Hanks would forever be associated with Forrest Gump. Who would forget the iconic lines of “Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get” or “My mama says that stupid is as stupid does”. We watched Gump traverse through some significant events in American history (Vietnam War, racial rioting etc) and met with some famous folks (Elvis Presley, John F Kenndey and more).
For the older folks though, Hank would be remembered for his role in Big, as a budding adolescent who wakes him one day to find himself trapped in his adult self, because of a wish he’d made. That scene of him dancing on the big piano in FAO Schwartz makes for a memorable film sequence.
For the younger moviegoers, they’d most likely recognise his voice, as Woody in the Toy Story series. And more recently, Hanks is remembered for his role as Ben Bradlee in The Post opposite Meryl Streep, as the determined editor who wants to fight for justice. And who can forget Saving Private Ryan, where he played a United States Army Rangers Captain who led a troop of soldiers behind enemy lines to rescue a paratrooper (Matt Damon) whose brothers have been killed in action.
Suffice to say, there’s no genre of film that Hanks hasn’t touched and made it his own. The accomplished actor/ writer/ producer/ director turns 62 today. Let’s take a closer look at this actor who’s managed to keep his public life largely tabloid-free.
1. Not Always Mr Popular
As a well-respected actor today, you would have thought Hank is well-liked his whole life, and it couldn’t be further from the truth. In school, Hanks was unpopular with both students and teachers, mainly because he was very much an introvert, “I was a geek, a spaz. I was horribly, painfully, terribly shy.” So all the shy teenagers out there, don’t fret, you may grow out of it.
2. Get My Bags Please
Like many rags to riches story, Hanks started at the bottom of the ladder. Before he got into acting, he worked as a hotel bellman and had carried bags for many celebrity guests, including Sidney Poitier and Cher.
3. An Expert in All Things Production-related
Although he’s mostly known as an actor, Hanks is pretty much acquainted with most aspects of the film production. When he was studying theatre, he took an opportunity to intern at the Great Lakes Theater Festival in Cleveland, Ohio. During his internship, he learned all about theatre production, including lighting, set design, and stage management. With this knowledge, he decided to drop out of college and get cracking in the workforce! In fact, Time Magazine named Hanks as one of the “Top 10 College Dropouts” in 2010.
4. Obsessed with Typewriters
Hanks has shared about his fascination with manual typewriters. In fact, he is so enamoured with it that he’s even written a book about it, titled “Uncommon Type”. About his manic obsession, he has shared, “There's something I find reassuring, comforting, dazzling in that here is a very specific apparatus that is meant to do one thing, and it does it perfectly. And that one thing is to translate the thoughts in your head down to paper. Now that means everything from a shopping list to James Joyce's Ulysses. Short of carving words into stone with a hammer and chisel, not much is more permanent than a paragraph or a sentence or a love letter or a story typed on paper." Hanks reportedly has over 80 typewriters in his collection.
Watch him change a ribbon on his typewriter:
5. Astronomical Ambitions
When he was younger, Hanks dreamt of becoming an astronaut, obviously, that didn’t work for him. The closest he’s gotten to being an astronaut is in Apollo 13, where he played Jim Lovell, the commander of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission. To prepare for the movie, he actually underwent training at the US Space Camp in Alabama and the Johnson Space Center in Houston. And his trainer was none other than Jim Lovell, whom he portrayed in the movie. Hanks remains a strong supporter of NASA’s manned space program. But that’s not all…
6. Asteriod Hanks?
Due to his lifelong passion with space exploration, he’s drawn towards projects about the subject, co-producing titles like the miniseries From the Earth to the Moon, as well as the IMAX feature Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon in 3D. To honour his commitment to the cause, the International Astronomical Union named an asteroid “12818 tomhanks” in 1996.
7. Decorated by Military
Why stop at just naming asteroids after him? In 1999, Hanks was bestowed the Distinguished Public Service Award (the highest Naval honour for a civilian) for his contribution onscreen, on board the USS Normandy. And in 2006, he was inducted to the US Army’s elite Ranger Unit’s Hall of Fame, for his “accurate portrayal of a WWII Army Ranger in Saving Private Ryan”.
8. Links to Abraham Lincoln
As famous as he is, Hanks has even more famous ties. He is a third cousin, four generations removed, of former US president Abraham Lincoln. They share a common ancestor in John Hanks (1680 to 1740), the great-grandfather of Lincoln and a six-time great-grandfather of Hanks.
9. Award Achievements
It’s common knowledge that Hanks is a multiple award-winning actor. And he’s broken some pretty cool records. During the decade of 1994 and 2004, he was nominated for the most Academy Awards in the actor category. He was nominated for four movies and won two, the most wins out of any. In fact, he and Spencer Tracy share the achievement of winning back to back Oscars, for Philadelphia (1993) and Forrest Gump (1994).
10. Anything for a Role
We know Hanks is dedicated to his craft, we’ve seen him go to great lengths for his movie roles. He gained 30 pounds (13 kg) for his over-the-hill coach role in A League of Their Own (1992). One of the things he did to gain that weight was to eat ice cream every day. Then in the following year, he lost 60 pounds for the movie Philadelphia, where he played a man who’s dying of AIDS.
In the 2000 Castaway, it got more extreme. The production had to stop for one year for his physical transformation, which is to lose 50 pounds (22kg), grow a shaggy beard and unruly hair to become the character, who’s stranded on a deserted island for four years.
11. Roles That Got Away
Hanks has been in many iconic movies, but there were a couple that slipped through his fingers. He actually turned down the role of Jerry Maguire in 1996. Of course, that role eventually went to another famous Tom, Cruise that is. Another hallmark movie role that got away is the part of Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption. Hanks had to turn it down due scheduling conflicts with Forrest Gump. The role eventually went to Tim Robbins, but no loss there, since he won an Oscar for Gump.
At 62 today, Hanks is still very much relevant in an industry that is shallow and transient. In fact, he has multiple projects in the pipeline, including Toy Story 4 in 2019.