Tom Hanks may be America's most loved actor. He's made us laugh in Toy Story, A League of Their Own, and Big, and moved us to tears in Forrest Gump, Saving Private Ryan, and Cast Away - among many other films. For those who have worked with him, Hanks is the consummate professional, a talented actor who can play a wide range of characters on screen while bringing out the best in his colleagues.
Even more than his on-screen performances, Hanks is lauded in Hollywood as the kindest man in the business, one who can be funny, smart, and a perfectionist, but always gracious and compassionate. This list shares personal stories about Tom Hanks from some of the many people who worked with him, including directors Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard, and co-stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Geena Davis, and Charlize Theron. Vote up the stories that make you smile.
- Photo: 20th Century Fox1
In an interview with Backstage magazine, Theron remembered her painful audition for That Thing You Do!, as well as the compassion she received from Tom Hanks, who wrote, directed, and acted in the 1996 film.
Theron first described how she abhorred auditioning, a difficult thing to avoid for a newcomer in the 1990s:
Oh, God, I’m a horrible auditioner, let’s just start with that. I’ve had directors who, after they worked with me and we became friends, felt confident and more comfortable in telling me that [I was bad]. They were like, “You’re really bad at auditions.” For me, it goes back to the team of people around you. I rely on that so much, and you don’t have access to that in auditions. And so I struggle with them.
I struggle walking into a fluorescent room and pretending I’m driving a car. It’s so self-indulgent, but at least I know my weaknesses! I struggled a lot with my nervousness. I would break out in hives. My neck would just get incredibly red and I would see black dots, and in the beginning, that was really hard for me.
But she recalled how kind Hanks was when she first bombed the audition:
I remember auditioning for Tom Hanks, and I was so nervous that I couldn’t say the character’s name, and he just got up and he was like, “You know what, I really need to go to the bathroom. I’ll be back.” It was his way of giving me a breather. When you have people who have that kind of kindness, you’re incredibly grateful.Cool story?
- Photo: Larry Crowne / Universal Pictures
Julia Roberts starred with Tom Hanks in three films: The Ant Bully, Charlie Wilson's War, and Larry Crowne. The actors became close friends, and Roberts frequently spends time with Hanks's wife of 33 years, Rita Wilson.
In 2009, the film society at the Lincoln Center in New York honored Tom Hanks with a gala evening, featuring a performance by Bruce Springsteen, and directors Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard gave speeches praising their friend. But it was Julia Roberts who stole the night with a hilarious and seemingly ad-libbed speech, saying:
Tom can walk into any room and make you feel like you're in your living room, truly. Make you feel comfortable, make you feel like you have something interesting to contribute, make you feel like there's a reason you're on the planet. And that's a true gift. That isn't acting, and isn't, you know, dinner-party games; it's heart and it's compassion and it's soul. And he has that.Cool story?
- Photo: Saving Private Ryan / DreamWorks Pictures3
Military Advisor And Former US Marine Corps Captain Dale Dye Called Hanks 'The Real Thing'
When Steven Spielberg set out to make his WWII epic Saving Private Ryan, he hired movie military advisor and former US Marine Corps Captain Dale Dye to take the actors through a realistic boot camp to ensure authenticity. The boot camp was grueling, and the younger actors wanted to quit after the third bitterly cold day, but Tom Hanks convinced them to stay.
According to Yahoo, Hanks encouraged the actors who would later play the members of his squad, including Vin Diesel and Giovanni Ribisi, that they owed it to the men who actually fought in WWII to stay and "gut it out."
Dye remembered spending hours with Hanks, teaching him how to assemble and disassemble a Thompson submachine gun, and to use a map and compass for land navigation. These details went above and beyond the necessary preparation for an actor, but Hanks insisted, wanting to be embedded in the rigors of WWII military training.
Dye, who has worked as a military consultant for dozens of Hollywood films, said of Hanks, "Among plenty of phonies in Hollywood, he’s not. He's the real thing."Cool story?
- Photo: Columbia Pictures4
When Davis and Hanks starred in their 1992 hit film, Hanks was one of the very few men in the cast and on set. But that did not impact his professionalism or his legendary kindness. Davis recalls Hanks never made any comments on the nearly all-female cast, which is a rarity for male actors:
In my experience, on the very rare occasions where there’s only one man in a group of women — on a panel or something — they always find it necessary to make uncomfortable jokes about it. That’s not Tom. And I don’t think it ever even occurred to us that he was the only guy on the team.
On set, Hanks made time for the many people who lived in Evansville, IN, and acted as extras in period costume for the baseball game scenes. Davis's ultimate impression of Hanks was that he really is just a great guy with no ego, who shows nothing but kindness to everyone he meets:
Tom’s talent is unlimited and truly breathtaking when you look at the great variety of characters he’s played throughout his career. And while it might be hard for that kind of success to not go to somebody’s head, I think it would be impossible for anything to dampen Tom’s humanity. No level of fame could impact his innate warmth and generosity. He’s just that guy.Cool story?