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With over 60 movies and counting, Tom Hanks recently turned 60 years old and is by far America’s leading man for every generation. Who is your favorite Tom Hank’s character? Is it Forrest, Robert Langdon or Sully, maybe even Woody? There are too many to choose just one and when you do, he appears in another fabulous role year after year. It seems that any part he plays becomes another beloved character and a new number one. “I will entertain anything; it doesn’t matter. You know, it’s not obviously about the price, it’s not about who, it’s kind of about when and what. It’s material, that’s all,” he says.
In spite of his humble beginnings; actor and perpetual nice guy Thomas Jeffrey Hanks rose from the star of the cult comedy series “Bosom Buddies” (1980-82) to become a respected Academy Award-winning actor and Emmy-winning producer. Though it took almost a decade to rise to the surface, Tom made his name with a tender performance in “Big” (1988), opening the doors to eventual back-to-back Oscar glory with “Philadelphia” (1993) and “Forrest Gump” (1994). He became one of Hollywood’s most sought after stars with the romantic comedy “Sleepless in Seattle” (1993) and Ron Howard’s harrowing drama “Apollo 13” (1995). He also was the voice to the cowboy Woody in “Toy Story” (1995) and its two highly-successful sequels, along with Toy Story 4 in the making, before giving an Oscar-nominated turn in Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan” (1998). Tom’s fascination and love of space exploration and World War II resulted in the production of a number of acclaimed cable miniseries such as “From Earth to the Moon” (HBO, 1998) and “Band of Brothers” (HBO, 2001).
Not one to sit back and admire his achievements, Tom continued creating phenomenal work while challenging every character’s persona in a way that only he can do. Taking on roles as an autocratic company man in “Cast Away” (2000) and a mob hit man in “Road to Perdition” (2002), while making international blockbusters like “The Da Vinci Code” (2006), Angel Demons (2009) and Inferno (due October 2016), Tom reaffirmed his place over and over as one of the most respected actors of the century. With no acting experience in college and, in fact, credits the fact that he couldn’t get cast in a college play first lead to his acting career. He went downtown, auditioned for a community theater play, was invited by the director to go to Cleveland, and there it started. He met his second wife, actress Rita Wilson on the set of his television show Bosom Buddies (1980) and the rest in history. “My secret to a happy marriage is just being married to the right woman. I got lucky with the wonderful Rita Wilson. I’m the luckiest man alive. That woman has loved me skinny; she’s loved me fat. She’s love me bald, she’s loved me hairy. That woman, I know, loves me,” he said. They have two children, and Tom has another son and daughter by his first wife.
Making his first step behind the camera, directing and writing That Thing You do in 1996, Tom also starred in the film. He continued his climb to the top again with his portrayal of a washed-up baseball legend turned manager in A League of Their Own (1992), that was another hit. He once stated that his acting in earlier roles was not great, but that he subsequently improved. He says, “I’m that actor in some of the movies you liked and some you didn’t. Sometimes I’m in pretty good shape, other times I’m not. Hey, you gotta live, you know?” He once noted that his modern era of movie making began in 1993, first with Sleepless in Seattle and then with Philadelphia. He stated, “Because enough self-discovery has gone on, my work has become less pretentiously fake and over the top.” Sleepless in Seattle was a blockbuster success about a widower who finds true love over the radio airwaves. His performance was praised as charming, and most critics agreed that Tom’s portrayal ensured him a place among the premier romantic-comedy stars of his generation.
In Philadelphia, he won the 1993 Academy Award for Best Actor for his role where he played a gay lawyer with AIDS who sues his firm for discrimination. He lost 35 pounds and thinned his hair in order to appear sickly for the role. In 1994, Forrest Gump followed which grossed a worldwide total of over $600 million at the box office. Tom remarked, “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.” He 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 consecutive Best Actor Oscars. (Spencer Tracy was the first, winning in 1937-38. Hanks and Tracy were the same age at the time they received their Academy Awards: 37 for the first and 38 for the second.)
A supporter of NASA‘s manned space program, Tom said he originally wanted to be an astronaut and is a member of the National Space Society, serving on the Board of Governors of the nonprofit educational space advocacy organization. It wasn’t a surprise when his next role was astronaut and commander Jim Lovell, in the 1995 film Apollo 13. He was reunited with Ron Howard and the movie earned nine Academy Award nominations, winning two. Later that year, Hanks starred in Disney/Pixar’s computer-animated hit film Toy Story, as the voice of Sheriff Woody. There are so many projects that Tom is working on and always states, “I love what I do for a living, it’s the greatest job in the world, but you have to survive an awful lot of attention that you don’t truly deserve and you have to live up to your professional responsibilities and I’m always trying to balance that with what is really important.”
There are simply an abundance of his movies, some newly released and some close to our hearts. With a reputation as being one of the most delightful and engaging actors of his generation towards his fans, Tom says, “Help, and you will make a huge impact in the life of the street, the town, the country and our planet. If only one out of four of each one hundred of you choose to help on any given day, in any given cause, incredible things will happen in the world you live in.” Between acting, directing and producing, keep your eyes open for Tom’s latest project Inferno as he brings the beloved symbologist Robert Langdon back on the big screen and directing Felt, a spy thriller due in 2017. One of his most famous movie quotes seems to relate to everyone… as Tom says in Forrest Gump, “My mama always said, Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”