Thomas Jeffrey “Tom” Hanks is an American actor, producer, writer, and director. Hanks is best known for his roles in Big, A League of Their Own, Sleepless in Seattle, Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, Saving Private Ryan, You’ve Got Mail, The Green Mile, Cast Away, The Da Vinci Code,Captain Phillips, and Saving Mr. Banks, as well as the animated films The Polar Express and the Toy Story series.
Hanks has earned and been nominated for numerous awards during his career, including winning a Golden Globe for Best Actor and an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Philadelphia and a Golden Globe, an Academy Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and a People’s Choice Award for Best Actor for his role in Forrest Gump, and earning the Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award for Excellence in Film from the BAFTAs in 2004.
Hanks was born in Concord, California in July 9, 1956. His father, Amos Mefford Hanks was an itinerant cook. His mother, Janet Marylyn was a hospital worker. Hanks’ mother is of Portuguese ancestry, while two of Hanks’ paternal great-grandparents immigrated from Britain. Hanks’ parents divorced in 1960. The family’s three oldest children, Sandra, Larry and Tom, went with their father, while the youngest, Jim, now an actor and filmmaker, remained with his mother in Red Bluff, California.
In addition to having a family history of Catholicism and Mormonism, Hanks was a “Bible-toting evangelical teenager” for several years. In school, Hanks was unpopular with students and teachers alike, later 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.” In 1965, Amos Hanks married Frances Wong, a San Francisco native of Chinese descent. Frances had three children, two of whom lived with Tom during his high school years. Hanks acted in school plays, including South Pacific, while attending Skyline High School in Oakland, California.
Hanks studied theater at Chabot College in Hayward, California, and after two years, transferred to California State University, Sacramento. During his years studying theater, Hanks met Vincent Dowling, head of the Great Lakes Theater Festival in Cleveland, Ohio. At Dowling’s suggestion, Hanks became an intern at the Festival. His internship stretched into a three-year experience that covered most aspects of theater production, including lighting, set design, and stage management, all of which caused Hanks to drop out of college. During the same time, Hanks won the Cleveland Critics Circle Award for Best Actor for his 1978 performance as Proteus in Shakespeare’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona, one of the few times he played a villain.
Hanks was married to American actress Samantha Lewes from 1978 until 1987, when they divorced. The couple had two children, son Colin Hanks, also an actor, and daughter Elizabeth Ann
In 1988, Hanks married actress Rita Wilson. The two first met on the set of Hanks’s television show Bosom Buddies but later developed a romantic interest while working on the film Volunteers. They have two sons: Chester, or “Chet” Marlon who has a small part as a student in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and released a rap single in 2011, and Truman Theodore,
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 (1980) and got a part in the television movie Mazes and Monsters. Hanks climbed to the top with his portrayal of a washed-up baseball legend turned manager in A League of Their Own (1992). Hanks has admitted that his acting in earlier roles was not great and that he has improved. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Hanks noted his “modern era of moviemaking … because enough self-discovery has gone on…. My work has become less pretentiously fake and over the top”. This “modern era” began in 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 over the airwaves. Richard Schickel of TIME called his performance “charming,” and most critics agreed that Hanks’ portrayal ensured him a place among the premier romantic-comedy stars of his generation.
In Philadelphia, he 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 1993 Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Philadelphia. During his acceptance speech he revealed that his high school drama teacher Rawley Farnsworth and former classmate John Gilkerson, two people with whom he was close, were gay.
Hanks followed Philadelphia with the 1994 hit Forrest Gump. 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 consecutive Best Actor Oscars.
Hanks’ next role—astronaut and commander Jim Lovell, in the 1995 film Apollo 13—reunited him with Ron Howard. 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 nine Academy Award nominations, winning two. Later that year, Hanks starred in the Disney/Pixar animated blockbuster Toy Story as the voice of the toy Sheriff Woody.
Hanks turned to directing with his 1996 film That Thing You Do! about a 1960s pop group, also playing the role of a music producer. 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 project was, at US$68 million, 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 a search through war-torn France after D-Day to bring back a soldier. 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 and earned Spielberg his second Academy Award for direction, and Hanks another Best Actor nomination. Later in 1998, Hanks re-teamed with his Sleepless in Seattle co-star Meg Ryan for You’ve Got Mail, a remake of 1940’s The Shop Around the Corner.
In 1999, Hanks starred in an adaptation of the Stephen King novel The Green Mile. He also returned as the voice of Woody in Toy Story. The following year he won a Golden Globe for Best Actor and an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of a marooned FedEx systems analyst in Robert Zemeckis’s Cast Away. In 2001, Hanks helped direct and produce the acclaimed HBO miniseries Band of Brothers. He also appeared in the September 11 television special America: A Tribute to Heroes and the documentary Rescued From the Closet.