How Tom Hanks went from religious fanatic to Oscar winner

Though everyone has their own opinion about every actor, it's pretty tough to find anyone who doesn't like Tom Hanks. From charming performances in goofy comedies to heartbreaking dramatic roles, Hanks does it all and still seems like a pretty nice guy. But Hanks wasn't always Hollywood's favorite. Here's how he went from religious child of a broken home to record-breaking Oscar winner.

He lived in ten houses by the age of 10

A California native, Tom Hanks didn't grow up with a Hollywood lifestyle. Born in the Bay Area town of Concord, California, Hanks' family life was shaken up at a young age. His parents divorced when he was only 5, and the split was more confusing and isolating than emotionally tragic. On the BBC Radio program Desert Island Discs, Hanks spoke of the lack of communication surrounding the divorce and the loneliness he felt.

After the divorce, Tom lived with his father, Amos, a professional chef who rarely stayed in one place. The constant moving–putting Hanks in ten homes in five years–gave Hanks a supreme sense of loneliness that plagued his childhood. As he went into his teen years, Hanks wanted to find a way to express all the emotions from his wandering life and began to go to the theater. He told Kirsty Young, host of Desert Island Discs, that the plays began to give shape to the thoughts swirling around in his head. When Young asked what those adolescent feelings were, Hanks got emotional and said, "What it was, it was the vocabulary of loneliness."

As a teen he was a 'Bible-toting evangelical'

It might be hard to imagine Hanks as a serious "Bible-toting evangelical" as he once called himself, but as an awkward teen he was exposed to many religions. Though he was originally raised Catholic, his stepmother was a Mormon, his aunt was very strict Nazarene, and all his friends were Jewish. So he believed a little bit of everything. "I had this peripatetic overview of various faiths, and the one thing I got from that was the intellectual pursuit involved. There was a lot of great stuff to think about. What were the four spiritual laws? Are you a post-tribulationist or a pre-tribulationist?"

Though Hanks may have gone around quoting the Bible and the Torah, that didn't mean he was much of a public speaker. Hanks described himself as a good kid, albeit awkward and very shy. Still, he got up enough courage to be "the guy who'd yell out funny captions during filmstrips," which may have been the very beginning of his acting life.

Having a child at 21 kept Hanks out of trouble

Before his acting career really started, Hanks married his college sweetheart, Samantha Lewes, in 1978, and they had their first son, Colin, that same year. Hanks was just 21. Though an infant at home might not sound like the recipe for a successful acting life, Hanks never regretted having children so young. "I didn't smoke pot. I didn't do drugs, I was not a party boy. I didn't drink too much, I went to bed at 10 minutes after 10 p.m.," he said. "The rules were in place. I'm not a cheater. I like to play by the rules. But later on, you're 27, 28, you've learned [how] to say 'yes' to with more judiciousness."

Moved to Manhattan at 22 with a new family and no money

Though Hanks was happy to have a family to keep him grounded, that didn't mean it was always easy. By 22, Hanks moved to Manhattan with his new family. Now living as an actor in Manhattan is never easy, but add a baby to the mix and the struggle gets a little more real. The couple had a hard time financially for a while, not to mention Hanks now lived 2,000 miles from his home state.

But dropping out of college and moving to the Big Apple paid off … eventually. First, he landed small roles in things like the forgettable He Knows When You're Alone. Hanks' role in the slasher film mostly consists of him tripping a girl on purpose so he can introduce himself to her, telling a kid about people living out their fears of death through roller coasters, then explaining to a stranger why her fears of a stalker are just hallucinations. It might be his least likable character from his entire career. Still, Hanks does a good job in his four minutes of screen time, and it wasn't long before his acting career took off.

Dressing in drag started his career

A sitcom about two men who have to dress like women to get into a ladies-only apartment building doesn't sound like a life-changing project. But for Hanks, it was the turning point. Bosom Buddies ran for only two seasons and wasn't a critical hit, but everyone could see that Hanks was special. Holland Taylor, co-star on the sitcom said, "I called my mother after filming the pilot and said, 'There's a boy on this show that is freakishly talented.' "

Filming the show wasn't easy. Hanks was broke, had marriage troubles, and got to experience the fun of wearing pantyhose and lipstick every day. (It's harder than it looks!) Though the show didn't last long, America got its first glimpse of Tom Hanks. It quickly led to tons of small roles on other sitcoms. He played a kung fu fighter on Happy Days, an alcoholic who smacks the crap out of Michael J. Fox on Family Ties, and a Speedo-clad ladies man in The Love Boat. His ample TV comedy experience gave him a shot at moving up into the world of film.

Ron Howard thought Hanks wouldn't get hired for Splash

Tom Hanks can thank Ron Howard's assistant for getting him his major film debut. Howard auditioned Hanks only after his assistant suggested the actor's name. Still, Howard wasn't convinced. Up to that point, Hanks biggest credits were playing the lead in a failed sitcom and fighting Fonzie. Sadly, his only other film role was He Knows When You're Alone, which didn't give him much of a chance to prove his star power.

Still, Howard gave him an audition, though he thought Hanks "had no chance in hell" of getting the okay from the studio executives. Luckily for everyone, Hanks went in and killed his audition and despite his lack of film experience, everyone agreed he was perfect for the role. Tom Hanks already proved he had talent, but Splash showed the world he could be a star.

Splash was Hanks' and Howard's first major hit. Critics nearly unanimously loved it, rare for a high concept rom-com. It was No. 1 at the box office and even got nominated for the best original screenplay Academy Award. Pretty impressive for a movie about a man who talks to mermaids.

Ups and downs in film roles

After Splash, Hanks got offer after offer for film roles. He made a few silly comedies like Bachelor Party, The Money Pit, and Dragnet, then became one of America's favorite actors with his turn in Big. The film that made everyone think they could play a song on a giant piano, Big showed Hank's wonderful comedic range as he played the boy who wished to be big to perfection.

Still, Hanks did have a few misfires. Joe versus the Volcano didn't do too well at the box office and Bonfire of the Vanities was his first out-and-out failure.

​He got fired from Super Mario Bros.

This all factored into the eventual casting mess of Super Mario Bros.

First, Dustin Hoffman expressed an interest in playing the lead role of Mario in the video game film. Minoru Arakawa, the president of Nintendo, didn't think the Oscar-winning actor was a good fit. He didn't give a reason, so Super Mario Bros. staff had to tell Dustin Hoffman "thanks, but no thanks."

Next, the production wanted Danny DeVito, who turned them down. But third time's a charm, so they then expressed interest in Hanks for the lead. Hanks agreed, said he'd do the movie for $5 million, and probably figured the contract was in the mail. But no. The producers and people at Nintendo took another look at Hanks' recent resume. With goofy choices like Turner & Hooch, they felt Hanks lacked that special something to successfully carry a big film. Plus, at the time the filmmakers were expecting Super Mario Bros. to be a gritty, semi-dramatic, big-budget film. They didn't want some comedic actor messing it up. So the producers canceled Hanks' contract.

Hopefully, Hanks wasn't sad for long. Guess what movie he released six months after Super Mario Bros. came out? Philadelphia. It proved that Hanks could easily lead a dramatic film, and he won his first Academy Award.

But Super Mario Bros. still did fine without Hanks, right? No, it was a huge mess. Bob Hoskins, who eventually won the Mario role, had this to say about the film: "The worst thing I ever did? Super Mario Brothers. It was a f**king nightmare. The whole experience was a nightmare."

Tom Hanks is a rare kind of Oscar winner

Before Philadelphia, Hanks got his first chance to take home the gold at the 1989 Academy Awards. Nominated for his performance in Big, Hanks knew it would be an unlikely win but was just happy to be there. In 1993, Philadelphia made Hanks the favorite, though he had stiff competition. Going up against Daniel Day-Lewis, Liam Neeson, Laurence Fishburne, and Anthony Hopkins isn't easy. Still, Philadelphia won Hanks his first Oscar.

The next year, Hanks managed to perform another role fit for Oscar gold, that of Forrest Gump. Hanks was a clear shoo-in, though winning consecutive Oscars is exceedingly rare. That win made Hanks one of five people in nearly 90 years of Oscars to win two years in a row, a pretty impressive feat that no one has accomplished since.

After his double win, he hasn't taken home another statue, though he's had two more nominations and his career hasn't slowed down a bit. From Saving Private Ryan to Toy Story, Hanks has kept his status of America's most likable guy. Plus, he took time from his busy movie schedule to give Saturday Night Live its greatest character in ages. Since Hanks can be just as good in a heart-wrenching AIDS drama as he is in a sketch about pumpkins, he'll most likely remain one of the most popular actors for years to come.