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The Untold Truth Of Tom Hanks

Some say the age of the "Hollywood star" is over. In a media landscape dominated by franchises big and small, lead actors are only as relevant as the popularity of their characters allows them to be. While the current state of stardom in Hollywood can be debated endlessly, there still remains a generation of older actors who rose to fame in the heyday of the Hollywood superstar.

Tom Hanks is one such actor who became a star in the 1980s thanks to a string of leading roles in well-received comedies. From there, he gradually transitioned to dramatic roles that earned him two consecutive Academy Awards for Best Actor and established Hanks as a serious character actor in a leading man's shoes.

After the start of the 2000s, Hanks changed up his game once again as he started to take on older statesman roles in well-received films, from 2002's "Catch Me If You Can" to 2016's "Sully." Thanks to his acclaimed filmography and affable, everyman persona, Tom Hanks has had an enduring impact on 21st-century pop culture and the current zeitgeist. And if you want to know more about the beloved A-lister, read on for some facts about the man behind "Forrest Gump," "Cast Away," and "Toy Story" that you might not have known.         

Tom Hanks has a special formula for choosing films

It can be difficult to pinpoint what exactly takes an actor out of the realm of a "successful leading man" and turns him into a genuine Hollywood superstar. Some actors like Leonardo DiCaprio seem almost destined for cinematic greatness, while others like Johnny Depp seem to accidentally stumble into superstardom.

For Tom Hanks, the transition from reliable leading man to confirmed A-lister started when he gave up doing hit comedies and decided instead to focus on moving dramas that have something to say about the state of the world and the human condition. In a 2001 interview for O, The Oprah Magazine, Hanks mentioned that he tries to pick projects based on "the three E's," so he makes movies that serve to "entertain, educate, and enlighten" his audience.      

Of course, it is not always possible to hit all three marks in the same movie, as Hanks readily admitted in an interview with Film Companion when talking about his 2016 film "Inferno." According to Hanks, "Popular entertainment does often land in this place where all those three things are brought about by nothing more than a well-made [movie]," and that is the kind of cinema that Hanks wants to continue to support in a franchise-obsessed industry.   

He drastically reshaped his body for Cast Away

On paper, there's nothing about 2000's "Cast Away" that feels like it should work as a blockbuster film. Almost the entire story takes place on a deserted island with a single inhabitant named Chuck Noland, played by Hanks. Plus, most of the minimalistic dialogue is directed at Wilson, a volleyball that quite frankly looks more creepy than reassuring. 

Yet the story works thanks to a superlative central performance by Tom Hanks. Whether desperately scrounging for food, trying to fashion a home out of airplane wreckage, or knocking out his own tooth, every move made by the actor feels sincere and heart-wrenching. A major part of that sincerity comes through in the way we see Hanks' character go from looking like a tubby, well-fed man to a skinny, weather-hardened scavenger after years of living alone on the island. 

To achieve such a dramatic transformation, first Hanks put on extra pounds to portray the early part of Chuck's stay on the island. After that, he had to lose more than 50 pounds in less than a year to film the second half of the movie. In an interview with EW, Hanks admitted that such extreme working conditions were a "burden" to get through, but the critical and commercial acclaim "Cast Away" received probably helped soothe the painful memories.    

His Forrest Gump accent was based on his young counterpart

More than any other film in his career, it was 1994's "Forrest Gump" that established Tom Hanks as one of cinema's most beloved stars thanks to the immensely likable persona of his titular character. Hanks was fully committed to preparing for the role of Forrest Gump, but a major part of selling the character to the audience meant ensuring that Forrest's childhood persona also felt authentic. 

The younger Forrest was played by fledgling 8-year-old actor Michael Conner Humphreys. For the story to work, it was essential for Humphreys and Hanks to sound like the younger and older version of the same character. To that end, as Hanks told Graham Norton in an interview, he decided to learn to speak in Humphrey's accent rather than trying to make the young actor copy his. 

The method worked, and Hanks' accent — mined from the deepest parts of Mississippi that Humphreys was from — added another layer of authenticity to his portrayal of Forrest while simultaneously making it easier for the audience to divorce his character from other roles that Hanks had played in the past.  

He found a doppleganger in his brother

One of Hanks' most beloved roles is Sheriff Woody, the loving and courageous cowboy doll from Pixar's "Toy Story" franchise. Hanks has frequently expressed his affection for "Toy Story," but due to the busy nature of his work schedule, it's not always possible for Hanks to give his voice to Woody. Enter Jim Hanks, Tom's younger brother who's also an actor and filmmaker. While Jim has his own separate career, he's occasionally dipped his toes in his more famous brother's esteemed filmography.

Thanks to the similarity between the two brothers' looks and speech, not to mention their familiarity with each other, Jim has occasionally acted as a substitute for Tom when the latter actor couldn't do a role. Jim was a running double for Forrest Gump in the character's titular film, and he's also voiced Woody for video games and commercials. In an interview with Graham Norton, Tom Hanks mentioned that whenever the studio comes to him with voiceover work he doesn't want to do, he says, "Get my brother, Jim, he'll do it."  

Tom Hanks is an honorary Army Ranger

While Tom Hanks is mostly known for playing white-collar characters, he's had occasions to portray grittier professions. For example, take Hanks' turn as a U.S. Army Ranger captain in the 1998 American epic war film "Saving Private Ryan." The movie is set during the invasion of Normandy in World War II, where Hanks' John H. Miller is tasked with finding a paratrooper in the middle of a war zone. 

"Saving Private Ryan" drew great acclaim for its hauntingly realistic portrayal of war and the toll it takes on the soldiers at the frontlines. In order to get into the minds of their characters, Hanks and the rest of the cast underwent several days of arduous boot camp exercises under the direction of former U.S. Marine Corps Captain Dale Dye.

Hanks' experiences while making the movie left a deep impression on his mind, and he's since become an active supporter of many non-profits that work on behalf of the Armed Forces. According to the website for Fort Benning, Hanks has been named an honorary member of the Army Ranger Hall of Fame for his "accurate portrayal of a Ranger Company Commander during World War II" and also for "his service as the National Spokesman for the World War II Memorial Campaign and Honorary Chairman of the D-Day Museum Capital Campaign."

He's related to both Mr. Rogers and Abraham Lincoln

Before becoming one of the biggest movie stars on the planet, Tom Hanks grew up in a humble home in Concord, California, to middle-class parents where he had a thoroughly grounded childhood. Although Hanks earned his status as a millionaire superstar through his own talent and hard work, it's since been revealed that he has some pretty influential relatives that Hanks himself was not aware of.

In 2019, the actor portrayed famed children's show host Fred Rogers in the biographical drama "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood." While promoting the film, it was revealed to Hanks by Ancestry.com (via CNN) that he's actually related to the real-life Mr. Rogers, and the two are sixth cousins. Hanks was clearly impressed by the revelation and declared, "It all just comes together, you see."

Mr. Rogers is not the only American icon that Hanks is related to. While announcing his role as narrator for the National Geographic channel movie "Killing Lincoln," Hanks revealed that he is a third cousin, four times removed, of Abraham Lincoln on his mother's side. Due to the connection, Lincoln was a source of inspiration for Hanks right from his childhood days.   

He knew he was going to be a star

The bigger a star Tom Hanks has become, the more modest he seems to have grown about his accomplishments and his hand in making his movies a success. But it seems that the younger version of Hanks, when he was still studying to become an actor, was considerably cockier about his chances of making it in Hollywood. 

In fact, he even wrote a letter to a classmate's uncle, George Roy Hill, the Oscar-winning director behind such classics as 1973's "The Sting" and 1969's "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." In his letter to Hill (via Delancey Place), Hanks nonchalantly laid out a plan for the acclaimed filmmaker to "discover" him, such as having Hill notice Hanks sitting in a soda shop and immediately signing him up for a movie or the two meeting on a bus and quickly becoming friends and business partners.

Hanks' tongue-in-cheek letter appears to have tickled Hill's fancy. The filmmaker replied to Hanks' missive, in which he suggested that Hill could "discover" the aspiring actor after crashing into him with his car while Hanks was "commuting to Skyline High on his pogo stick."

Tom Hanks' unexpected feud with Henry Winkler

Tom Hanks is widely known as one of the nicest people in Hollywood, someone who gets along with everyone. It's thus all the more surprising to discover that Hanks is in fact locked in a decades-old feud with another well-known Hollywood sweetheart, the Fonz himself, Henry Winkler. 

Winkler was already a well-established celebrity and was moving into working behind the camera when Hanks was still an up-and-coming star. Hanks was attached to star in 1989's "Turner & Hooch," which Winkler was supposed to direct. In an interview with Andy Cohen, Winkler explained that he had already started on the project and worked for 13 days as a director when he was summoned to the office of the film's studio executive, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and summarily dismissed.

Hinting that disagreements with the film's leading star was the main reason behind his firing, Winkler stated, "I got along great with that dog. Love that dog," referring to Hanks' canine co-star. It's about as heated a fight as you can possibly expect between two men who are known for their ultra-genial dispositions. In fact, the so-called "feud" might already be over, as Winkler told TMZ in 2020, "I don't have a feud with Tom Hanks. What everybody says and what is true are two different things." 

He enjoys regular 'Colonoscopy Parties'

There's a popular urban legend about Hollywood that the lavish parties thrown by the biggest movie stars on the planet are filled with so much debauchery that the attendees are constantly searching for a new kind of high. In the case of Tom Hanks, a personal hobby that he shares with some of his closest friends is holding regular "colonoscopy parties."

While the term might seem like it could be a fitting title for a possible X-rated movie Hanks did as a penniless young actor, the colonoscopy parties are relatively recent things. Since moving into middle age, Hanks has been teaming up with Martin Short, Steve Martin, and a few other close friends to have a private party before getting their colonoscopy exams done together. 

The legendary comedy duo told Jimmy Kimmel that the party includes stocking up on liquids and avoiding solid food in preparation for the impending exams. Thanks to all the bowel-clearing involved, by the time the party ends, Short said, "The bathroom looks like Day 14 of a Carnival cruise." The members of the "colonoscopy crew" also share a ride to the hospital for their exams and play cards to determine who has to get the exam first.

He missed out on a role in Mamma Mia!

Released in 2008, the romantic musical comedy "Mamma Mia!" was a love letter to the musical stylings of legendary Swedish pop group ABBA. The film saw many industry stalwarts in the main cast, from Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan to Amanda Seyfried and Colin Firth. As it turns out, Tom Hanks came close to being a part of the ensemble cast, but his singing got in the way.

On "The Graham Norton Show" (via Digital Spy), Hanks revealed that he and his wife, Rita Wilson, were involved in producing both "Mamma Mia!" and its sequel. "I was a producer of Mamma Mia, and I tried out for a role," Hanks explained. "I wanted to hire myself, but my singing voice would have scared the children."

Ironically, the older male cast of "Mamma Mia!" that Hanks hoped to be a part of were later criticized for not being up to scratch in the singing department. It would've been an interesting treat for fans to see Hanks in a proper musical, not to mention the cinematic history that could've been made if Hanks and Streep were finally cast opposite each other. The two did eventually come together for 2017's "The Post." 

He's an avid supporter of NASA

While Tom Hanks is best known for his grounded characters in human-interest stories, the actor has a keen interest in space and is an enthusiastic supporter of NASA. Hanks even dreamed of becoming an astronaut as a child.

Over the years, Hanks has kept up with his commitment to promoting space exploration. He's a member of the board of governors of the National Space Society. The actor also co-produced "From the Earth to the Moon," which is a 12-part HBO miniseries chronicling the birth and early growth of the Apollo program during the 1960s and early 1970s. Plus, he narrated, co-wrote and co-produced the 2005 IMAX film "Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon in 3D."

Most recently, Hanks was offered the chance to go into space alongside Jeff Bezos. But Hanks told Jimmy Kimmel he rejected the offer upon learning of the hefty price tag attached. "It costs like $28 million or something like that. And I'm doing good, Jimmy — I'm doing good — but I ain't paying $28 million."

He wants to play a superhero

Whenever we talk about mainstream Hollywood fare these days, the big elephant in the room is always superhero films. Several major filmmakers and actors have come forward to either support superhero movies as beloved blockbusters or decry their popularity as a sign of worsening cinematic habits among audiences. 

Naturally, as one of the biggest actors of the past few decades, Tom Hanks has also been asked about where he stands on superhero movies. And the actor's response has been quite encouraging. While promoting "Captain Phillips" in 2017, Hanks said he wants to be in superhero movies but has never received an offer. "Come on, I can do it," Hanks laughingly told Showbiz 411 (via ComicBook.com) "Let me play a bad guy, let me play the bad guy against Batman. I'll do anything, call me."

Hanks went on to specify that he doesn't want to be the guy in the suit who tells superheroes what to do but would much rather play a villain or a hero like the Flash. Considering the amount of prestige that would be attached to getting an A-lister like Hanks involved, it seems like a no-brainer for the MCU or DCEU to open its doors to the actor.  

He directed and had a cameo in a Tales from the Crypt episode

Younger audiences might not be very familiar with the "Tales from the Crypt" television series, but the show was immensely popular at one time. It was considered a badge of honor for celebs to make a cameo on the horror anthology. Tom Hanks was part of the trend, and he took on a more hands-on approach than most. 

Not only did the actor make a cameo in the Season 4 premiere episode "None but the Lonely Heart," but he also directed the half-hour feature. The episode tells the story of a man who romances elderly and wealthy women, only to later kill them and seize their inheritance. Matters take a gruesome turn when the man lands what he thinks to be the ultimate catch, only for his plot to backfire in a pretty grisly way.

Aside from doing a surprisingly excellent job as a director in sticking to the show's campy horror tone, Hanks also makes a brief appearance in the episode as the proprietor of a video dating service that the main character uses to find new women.   

Tom Hanks almost played Mario

In this day and age of franchise-obsessed Hollywood, it seems almost incredible that one of the biggest franchises of all time, "Super Mario," still hasn't had a single decent movie adaptation. An attempt was made to make a live-action "Super Mario Bros." movie all the way back in 1993, and if the stars had aligned in the right manner, you could've seen Tom Hanks in the lead. 

According to "Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America" by Jeff Ryan (via Game Informer), Hanks was attached to star in the movie early on. Conflicting reports state that Hanks was either going to play Mario himself or his brother sidekick, Luigi. However, Hanks was soon let go from the project. The reasoning behind the decision once again gets murky, with various reports saying Hanks was asking for too much money or the studio didn't have faith in the actor due to him delivering a series of flops at the box-office.

In any case, being let go from the project turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as "Super Mario Bros." opened to extremely negative reviews both from fans and critics. Meanwhile, Hanks reached new career highs with "Philadelphia," "Forrest Gump," and "Saving Private Ryan" in the '90s, becoming one of Hollywood's biggest stars of all time.