If you sit and think about famous actors who are recognized across the globe, Tom Hanks is likely to be one of the first names that come up. Hanks has an iconic face, voice, and talent for becoming the characters he takes on. Knowing how he easily steals the show, it’s hard to imagine that Hanks wasn’t always this way and that he was actually very shy and withdrawn in his youth.
According to The Guardian, prior to Hanks’ discovery of his interest in theater, he struggled with loneliness. Shortly after he was born, Tom Hanks’ parents divorced and Hanks endured a string of moves under the custody of his father, Amos Hanks. Hanks tells The Guardian that because he “went to so many different kinds of schools, [he] got a wide view of the way others did things and found it interesting.”
Tom Hanks Gets Into Acting
Hanks started acting in plays in high school and went on to study theater in college. In his conversation with Guru, Hanks explains that he got a job just after he finished college to work with the Classic Repertoire Theater. The compensation for this opportunity was the professional experience in theater, and Hanks lived off the minimal pay, approximately $50 a week. Hanks says that he had no knowledge or skills and that the job helped immensely in developing his talents.
He tells Cleveland Magazine that he thoroughly agreed when he heard Vincent Dowling say “work in the theater is more fun than fun”. After his stint in the theatre, Tom Hanks made his way into television which is where he eventually found a lead to his big break. While guest starring on some episodes of Happy Days, he became familiar with director Ron Howard (who portrayed Richie Cunningham), and Howard would eventually direct Hanks in the 1984 film Splash, which aptly made a big splash in Hollywood and drew great attention to Hanks.
From there, audiences could not get enough of Hanks. But why? What is unique about Hanks’ technique and flexibility at playing good or bad characters? Why has he been referred to as “America’s dad?” Here’s what makes Tom Hanks so famous and beloved.
Tom Hanks is Hollywood’s Most Normal Guy
When most people watch Tom Hanks act, they get a feeling of something genuine. Hanks has a believability that is unique in Hollywood. He has a familiarity that comforts his fans and reminds critics of the great James Stewart. He is America’s ‘normal guy’ and since 2006, according to Manuel Betancourt of Esquire, America’s dad.
As Hanks has gracefully transitioned from a young, popular actor to a veteran in critically acclaimed movies, he has graciously accepted his role as America’s favorite father. This was emphasized by his silly and heartwarming appearance in a music video from Carly Rey Jepson, I Really Like You, as well as his 2016 monologue on Saturday Night Live as America’s concerned, cardigan-wearing dad. Esquire notes that this was an easy transition partly because “Hanks has never been called up as an actor to exude sex appeal.” Hanks’ projects never fixate on physical attraction and instead illustrate genuine relationships.
This reputation as Hollywood’s nice guy and wholesome parent is the result of Hanks’ more recent roles. For example, his 2011 role in Larry Crowne as a middle-aged man returning to college, his 2013 fatherly role as Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks, his 2016 role as the veteran pilot Sully, followed by his roles as the beloved Mr. Rogers, and now as Pinnochio’s father in 2022.
Tom Hanks Can Take on Almost Any Role
Although Tom Hanks is known as a nice guy inside and outside the movies, he is also famous and beloved because he has the ability to take on virtually any character, including the darker ones. This is especially clear in his Road to Perdition character and his recent part as Colonel Tom Parker in the 2022 film Elvis. Parker was Elvis’s manager and controlled Elvis’s personal life and career.
Hanks was a bit conflicted about playing Parker. Although the role has been criticized already for being “the least appealing character of Hanks’ career,” Hanks tells the New York Post that he took on the character because Parker “was a mercurial and brilliant man who at the same time made sure he lined his pockets.” So far, responses to the role have been mixed, but it suggests that Hanks might begin to take on roles that challenge his reputation as America’s dad and most normal guy.
As of 2022, Hanks will star as an unfriendly old man in A Man Called Otto as well as the film adaptation of Richard McGuire’s novel Here in 2023. There’s no doubt that Hanks brings genuine effort and an understanding of his character to all his roles and this is perhaps why he is so well-liked. What’s illustrated by his early career is that art and theatre have always come first for him which is what makes him such a great actor. Hanks’ most recent film, Robert Zemeckis’ Pinnochio, arrived on Disney+ in September 2022.