An interview with Tom Hanks

The Boston Globe runs an excellent piece on its interview with Tom Hanks: “Tom Hanks shows his cards.” Hanks is the star of the Coen Brothers remake of the 1955 Ealing Studios comedy classic “The Ladykillers,” and Hanks is out beating the bushes to promote the film.
The remake sounds like a bust, but the interview is terrific. The piece begins with the question Globe reporter Sam Allis poses to himself, asking why we don’t “hate” Hanks for his oversize success. Allis answers:

For starters, he’d look pretty much as we do in a bathing suit. No washboard abs here. His hairline is receding, his jowls ample. He’s got an unflattering, Lyle Lovett-like haircut with whitewalls on the sides, and a trio of lines between his eyes as deep as the Marianas Trench. At 47, Hanks stands as our antidote to Brad Pitt, with hints of Karl Malden creeping in.
We don’t hate him because he is too interesting an actor to hate. We don’t hate him because when you ask him a question, he actually thinks about it. There can be long pauses, multiple “ums,” and more silence before he answers. It’s a refreshing change from stars who just scan seamlessly across the response menu to, say, D-3, Hardest Acting Job. (Then again, he may simply be a gifted dissembler.)

Then Allis poses a tougher question to Hanks:

[H]ow did Hanks come to personify the solid whole? After all, each of his parents married multiple times, and his early years in Oakland, Calif., were spent in serial stepfamilies. Central casting says a kid is supposed to emerge from that experience an emotional wreck. How did he avoid that fate?
“I think it comes down to a particular kind of yearning that you have,” he answers. “Mine was always being connected to something that was contrary to what the real family circumstance was. I had a great teacher for second, third, and fourth grade. Mrs. Castle. She just made me feel like a god.
“I had good friends when I was going through the tough years of junior high and high school,” he continues. “They weren’t potheads. They were mostly just guys, and all we’d do is sit around and laugh. I went to churches and became part of theater groups, stuff like that.”
In other words, Hanks got what he needed elsewhere. “I did,” he says. “I pursued it. I was never intimidated by a new school or a new class or new house or new town. I was very tight with my older sister and older brother. Was it chaos? Absolutely. Were we flirting with malnutrition? Of course. Did we nearly kill ourselves three or four times? Absolutely. But we laughed our heads off.”

And when Allis presses Hanks to pick his favorite Hanks movie, Hanks voices an opinion I have expressed here more than once:

“What I’m actually most proud of is ‘Band of Brothers,'” the HBO miniseries about US soldiers in World War II for which he and Spielberg were executive producers. “If I could only choose one thing, I’d say ‘Band of Brothers.'”


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