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My work is magnified by the fact that the streets of heaven are too crowded with angels — we know their names, they number a thousand for each red ribbon we wear here tonight.
— Tom Hanks, accepting his Best Actor Oscar for Philadelphia
MANY critics cite Tom Hanks as a throwback to the
Golden Era of Hollywood's brand of leading man, and, in particular, to the light
comedic talents of Cary Grant or James Stewart, and to the quiet magnetism of
quintessential Everymen Henry Fonda and Gary Cooper. Whether he's played a ping-
Hanks isn't the typical child of a broken home,
but he suffered some of the typical stresses. His parents split up when he was
five, and the three oldest kids (Hanks was third) went with their father, Amos,
a chef by trade, who uprooted the family about every six months chasing after a
job. Bouncing around to half a dozen grammar schools rendered Hanks at times
painfully shy —
A more promising assignment landed in his lap
when an ABC talent scout tapped him for Bosom Buddies, a sex farce about
two ad guys who dress in drag a la Some Like It Hot in order to live in
an all-women's residence. The show held on for two seasons, after which Hanks
made his living with guest stopovers on such TV series as Taxi, The
Love Boat, Family Ties, and Happy Days. Ron Howard remembered
Hanks' fair piece of work on the latter show and invited him to read for a
supporting role —
His performances in the less-than-stellar Bachelor
Party, The Man With One Red Shoe, Volunteers, The Money Pit,
and Dragnet were the only things to recommend the otherwise innocuous
films. It seemed he was Teflon-coated, as he continually managed to shrug off
clunkers without being tainted. Moderate box-office receipts proved that he had
secured a foothold, and he finally gained quite a bit more leverage in Penny
Marshall's 1988 hit Big —
Hanks was back gasping for air in 1989's The 'burbs and Turner and Hooch, and he was all the way down for the count in 1990's Joe Versus the Volcano and The Bonfire of the Vanities. But in 1993, the boyish star bounced back in a big way, with a romantic and funny turn in Sleepless in Seattle, and a brave and tragic performance in Philadelphia. As the first Hollywood leading man to play a victim of AIDS in a major studio production, Hanks won an Academy Award, and delivered what was arguably the most emotional and poetic acceptance speech in the annals of the ceremony. The following year, Hanks played to a tee the title role of Forrest Gump, the Alabama simpleton who becomes the unlikeliest of heroes. Once again, the Academy slapped him with the Best Actor Oscar.
It was during filming on Philadelphia that director Jonathan Demme urged Hanks to try his own hand at directing, and furthermore pledged his support when it came time to produce the resulting film. Two years later, after turning in a commanding portrayal of astronaut Jim Lovell in Ron Howard's smash film Apollo l3, Hanks completed his first-ever screenplay for the buoyant That Thing You Do!, a film which chronicles the make-it-big story of a small-town Pennsylvania rock-n-roll band called the Wonders. Anything but an act of hubris, the film proved that his golden touch extends behind the camera.
Hanks bowed out of Mike Nichols' adaptation of Primary Colors due to his commitments to the Emmy-decorated HBO astronaut series, From the Earth to the Moon, for which he acted as executive producer, and to Steven Spielberg's WWII drama Saving Private Ryan, which was released to overwhelming acclaim in 1998. He next lightened the mood a bit by reuniting with his Sleepless in Seattle co-star, Meg Ryan, for a little online romance in the Nora Ephron holiday comedy You've Got Mail. When Oscar nominations were announced the following February, Saving Private Ryan, Spielberg, and Hanks were listed among the nominees in the Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor categories.
In 1999, Hanks reteamed with Tim "Buzz
Lightyear" Allen for the ecstatically received Toy Story 2, on the
heels of which came the Oscar-buzz-laden film The Green Mile, in which he
played a Depression Era death-row prison guard assigned to protect a black man
convicted of murdering two young white girls. Hanks' name is tied to a handful
of other compelling projects, including Martin Scorsese's film about Walter
Winchell; The Passion of Richard Nixon (in which he would play Nixon);
and Scorsese's biopic of Dean Martin, Dino, in which he will portray the
screen legend and singer.
Nice guys finish last, or so they say. Well, one person who doesn’t seem to care what they have to say is Tom Hanks, who has turned good old-fashioned niceness into bankable quality. In the last decade, Tom Hanks has risen from a Hollywood joke to heights of being one of the most influential individuals in Tinseltown.
Hanks was born July 9th, 1956 in Concord, California. When his parents split up, he and his two older brothers went with their dad. A chef by trade, their father traveled a lot in search of work, bringing his kids with him. The result was a nomadic early life for Hanks, who never stuck around an area long enough to make good friends, and became painfully shy as a result. He was left to his imagination, an active one which still seems to flourish today. In high school he was finally given the opportunity to release some of the energy that was contained within him. He took roles in school theater productions and soon learned to love acting. He would eventually major in Drama at the California State University in Sacramento.
His acting while at the school impressed critics, and he was recruited by the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival in Ohio. Hanks subsequently dropped out of school and, after three short seasons with the Shakespeare Festival, decided to leave that behind too. He was off to New York City, where he was going to take the big gamble and try to become a star.
The stardom would come, but it would take a while. After many auditions, he finally found work, first with a role in the slasher film He Knows You’re Alone, and then on the television show, Bosom Buddies. The latter would prove much more beneficial to his career than the first. The show was set in a woman's hotel (the Susan B. Anthony) and had him starring opposite Peter Scolari as two guys who take up cross-dressing in order to stay at the hotel. The show only lasted for a few seasons but lead to guest spots on several major television series, including Happy Days and Family Ties.
Ron Howard, Richie Cunningham from Happy Days, remembered Hanks when later he would direct his feature film Splash. It was Hanks’ first starring role of note and would touch off a long career. Hanks began appearing in many of the 80s most notorious comedies and despite a distinct lack of box office success, he kept cranking them out. Bachelor Party, The Man With One Red Show and Dragnet (amongst others) were far from great cinema, but they kept his career going. He reached a peak in 1990 with Big, for which he earned his first Oscar nomination. Then things went downhill. They went from bad to worse, culminating in Bonfire of the Vanities, a disastrous film known as one of the biggest box office duds of all time. It seemed that Hanks was through.
Then, three years later, something happened. Early in the year, Sleepless in Seattle came out to great reviews and audience praise. It seemed like Hanks was back on top. Rumors then began to come out that Hanks would play a homosexual lawyer afflicted with the AIDS virus, in an upcoming drama. The stories were met with polite disbelief. Hanks was a goofball comedian, not someone who could be the first Hollywood leading man to play a character with AIDS.
The rumors became reality, and audiences and critics everywhere were humbled by the powerful and resonant performance given by Hanks in Philadelphia, for which he received his first Oscar. A year later, Hanks struck gold once more as Forrest Gump, a mentally challenged man who somehow ends up witnessing many of the most significant events of the 20th century. Hanks received his second Oscar for the portrayal and became one of the only men ever to win two Best Actor Oscars back-to-back.
Hanks would next re-team with his Splash buddy Ron Howard for Apollo 13, in which Hanks gave a dynamic performance as astronaut Jim Lovell. After wrapping work on Apollo 13, Hanks voiced the role of Woody the Cowboy in Disney’s Toy Story, and then began work on his own production. He wrote and directed That Thing You Do!, the charming story of a small band, The Wonders, trying to make it big in the 50s.
Tom Hanks now has the clout to do just about any story he chooses, but in many ways he is still the imaginative boy who was too shy to make friends in grade school. His fascination with space exploration lead him to produce one of the largest television productions of all time. From the Earth to the Moon was a mini-series that charted the birth and early growth of the space program, which Hanks watched with fascination as a child.
Tom continues to work steadily, and to please audiences and critics everywhere. His recent role as a shaken army captain in Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan earned him yet another Oscar nomination. In order to remind people that he isn’t all serious drama, he also took a role opposite his Sleepless in Seattle co-star Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail - the story of an Internet romance.
Tom Hanks is undoubtedly one of Hollywood’s finest actors. He has a natural charm that audiences love and critics respect. It is no wonder that he has become an Oscar nomination mainstay, earning himself two more nominations for his work in The Green Mile and Cast Away.
Tom Hanks Filmography
YAHOO INTERNET LIFE:
Yahoo Internet Life Interview
Internet Life readers
In a rare interview on the set of his new movie, Tom Hanks tells West Coast Editor David Sheff how he feels when his computer announces, "You've Got Mail"!
I finally got online for the first time, for my upcoming movie. I wasn't quite a neophyte, but I mostly used computers as multithousand-dollar typewriters. Wite-Out would be cheaper. But now, guess what--I've started to use it for e-mail and checking in on news headlines. I'm in for the long haul now. In fact, e-mail is far more convenient than the telephone, as far as I'm concerned. I would throw my phone away if I could get away with it. E-mail is a much better way of communicating. First, you get to think about what you're saying and how you want to say it. You can compose your thoughts carefully and review them before sending them along. Second, you can deal with your correspondence when you want to. You don't have to play phone tag, and you don't have to worry about time zones. It's incredibly time-efficient. So much so that I'd like to have a single phone line in my house for personal calls and talk to everyone else via e-mail. I don't think that's going to happen, unfortunately--not in this lifetime--but I would much prefer it.
I wanted to do You've Got Mail not because of the computer or e-mail itself, but because of the script, which was Nora [Ephron, a cowriter of Sleepless in Seattle and the writer of When Harry Met Sally] at her absolute best. When she writes a screenplay that works, it's an incredibly elegant thing to behold, at the same time simple and big and glamorous in the way that movies have to be.
This was essentially the 47th remake of The Shop Around the Corner. In every version, there is always the initial problem to solve: How do you have people talk to one another and not know each other? E-mail solved the problem seamlessly.
Nora had a lot of experience with the online world and folded it into this story like a beautiful deck of cards. There's always a big conceit, a big pretense, in movies like this. You have to buy the initial premise. If it doesn't make sense, if it's not logical, you're not going to buy it, and the movie shouldn't be made. Here, however, anyone who has been online knows how this stuff works and what's possible--and it makes total sense.
In our movie, the couple has a wonderful relationship online, without knowing who the other is. And meanwhile, in real life, they know each other--and hate each other. For all the appropriate reasons. Of course, the fun is when the two worlds collide.
E-mail is a great way to start new relationships because of the safety of anonymity. It frees you up so you can say things you probably wouldn't say, reveal stuff that you may be too self-conscious to reveal in another type of conversation. If somebody knows who you are, you're always considering your self-image; you're protecting it. But if you're anonymous, well, that's this different thing. You can say any damn thing that you want to. You can particularly say stuff that's true--really true, which is often tough territory: to say what you really feel, what you really want to say.
On the Net, of course, you don't know if what you're hearing is true, and there's the rub. It's gotten a lot of people in trouble. But my character is earnest. There's nothing diabolical about the way he uses the Net. As Meg Ryan's character says, "One day I wandered into an over-30 chat room, and there it began."
It's the story we hear these days on the afternoon newscasts: "Here are two people who fell in love online, blah, blah, blah." It happens all the time by way of the great vox populi of the Internet. It's a safer place than bars and other places you could meet someone--and it doesn't matter what you look like. Then if you take it to the next level and meet, it's either good or bad, isn't it? It's either a dream come true or your worst nightmare. If it's Meg Ryan, it's not bad, but the problem is that you don't know. Who knows what it could be? Which is why it's risky.
In Sleepless in Seattle, the two characters met via the intervention of one of their children. In You've Got Mail, the Internet brought them together. Either way, the bottom line is that it's a gamble. It's just different ways to meet people.
That's not to say that the technology isn't mind-boggling. It is. Back when we were kids reading Weekly Reader, we all believed that we were going to be living in cities under water and traveling by hovercraft, but no one imagined that we could have these relatively simple machines on our desk that would allow us access to a world of information or to communicate in such a remarkable way. Not even visionaries like [science-fiction author Robert A.] Heinlein imagined communication as instantaneous as this. I'm 42, so I still remember when it was impossible, and now I keep thinking, "This is incredible!" All the clichés are true: The world really is smaller.
Technology is certainly changing the movie business. Ultimately, movies still are projected images on celluloid via sprockets--a lot of moving parts. But making movies has been transformed. The editing process, using the Avid, is lightning-quick. Things that used to take weeks take hours. Things that used to take days take minutes. People e-mail scripts back and forth. It gets easier and easier.
The Net also has added to the discussion about movies. People have always talked about movies. But here's a place made for it, and you're not limited to your friends and family. And in an odd way, the Net brings the two worlds together a bit--the people making movies and the ones talking about them. It's another type of film criticism. Now the old saying is really true: Everybody is a critic. Everybody online is a film critic. It's astounding that those conversations can even become an actual force within the industry--people talking before a movie's out can influence decisions about editing or marketing. People who have seen screenings or sneak previews before a movie is done powwow online. It's not necessarily a bad thing.
The only place I draw the line is at anyone who ruins the ending of movies. They should be shot. Those are diabolical minds at work, trying to screw things up and ruin them for other people. But I looked at the chats when The Truman Show was in previews. The conversation was totally accurate and interesting, and nobody blew it. No one gave away the ending. It was a new forum for intelligent talk about the movies--the ones they like and the ones they don't like. It's what Siskel and Ebert are paid to do. Now everybody can do it.
The Net also provides a new place to converse about the issues raised in movies. When a movie enters into national consciousness--Saving Private Ryan, for instance--what's better than a venue for a large and vigorous conversation about the issues? World War II veterans are finding each other, reminiscing. Same thing happened when the HBO series From the Earth to the Moon aired. There was conversation all over the Net about it, even among engineers who worked on the space program who were picking us apart for what we got wrong and giving us credit for what we got right. Very cool. Could that kind of dialogue have happened before the Net? I don't think it could have.
Though it's exciting to get the "You've got mail!" message when you log on, it ain't so great when you have 50 messages waiting. You can't not answer them. It's oppressive. Maybe that's why I'm reluctant to spend too much time online. I don't have time to read a book, much less surf the Net. And frankly, when there is time to surf, I'll really surf--get my board, head to the beach.
Tom Hanks in a remake of The Shop Around the Corner, the 1940 romantic comedy starring Jimmy Stewart? It's a no-brainer. Meg Ryan as his leading lady? Another no-brainer. But how to update the film's plot, which tracks the burgeoning romance between two real-life acquaintances who are also unwittting pen pals? Hmm. That's a bit harder. Move the two lovers underwater? Transplant them to war-torn Kosovo? Endow one of them with superpowers?
If these seem like good ideas to you, then you may have a future in Hollywood--as a traffic cop. When it came time to reupholster The Shop Around the Corner as the upcoming You've Got Mail, it took the crack skills of an expert to find new juice in the hoary old story. Enter producer Lauren Shuler-Donner, who has also produced such high-concept hits as Mr. Mom (hey, kids, it's a gender-role switcheroo!), Dave (the president's staff hires a double for him, high jinks ensue), and Free Willy (killer whale teaches boy meaning of love).
"Julie Durk, who is our executive producer, saw the original Jimmy Stewart film," says Shuler-Donner, "and she mentioned to me that she felt it was a good candidate for a remake. The two characters are pen pals in the original, so I thought, 'What about e-mail?' Boom! We sold it based on that idea."
In the film, Ryan plays New York children's bookstore owner Kathleen Kelly, whose livelihood is threatened when a Foxbooks megastore moves in across the street. Hanks is Joe Fox, the scion of the Foxbooks firm. Though Joe and Kathleen have a Hatfield-McCoy relationship during the day, they are quickly becoming the best of friends via instant messaging and e-mail, although neither knows the real identity of the other. "Love letters are a classic device, but people stopped writing letters for a long time," says Shuler-Donner. "E-mail is helping to change that."
The film reunites Hanks and Ryan with Sleepless in Seattle director and coscreenwriter Nora Ephron, and it has a strong supporting cast that includes indie empress Parker Posey (Henry Fool) and TV talk-show émigré Greg Kinnear (As Good as It Gets). David Chappelle, Dabney Coleman, Michael Palin, Jean Stapleton, and Steve Zahn round out the cast's comedy vets.
Hollywood has been dabbling in in-boxes since the mid-'90s. But such early e-mail-themed films as Disclosure and Copycat cast the Net as a sinister, faceless place, and associated e-mail with either brilliant scientists or creepy psychopaths. It wasn't until last year's blockbuster My Best Friend's Wedding that e-mail figured prominently in a romantic comedy. Now, with always-more-Mr.-Nice-Guy Hanks and the eternally cute Ryan logging on and checking their messages, e-mail may have finally hit the mainstream. "There has definitely been a change in the overall attitude toward e-mail in the years since I thought of this idea," says Shuler-Donner. "It's much more accepted now, to the point where I don't feel that I have to defend it as a valid medium. It is a valid medium. Anyone who resists it is being ignorant. It's like resisting the automobile."
With so many people going e-postal in You've Got Mail, some lucky e-mail interface will get marquee billing. But it won't be Netscape Mail, Yahoo! Mail, or Excite Mail. In Ephron's script, all of the instant messaging and e-mail happens within the confines of pay-service giant America Online. AOL's e-mail, as any user knows, is somewhat restricted. Users can only store a limited number of messages online. The service has difficulty sending attachments across platforms. And it's unlikely that Ephron will come clean about the busy signals and dropped connections that can madden actual AOL users. Still, Shuler-Donner insists that AOL, with almost half of all America's Net users, is the people's choice. "Nora felt specifically that this is an American movie," says Shuler-Donner. "It's about New York. So we felt America Online would be a good match." The partnership has a financial rationale, too--as a main character in the film, AOL will no doubt promote the film enthusiastically. And though Warner Bros. has already snagged www.youvegotmail.com as the URL for the film's official Web site, there's no word on whether the AOL Keyword you'vegotmail, currently reserved for the service's gallery of celebrity e-mail voices, will be reassigned to promotional duty.
Tom Hanks Productions
Contact: Richard Lovett