Tom Hanks A Bad Guy?

June 11, 2002

It seems as though Academy Award winner Tom Hanks has played every role possible.

From an AIDS-stricken lawyer in “Philadelphia,” to a widower-father in “Sleepless in Seattle”, to a heroic Army captain in “Saving Private Ryan”, it looks as if he has done it all.

However, in his new film, “Road to Perdition,” Hanks takes on a role unfamiliar to his fans.

He plays the part of Michael O’Sullivan, a hit man for the Irish Mob who is known as the “Angel of Death” in 1930s Chicago. O’Sullivan must go on the run when his son witnesses an execution.

But don’t expect your average gangster story; the film’s main theme is a father-son relationship. And that, Hanks tells The Early Show's co-anchor Jane Clayson, was part of its appeal.

"The thing that fascinated me," Hanks says, "was, he does have this rationale that explains concretely to him why he does what he does. He's doing it in order, because he loves and honors his surrogate father, played by Paul Newman. But at the same time, this surrogate father taught him how to beat people up with brass knuckles, and how to kill people without letting it - him - lose sleep over the course of the night."So, I mean, he has good motivations for doing very bad things. And I think likewise, he has bad motivations for being very good things. And he's just trying to figure out how to make life of - how to make sense out of a life that has really gone terribly, terribly wrong, in a very short amount of time."

"The Road to Perdition" is based on the graphic novel that was given to Hanks by his good friend and DreamWorks principal Steven Spielberg.

Hanks talked to about what interested him in doing the movie: "First it was the pedigree of everyone involved. You knew, obviously, that it was going to be great. On the one hand, it's a pure genre movie and has all those cinematic elements of the genre movie --the cars, the hats, the weather, the topography -- and that was obviously very attractive. But what the movie was about was a much more universal and timeless thing. I had never seen it before. I read a lot of stuff that's out there that purports to be about something other than what it is. And this really was. When that happens, you need to jump upon it."

The actor also explained what inspired him about his character. “The key to this whole thing is the father and son relationships in the various permutations of the fathers and the sons that go on in the movie. I've got a father and I have sons. That alone helped. But there's a whole ocean of emotions to explore here and a million ways to find the universe of what these relationships are going to be,” he says.

“The Road to Perdition” also stars Paul Newman, Stanley Tucci, and Jude Law. Hanks says he was at first intimidated by Newman.

"He's leaner than you think he's going to be," Hanks says of Newman. "His eyes are bluer than you think they're going to be. He is much more relaxed than you think he's going to be. He knows the place that anybody in his position is gonna hold-- as far as popular culture. And he knows it's gonna translate over to the people that he works with as well."

"But after that," Hanks jokes, "you realize, he's just pretty much got salad dressing and racing cars on his mind."

Asked to name some his favorite films, Hanks, 45, who received the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award earlier this year, mentioned "Apollo 13," "Saving Private Ryan," "Philadelphia," "A League of Their Own" and "The Green Mile."

The joy of acting, Hanks tells Clayson, is going "to a place that is so truthful, that it can withstand all the filters that exist between you and the audience.

"And it's not unlike as tactile a thing as the great painter standing in front of an empty canvas, or the great writer sitting in front of an empty - a blank - piece of paper and a typewriter. There is a moment where they write the words, or they paint the brushstrokes. That's for them. For me, it comes at the moment when I say the words, and it ends up being what the director chooses to be in there."

For fans who would like to see Hanks in one of his “normal” roles, don’t fret; his next movie is a comedy called “Catch Me If You Can,” with Leonardo DiCaprio. In that, he plays an FBI agent.

"It's not exactly the yin and yang,"he says. "But I guess that's the way it's sort of worked out.

"That's actually a very different sort of movie, in which -- it's Leo's movie, and I'm the guy -- I'm like Javert to his Jean Valjean. Or I am Hooch to his Turner, if you really wanna view the classic films."

Besides all of Hank's film roles he is trying a mount a musical version of the film "That Thing You Do", which he wrote, directed, and costarred in, for Broadway.

By Emily Cartwright

Source : CBS News