Tom Hanks: I made all my mistakes before I was famous

September 21, 2013


He cried on both occasions when being awarded best actor Oscars, earning him the nickname Tom Hankies. But those handkerchiefs are now being used to wipe tears of laughter all the way to the bank.

At 57 Hanks has become the world's most successful film star, with movies which have grossed a total of £5.6billion at the box office. He has also quietly seen off many of his big rivals this year.

Whereas others such as Brad Pitt (World War Z), Will Smith (After Earth), Tom Cruise (Oblivion) and Johnny Depp (The Lone Ranger) have either suffered box office disaster or been scorned by critics, Hanks ploughs on regardless. Virtually every major star has hit a wall of problems with well-publicised affairs, religious cults and giant egos. Hanks, meanwhile, remains untouched and untarnished.

The glamour of Mel Gibson and Kevin Costner put him in the shade in the Nineties. But Hanks has become Teflon Tom by keeping clear of scandal and divorce. He has celebrated his silver wedding anniversary this year to actress wife Rita Wilson, with whom he has two children, Chester and Truman, and two new, highly polished movies open and close next month's London Film Festival.

How has he remained so long at the top? "I made all my mistakes, out of public view before I was known," he says. "I do not want to admit to the world that I am a bad person. It's just that I don't want anyone to have false expectations."

Hanks is clearly landing some early punches just in case anyone looks up from the canvas and points out he's been far from perfect. He can be hard to live with he says, both at home and on a film set. If he's not getting his own way he can lose his temper.

And he can be ruthless with money. "I do not go looking for trouble but I am no pushover," he warns. "I believe in making my points as politely as possible. If that does not work then I can become a little stronger in my intentions."

Hanks, whose usually kindly blue eyes can take on the appearance of a chill winter's sky when challenged, always attempts to keep the peace on a film set. His ability to soothe hurts and slights is a matter of record even when faced with a mutinous cast in Saving Private Ryan (1998) who wanted to walk out of the boot camp devised for them by director Steven Spielberg.

I have seen him in action from the streets of New York (You've Got Mail, 1998) to Houston, Texas (Apollo 13, 1995) back to early success Splash (1984) and his breakthrough film Big in 1988, and this is a man who fights his corner. Although he is, indeed, a pleasant man at heart there is a side to his past that goes some way to explaining his inner core of determination.

He always knew the odds were stacked against him. "I was not particularly handsome and never became really hot or fashionable," he observes. "I wasn't caught up in any fallout from early fame, simply because I was not famous."

Had Hanks been forced at the time in to some detailed examination of his personal life, a number of discoveries would have been made. He was the victim of a broken home, rarely seeing his mother from the age of five. And he was involved in a particularly nasty divorce, leaving behind two young children when he parted from actress Samantha Lewes, with children Colin, then aged seven, and Elizabeth, three. It was as if history repeated itself, as his own father Amos, a chef, left his mother Janet, taking with him Tom, then five, plus a brother and sister.

Since his father remarried twice more, Hanks found himself with a stepbrother and four stepsisters from the first marriage and a stepsister from the second. His mother also remarried and he was known as Number Nine in a family of 16 siblings and step-siblings.

He accepts that his uncertain childhood left him in desperate need of stability. "I was looking for something I had not found as a kid," he says. "And a broken marriage meant I was sentencing my own kids to the sort of feelings I had at their age. I was just too young and insecure for marriage. I was 23 and my son Colin was already two when I married for the first time. I was not really ready to take on those responsibilities.

"I look around and think, 'One day, I am going to pay for all this, big-time'. There are quite a few people who are no longer getting hired yet they were big stars just 10 years ago. So I have already overstayed my welcome. I've had a lot of luck. Someone is going to turn around at some point and say, 'You are not such a smarty-pants after all, are you?'" But clearly not yet. Hanks has another huge hit predicted with Captain Phillips - the real-life story of a hijacking by Somali pirates - which opens the London Film Festival on October 9. His new Disney film Saving Mr Banks, about how Mary Poppins was brought to the screen, closes the festival on October 20. Hanks plays Walt Disney on the basis that there was no other major star in Hollywood with such inherent decency. The all-star cast includes Emma Thompson as the London-based author of Mary Poppins, plus Colin Farrell and Hanks's wife Rita Wilson. Hanks will be walking the red carpet at London's European premiere.

So does such a situation put him at ease? "My own life has not been as smooth as my career," he reflects. "I question myself: 'Have I been a hero to my kids?' All I see is where I let them down when I was on the road and missed their birthday or yelled at them over something trivial. Some people go to bed thinking 'That was a good day'. I am one of those who worries and asks: 'How did I screw up today?'" His self-questioning was not helped by a blunder at the Oscar ceremony 20 years ago when he won best actor as an Aids victim in the film Philadelphia.

In his emotional speech he thanked the inspiration of a former teacher Rawley T Farnsworth, who was homosexual. Within days it was announced that the embarrassed Mr Farnsworth had never openly admitted he was gay (Hollywood even turned that story into a film in 1998, In And Out, starring Kevin Kline and Tom Selleck). But such blunders and self-doubt aside Tom Hanks has emerged as one of the most popular actors of all time after a quarter of a century at the top.

"My wife keeps on telling me that my worst fault is that I keep things to myself and appear relaxed," he says. "But I am really in a room in my own head and not hearing a thing anyone is saying."

By Garth Pearce

Source : Express.co.uk