Chapter 05 - Oscar Buzz

1993 - 1995

Tom Hanks’s big break also arrived in 1993 when director Jonathan Demme cast him for Philadelphia in the starring role of Andrew Beckett, an attorney with AIDS who brings suit against his former employee for discrimination after getting fired. Tom Hanks delivered a spectacular acting performance, losing 37 pounds and shaving his head for the role. In a review for People, Leah Rozen stated "Above all, credit for Philadelphia's success belongs to Hanks, who makes sure that he plays a character, not a saint. He is flat-out terrific, giving a deeply felt, carefully nuanced performance that deserves an Oscar."

Tom Hanks took home several awards like a Golden Globe, a Berlin Film Festival and a MTV Movie Award. But most of all, he was honored with a prestigious Oscar for Best Actor. His acceptance speech became very well known, for two reasons. First of all, it is known for the famous sentence “[...] the streets of Heaven are too crowded with angels, they number a thousand for each red ribbons we wear tonight [...]”. Tom Hanks also revealed that two people he was close with, his high school drama teacher, Rawley Farnsworth, and former classmate John Gilkerson, were gay. The revelation inspired the 1997 film In & Out, starring Kevin Kline as an English Literature teacher who is outed by a former student in a similar way.

“Here's what I know... I would not be standing here if it weren't for two very important men in my life, two I haven't spoken with in a while but I had the pleasure of just the other evening - Mr Rawley Farnsworth, who was my high school drama teacher, who taught me 'Act well the part, there all the glory lies', and one of my classmates under Mr Farnsworth, Mr John Gilkerson.I mention their names because they are two of the finest gay Americans, two wonderful men that I had the good fortune to be associated with, to fall under their inspiration at such a young age. I wish my babies could have the same sort of teacher, the same sort of friends.” 1

The phenomenal triumph subsequently launched Tom Hanks as a Hollywood’s A-List actor and cemented his standing as a leading dramatic actor.

The day after Tom Hanks won the Academy Awards for Philadelphia, he received a telegram from astronaut Jim Lovell that said “Welcome aboard Apollo 13”. Tom Hanks was already part of making the movie based on the Apollo mission but before working on this project, he first starred in a movie he would forever be remembered for : Forrest Gump. It became one of the most famous movies of all time.
The movie starred Sally Field who played Tom Hanks’s mother, tough she is only 10 years older, Gary Sinise and Robin Wright Penn. With Robert Zemeckis at the helm, Hanks’s dazzling performance won him countless awards, including a National Board of Review Award, a Golden Globe, a Chicago Film Critics Association and an American Comedy for Best Actor.
Robert Zemeckis even said of Tom Hanks’s performance : “Even living or dead, I can't think of anyone who could do as good as Tom did. I can't think of anyone. Possibly Henry Fonda would have done something interesting with it, but who knows ? I don't think it would have been has good as Tom nor would have been as perfect as Tom.” 2

On March 27, 1995, Tom Hanks became the second actor ever in history, after Spencer Tracy in 1937, to win two consecutive Best Actor Oscars. In his acceptance speech he thanked both his wife, Rita Wilson, and his colleagues :

“I'm empowered to stand here thanks to the ensemble of actors, men and women, whom I shared the screen with and who, in ways they will never understand, made me a better actor. [...] And I am standing here because the woman I share my life with has taught me and demonstrates for me every day just what love is.” 3

The movie was an enormous success with a domestic gross of 300 million dollars, grossing more than 600 million dollars worldwide. It also won Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director.

1 : Academy Awards, Acceptance Speech, March 1994
2 : The Directors, Robert Zemeckis, 1999
3 : Academy Awards, Acceptance Speech, March 1995