Chapter 06 - Passion & Animation

1995 - 1997

For the first time in his career Tom Hanks portrayed a real-life person, astronaut Jim Lovell, in his next hit Apollo 13 (1995) where he reunited with Splash director Ron Howard. Since he was a kid, Tom Hanks had always been interested in the space program and this project was the occasion to realize a boyhood dream : becoming an astronaut.

“When we did the launch sequence, in our pressure suits, with the helmets on and the air being pumped into us, and I could only hear the other two guys breathing through their microphones, and then with the capsule being shaken... I tell you, I felt like I was there. I definitely felt as though I was on my way. It was truly exhilarating.” 1

Apollo 13 became the first movie to be shot in zero gravity, thanks to the help of the NASA who provided them with the KC-135, a reduced gravity aircraft to simulate weightlessness in outer-space. They had 25 seconds of weightlessness for each take. The filmmakers would eventually fly 612 parabolas which added up to a total of 3 hours and 54 minutes of weightlessness. Their record was 99 parabolas in a single day, and doing it three days in a row, it ended up being more than what real astronauts usually do.
Due to his powerful performance, Tom Hanks nabbed a Screen Actor Guild for Outstanding Ensemble Performance and a People's Choice for Favorite Actor in a Dramatic Motion Picture. The movie also earned nine Academy Award nominations, winning two.

In November 1995 was released the first full-length computer-animated film ever, Toy Story. Tom Hanks provided his voice as Woody, an old-fashioned pull-string cowboy doll who is Andy's favorite toy and who is viewed by Andy’s other toys as their leader.

John Lasseter, the director, always wanted Tom Hanks to play the character of Woody. Lasseter claimed that Tom Hanks “... has the ability to take emotions and make them appealing. Even if the character, like the one in A League of Their Own, is down-and-out and despicable."
Early test footage, using Tom Hanks's voice from Turner and Hooch convinced him to sign on to the film. Tom Hanks had recorded his dialog during the breaks of A League of Their Own and Sleepless in Seattle. He didn't want to record his dialog during the breaks of Philadelphia or Forrest Gump because he felt he shouldn't do comedic roles in between minutes of playing serious roles.
The animated movie received universal critical acclaim. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times stated that “starting with Tom Hanks, who brings an invaluable heft and believability to Woody, Toy Story is one of the best voiced animated features in memory, with all the actors ... making their presences strongly felt.”

On a personal level, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson’s second child, Truman, was born on December 26, 1995.

Tom Hanks made his directorial debut with That Thing You Do! which he wrote, directed, and starred in. Set in the summer of 1964, the movie tells the story of a one-hit wonder rock band, called The Wonders, following their whirlwind rise to the top of the pop charts, and just as quickly, their dissolution.

The movie starred in the main role Tom Everett Scott, even though Tom Hanks was first opposed to hiring him because of his strong resemblance to a younger Hanks. He was finally convinced by his wife, Rita Wilson, who thought Scott was cute.

For this first work as a writer and director, Tom Hanks surrounded himself with friends and family. Indeed, the project was produced by Jonathan Demme, director of the movie Philadelphia, and Gary Goetzman, who wrote the band’s fictional songs and who became Tom Hanks’s partner with their production company, Playtone, named after the fictional record label of the movie, which released the soundtrack of the film. That Thing You Do! also starred, in more or less significant roles, his wife Rita Wilson, his son Colin, as well as his daughter, Elizabeth. He also offered a role to his Bosom Buddies co-star, Peter Scolari.

Though moderately successful at the box office, grossing almost 26 million dollars domestically, the film was well received by critics and demonstrated Tom Hanks's flair for eliciting strong performances from a cast of relative unknowns.

1Apollo 13 Press Kit, 1995