Chapter 07 - Space & WWII

1998 - 1999

After Apollo 13, Tom Hanks’s well-known addiction to the space program lead him to create the twelve-part miniseries From the Earth to the Moon which explored the entire Apollo space program, from different points of view. The miniseries was based on the book A Man On the Moon, written by Andrew Chaikin after hours of interviews with the astronauts who walked on the moon, and prefaced by Tom Hanks. The miniseries aired on HBO in 1998 and was co-produced by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer. In addition to serving as executive producer on the series, Tom Hanks directed the first segment, played in the twelveth episode and wrote four subsequent episodes.The miniseries is known for its accurate telling of the story of Apollo and outstanding special effects. It gathered numerous awards, including two TCA Awards, a Golden Globes Award and three Emmy Awards (plus, 14 nominations).

After nearly two years of absence from the big screen, Tom Hanks teamed up for the first time with Steven Spielberg. Though they had been close friends for a long time they had never worked together before the highly-praised WWII drama Saving Private Ryan (1998). They had came upon the script at the same time and after learning that they were both about to commit to the project, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg discussed whether or not they wanted to mix their personal lives with business, fearing that it could jeopardize their friendship. In the end, their friendship was reinforced after this collaboration. In his acceptance speech for the Golden Globe of Best Director, Steven Spielberg even said "Tom my partner and my true friend, thank you for proving that we can work together and stay better friends because of it." 

Tom Hanks played Captain John Miller who leads a group of US soldiers to go behind enemy lines to retrieve a paratrooper, James Ryan, whose brothers have been killed in action. Though given a complex role, Tom Hanks offered one of his finest screen performances, earning his fourth Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
The movie was highly praised by the critics, being ranked #10 on the American Film Institute's 100 Most Inspiring Movies of All Time in 2006, but even more by the veterans, especially for the realism of the opening sequence of D-Day landings : many veterans said the film came closest of any capturing the carnage and confusion of war.

For their work on Saving Private Ryan and "their substantial support of initiatives to provide lasting tribute to veteran's service", Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg received the highest US Navy civilian honor : the Distinguished Public Service Award, on November 11, 1999, aboard the USS Normandy.
Under-Secretary of the Navy Jerry Hultin said Spielberg and Hanks had "dramatically increased the American public's awareness and appreciation of the sacrifices made by US veterans during the battle of Normandy. "

The same year, Tom Hanks became involved in the campaign for the creation of  the National D-Day Museum (later renamed National WWII Museum) in New Orleans in becoming the honorary chairman of the D-Day Museum Capital Campaign.
A few months later, he would be appointed national spokesman for the creation of the National WWII Memorial in Washington, DC : the first memorial in the United States to be dedicated to all who served during World War II. 

Later that same year, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan co-starred for the third time in Nora Ephron's romantic comedy You've Got Mail (1998), an updated version of the 1940 Stewart-Margaret Sullavan classic The Shop Around the Corner. The two characters would not exchange letters but emails.

Tom Hanks next reprised his role of Woody for the sequel Toy Story 2 (1999) and reunited with Saving Private Ryan co-star Barry Pepper to play prison guards in The Green Mile (1999), an adaptation of Stephen King’s novel. Toy Story 2 skyrocketed to No. 1 at the box office, and The Green Mile became the runner up in its opening weekend.

At the end of the 90s, Tom Hanks experienced a colossal success at the box-office because of his involvement in several big hits and was named Box-office Star of the Decade by the ShoWest Convention.