Chapter 09 - Busy Years

2004 - 2006

2004 was a busy year for Tom Hanks. Three of his movies came out just a few months apart. Tom Hanks’s first 2004 project was a return to his wacky comedic roots in the Coen Brothers' remake of the cult classic British film, The Ladykillers (2004) where he played a Southern professor who puts together a group of thieves to rob a casino.

He then teamed up with Steven Spielberg for the third time for The Terminal (2004), playing an Eastern European immigrant Viktor Navorski, who becomes stranded in a New York City airport terminal because of a quirk in international politics and passport law. The movie was actually based on a real story, an Iranian refugee who has lived several years in Charles de Gaulle Airport, near Paris.

Although Viktor comes from the fictional country of Krakozhia, the language spoken in the movie is Bulgarian and the accent is kept when speaking English. Tom Hanks explained both the accent and the language are an homage to his real-life father-in-law who is Bulgarian and speaks various foreign languages.

You don't change a winning team : Robert Zemeckis and Tom Hanks worked together again for the third time on ambitious CGI-animated adaptation of the popular children's story, The Polar Express (2004) using groundbreaking performance capture technology which allowed Tom Hanks to play five characters. Though the movie is an animation, the gestures are executed by the actors who wear a suit with sensors while the backgrounds and objects are created digitally.

In 2005, Tom Hanks returned to his love of outer space to narrate the short IMAX film, Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D, a stunning journey into mankind's most incredible adventure. The film showcased past, present and future space explorations, as audiences experienced the moon's surface as if they were Apollo astronauts.

The same year, Tom Hanks was chosen Vice-President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Returning to more dramatic parts, Tom Hanks starred in the controversial movie The Da Vinci Code (2006), the long-anticipated adaptation of Dan Brown's monumental bestseller about a murder at the Louvre investigated by a famed symbologist, who unravels a sinister plot to keep a secret that has been protected since the time of Christ. Though on paper a huge success - it took in over $200 million in domestic box office - The Da Vinci Code was panned by most critics for failing to live up to expectations and for tackling such controversial themes.

After providing voice cameos for Cars (2006) and The Simpsons Movie (2007), Tom Hanks helped narrate The War (PBS, 2007-08), Ken Burns's stunning and comprehensive documentary which looked at ordinary Americans fighting in World War II.