Meet movie legend Tom Hanks

The man behind the honours

Tom Hanks: titan of modern cinema, icon of acting hopefuls everywhere, humble philanthropist, producer, director, writer, and all-round thoroughly nice chap.
Tom Hanks is set to receive the coveted Cecil B deMille Award at the 2020 Golden Globe Awards in the New Year. The highly-acclaimed star of legendary films Forrest Gump, Saving Private Ryan, and Cast Away, and the recently released A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, will accept the honour in Hollywood on Sunday, 5 January.

The 63-year-old actor is among the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful actors ever. He’s been nominated for more than 100 industry awards, has scooped two Oscars, four Golden Globes, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honour.

Boasting a career that spans 39 years, Hanks’ films have grossed over $9.9 billion at the box office, making him the fifth highest grossing actor of all time. He enchanted audiences with early performances in Splash and Big; charmed in Sleepless in Seattle and Forrest Gump; riveted in Philadelphia and Cast Away, and became an icon of our time thanks to vocal duties in the beloved-by-all Toy Story fantasy series.

Universally heralded as an incredible actor dedicated to his craft, the Californian shows no signs of throwing in the towel, with dozens of projects lined up for the next few years. His newest film Greyhound, to be released next year, is a war film based on The Good Shepherd by CS Forester, directed by Aaron Schneider and starring Tom Hanks, who also serves as writer and producer.

Nomadic childhood

A child of divorce, and separated from his mother and younger brother, Hanks lived a nomadic existence with his older sister and brother, chef father and two consecutive stepmothers. By the age of ten he had lived in ten houses in five different cities. Attending the First Covenant Church in his teens gave the young Hanks, friends, structure and the sense of belonging that he desperately craved. In an Interview with the Los Angeles Times he reflected, ‘because of all the people I lived with, I had a chequered religious upbringing. Then, when I was in high school, I had a serious born-again experience,’ adding, ‘a great group of people ran a church near where I lived, and they provided a safe, nurturing atmosphere at a time there wasn’t much else I could count on.’

The actor’s route to faith was complex, but as he explained in an interview with George magazine, religion has always played an important part in his life. ‘The major religion I was exposed to in the first 10 years of my life was Catholicism. My stepmother became a Mormon. My aunt, whom I lived with for a long time, was a Nazarene, which is kind of ultra-super Methodist, and in high school, all my friends were Jews. For years I went to Wednesday-night Bible studies with my church group. So I had this peripatetic overview of various faiths…. There was a lot of great stuff to think about.’

In adult life, Hanks joined the Greek Orthodox Church before marrying Greek-American Rita Wilson. Hanks and his family are said to regularly attend the Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral in the Byzantine Quarter of Los Angeles. In a conversation about his faith with the Philippine Star he said, ‘I’ve been raised in one path after another that took me to some kind of church all the time that I was growing up. I was married in the same church where my wife was baptised, and my kids as well,’ later adding, ‘When I pray, it’s for acceptance and grace. I think that’s the most that I can hope for.’

Love story

Tom first met Rita, his second wife when she appeared in an episode of the sitcom Bosom Buddies. But it wasn’t until four years later when the couple got to know each other properly, co-starring in the 1985 film Volunteers. Speaking to GQ about their romance he said, ‘Rita and I just looked at each other and — kaboing — that was that. I asked Rita if it was the real thing for her, and it just couldn’t be denied.’
In a love story that resembles that of My Big Fat Greek Wedding (which was incidentally produced by the couple), where a young Greek woman falls in love with a non-Greek, Tom had no problems embracing his wife’s faith and culture.
In an interview that appears on YouTube, Rita revealed how a family that prays together, really does stay together. ‘I pray every day, my children pray, I pray with them, I pray by myself, we go to church we try to live a good clean healthy life and it helps.

‘God is a part of my life. Every single day I prayed to God, every day for I don’t know how many years that he would bring me somebody that I loved that loved me in the same way and he brought me Tom, so I believe in that.’ Adding to the discussion Tom chipped in, ‘God is mysterious, but God works every day.’

God and the church

Talking about the church, Hanks told journalist Terry Mattingly, ‘The church does feed the poor. It does take care of the hungry. It heals the sick. I think that the grace of God seems to be not only in the eye of the believer, but also in the hands of the believer.

‘I must say that when I go to church–and I do go to church–I ponder the mystery,’ he said. ‘I meditate on the, “Why?” of “Why people are as they are,” and “Why bad things happen to good people,” and “Why good things happen to bad people.”’

The health issues Tom and Rita have faced, may be behind some of his questions. Tom announced in 2013 he’s fighting type 2 diabetes, a condition he blames on his bad diet during his 30s and 40s, ‘I’m part of the lazy American generation that has blindly kept dancing through the party and now finds ourselves with a malady,’ he revealed to the Radio Times. ‘I was heavy. You’ve seen me in movies; you know what I looked like. I was a total idiot. I thought I could avoid it by removing the buns from my cheeseburgers. Well, it takes a little bit more than that. But my doctor says if I can hit a target weight, I will not have type 2 diabetes anymore.’

Also, in 2015 Rita was diagnosed with breast cancer, undergoing a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery to leave her cancer-free. He told the Daily Mail. ‘Rita and I are lucky because we can afford the best healthcare in the world, we knew that blessing right off, but while it was happening, all I could do was bow down before the courage of my wife. God bless my wife, and her courage.’

As well as a duty to God and his family, Tom has continuously demonstrated a duty to society, allegedly supporting in excess of 25 charities making him one of Hollywood’s most philanthropic stars. In 2012 Tom was honoured with an Arts for Humanity Award at the New York Public Library. Speaking to reporters at the awards he said ‘At the end of the day you’ve got to wake up in the morning and make the world a better place. That’s the way I was raised.’