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Tom Hanks Actor

Tom Hanks

American leading actor Tom Hanks has become one of the most popular stars in contemporary American cinema. Born July 9, 1956, in Concord, CA, Hanks spent much of his childhood moving about with his father, an itinerant cook, and continually attempting to cope with constantly changing schools, religions, and stepmothers. After settling in Oakland, CA, he began performing in high-school plays. He continued acting while attending Cal State, Sacramento, and left to pursue his vocation full-time. In 1978, Hanks went to find work in New York; while there he married actress/producer Samantha Lewes, whom he later divorced. Hanks debuted onscreen in the low-budget slasher movie He Knows You're Alone (1979). Shortly afterward he moved to Los Angeles and landed a co-starring role in the TV sitcom Bosom Buddies; he also worked occasionally in other TV series such as Taxi and Family Ties, as well as in the TV movie Mazes and Monsters. Hanks finally became prominent when he starred opposite Daryl Hannah in the Disney comedy Splash!, which became the sleeper hit of 1984. Audiences were drawn to the lanky, curly headed actor's amiable, laid-back style and keen sense of comic timing. He went on to appear in a string of mostly unsuccessful comedies before starring in Big (1988), in which he gave a delightful performance as a child in a grown man's body. His 1990 film Bonfire of the Vanities was one of the biggest bombs of the year, but audiences seemed to forgive his lapse. In 1992, Hanks' star again rose when he played the outwardly disgusting, inwardly warm-hearted coach in Penny Marshall's A League of Their Own. This led to a starring role in the smash hit romantic comedy Sleepless in Seattle (1993).

Although a fine comedic actor, Hanks earned critical respect and an even wider audience when he played a tormented AIDS-afflicted homosexual lawyer in the drama Philadelphia (1993) and won that year's Oscar for Best Actor. In 1994 he won again for his convincing portrait of the slow-witted but phenomenally lucky Forrest Gump, and his success continued with the smash space epic Apollo 13 (1995). In 1996, Hanks tried his hand at screenwriting, directing, and starring in a feature: That Thing You Do!, an upbeat tale of a one-hit wonder group and their manager. The film was not particularly successful, unlike Hanks' next directing endeavor, the TV miniseries From Earth to the Moon. The series was nominated for and won a slew of awards, including a series of Emmys. The success of this project was outdone by Hanks' next, Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan (1998). Ryan won vast critical acclaim and was nominated for 11 Oscars, including a Best Actor nomination for Hanks. The film won five, including a Best Director Oscar for Spielberg, but lost Best Picture to Shakespeare in Love, a slight that was to become the subject of controversy. No controversy surrounded Hanks' following film, Nora Ephron's You've Got Mail (1998), a romantic comedy that paired Hanks with his Sleepless co-star Meg Ryan. Although the film got mixed reviews, it was popular with filmgoers, and thus provided Hanks with another success to add to his resumé. Even more success came soon after when Hanks took home the 2000 Golden Globes' Best Actor in a drama award for his portrayal of a shipwrecked FedEx systems engineer who learns the virtues of wasted time in Robert Zemeckis' Cast Away. Though absent from the silver screen in 2001, Hanks remained in the public eye with a role in the acclaimed HBO mini-series Band of Brothers as well as appearing in September 11 television special America: A Tribute to Heroes and the documentary Rescued From the Closet. Next teaming with American Beauty director Sam Mendes for the adaptation of Max Allan Collins graphic novel The Road to Perdition (subsequently inspired by the Japanese manga Lone Wolf and Cub, the nice-guy star took a rare anti-hero role as a hitman (albiet an honorable and fairly respectable hitman) on the lam with his son (Tyler Hoechlin) after his son witnesses a murder. That same year, Hanks collaborated with director Spielberg again, starring opposite Leonardo Dicaprio in the hit crime-comedy Catch Me if You Can.

For the next two years, Hanks was essentially absent from movie screens, but in 2004 he emerged with three new projects: The Coen Brothers' The Lady Killers, yet another Spielberg helmed film, The Terminal, and The Polar Express, a family picture from Forrest Gump and Castaway director Robert Zemeckis.

Ranked by Empire Magazine as 17th out of "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" in October 1997, Hanks is married to actress Rita Wilson, with whom he appeared in Volunteers (1985). The couple have two children in addition to Hanks' other two from his previous marriage.

Tom Hanks Marks 'Apollo' Anniversaries

Thirty-five years ago, Apollo 13 reached for the stars.

Tuesday night, the stars returned the favor in not just one, but two events spinning around the March 29 release of the "'Apollo 13': Anniversary Edition" DVD.

The star of the Oscar-nominated 1995 film, Tom Hanks, attended an IMAX screening at the California Science Center. With tongue firmly in cheek, Hanks did the hard selling to Associated Press Television News:

"We are celebrating, or announcing, or trying to make hay out of the 10th anniversary release of 'Apollo 13': the motion picture on DVD, with added bonuses, special features, documentaries, everything you want to know about 'Apollo 13': the movie and the mission," he said.

Directed by Ron Howard, the film portrays the trials, tribulations and ultimate triumph of the 1970 Apollo 13 mission, in which a crippled space capsule made a life-or-death race to the safety of Earth.

The two-disc anniversary DVD boasts a bounty of extras not included on previous editions, including two new documentaries, "Lucky 13: The Astronaut's Story" and "Conquering Space: The Moon and Beyond."
Joining Hanks for the Los Angeles event was producer Brian Grazer, who noted, "I saw the movie again, about two or three months ago, because I decided, with my 5-year-old boy, I would show him favorite sequences to movies that I loved. So, I loved the blast-off scene in 'Apollo 13.' So, I showed him that ... and it just still made me cry."

Howard was not at the L.A. party, instead attending a similar screening at Cape Canaveral.

"Well, I really had an option here, whether to participate in this event in Los Angeles or get here, and be with (Apollo 13 commander) Jim Lovell," he said via a studio news release. "And I'm getting ready to work with Tom Hanks again. I see (producing partner) Brian Grazer all the time. I wanted to be with Lovell."

The two-time Oscar-winning Hanks said "Apollo 13" continues to rank as a career highlight.

"Well, this was a dream for me from the very get-go," he explained. "I thought for years in advance of making the movie, that the story of Apollo 13 would be a magnificent film, that people would be able to embrace it, and be moved and fascinated by it as I was."

Tom casts his magic again

Let's face it. Who hasn't at some point dreamed of living as a castaway on a tropical desert island, far from the daily grind of work, rotten weather and unreliable transport?

After all, the recent popular television documentary Castaway as well as the enduring and much loved radio series Desert Island Discs must surely be proof that deep down many of us would love to escape the rat race.

Well try telling actor Tom Hanks that. The Hollywood star reckons he'd be perfectly happy never to set foot on a desert island again after discovering just how terrifying being a castaway really can be.

The Oscar-winning actor spent months on a remote Fijian island for his new movie Cast Away and far from being an idyllic experience it proved to be something of a nightmare for the 44-year old star.

Not only did he have to lose 55lb in weight for the role and spend weeks up to his neck in water, the shoot almost turned to tragedy when he caught a serious infection.

"Just before we left the island I had a little sore on my knee and something got inside there. We left Fiji on the Friday and by the Sunday my leg was twice its normal size," explains Hanks, looking more than a little relieved to be in the urban surrounds of London.

"I had to go to the doctors and I thought I was going to get it cleaned and some antibiotics to take. The next thing I know there were five doctors running around in a panic trying to figure out what was inside my leg.

"I underwent surgery that night and was out for three weeks. We had to shut down the movie. I was very close to blood poisoning, which can kill you. If I'd really been a castaway on that island, doctors told me I would have been dead in five weeks."

But it wouldn't just be a physical illness which might finish off the normally robust star on a desert island.

Hanks, who is happily married to actress Rita Wilson and a dad of four, reckons sheer loneliness would mean he'd never make it as a real life castaway.

"There's a difference between solitude and loneliness," he ponders, "I can understand the concept of being a monk for a while.

"You take a vow of silence, of not saying anything, hearing anything or reading anything, but with my personality that would only last a few hours and then I'd probably go stark, raving nuts and probably start to do shadow puppets on the wall," he smiles.

"I have too many of the chromosomes of an actor and performer. I need some sort of stimulant and diversion."

But despite his reservations the versatile star makes for an extremely convincing castaway in the film.

He threw himself wholeheartedly into his role as a workaholic man, who escapes a plane crash only to be washed up on a deserted island, where he faces an even greater battle for survival for the next four years.

Hanks was so determined to make the part as realistic as possible that the film was shot in two stages over 16 months with a one-year break so that he could undergo a dramatic physical transformation.

He didn't shave or cut his hair for weeks and shed 55lb in four months with a diet and exercise regime which he admits was one of the toughest things he's ever had to undergo.

"The hardest thing was the time," he recalls. "I wish I could have just taken a pill and lost all the weight but the reality was that I had to start in October knowing that we were going to go back in February.

"The idea of looking at four months of constant vigilance as far as what I ate, as well as two hours a day in the gym doing nothing but a monotonous kind of work-out, that was formidable. You have to power yourself through it almost by some sort of meditation trickery. It's not glamorous."

It was, however, worth it, as Hollywood rumours abound that Cast Away could earn Hanks yet another Oscar.

If so, it'll be a hat trick for the star who can't seem to put a foot wrong. His impeccable track record includes a plethora of Oscar and Golden Globe nominated movies, including Saving Private Ryan, The Green Mile, Philadelphia and Sleepless In Seattle.

But if there's one thing his castaway experience has taught him it's never to take anything for granted. Even his glittering career.

"During the film all I did was catalogue the nature of things that can be taken away," he remembers. "That's everything from a cheeseburger to the feeling of cold air from the refrigerator door on you at night.

"I love what I do for a living, it's the greatest job in the world, but you have to survive an awful lot of attention that you don't truly deserve and you have to live up to your professional responsibilities and I'm always trying to balance that with what is really important.

"My kid could get a bad X-ray and I could get a call from the doctor saying I have something growing in my bum and that would change my perspective on everything instantaneously, on what is and what is not important," he adds with a grin.

"He'd probably still come in very handy on a desert island though."

Tom Hanks: "The Polar Express"


Tom Hanks has long been fascinated as much with new technology as acting, or at least marrying the two. Dressed in a black suit and in a typically jovial mood when meeting the press in a New York hotel, Hanks fell in love with the classic Xmas story of The Polar Express when he first picked it up years ago. "I found it a haunting, very effective story, and you really can't quite put your finger on it. I've been reading it to my kids, I think, since it was published," referring to the visually lush Chris Van Allsburg's visually lush story about a young boy whose apparent scepticism about the existence of Santa Claus is put to the test when he embarks on a mythical train journey to the North Pole. Hanks says that it's a story that tends to be read "as you get closer and closer to Christmas. "There's something very stunning, quite frankly, about Van Allsburg's paintings. They're not drawings, but impressionistic versions of this child's house and what it was like to be on a train and all the aspects of the adventure that they go on. It was always a very tactile feeling that I got from reading the book as well as a very elegant, simple, but complicated, sophisticated story about what Christmas means to each and every one of us." It was Hanks who bought the book in the hope of adapting it to the screen, but at the time the Oscar winning actor wasn't sure if it could be done. "The idea of maybe turning that into a movie is a complete X-factor. You have no idea if that's going to be possible or not, which was why when Bob {Zemeckis] and I first started talking about it, it was really only from the perspective of, 'Well, what do you think? Is something possible here or not?' "

The possibilities seemed endless when Hanks and Zemeckis - who had previously collaborated on Forrest Gump and Cast Away - decided to do the entire movie within the world of computer graphics and stop motion. An artistic and bold way to make a film, it is a process that continues to generate controversy and increases the risk of failure, if one was to believe recent reports in the Wall Street Journal which has gone to length to criticise this approach to film making and details the risks involved. Hanks, of course, doesn't mind the criticisms, arguing that any time the cinema has delivered new technologies in the past, the same criticisms existed. "Every one of these movies is an incredible risk, but at the end of the day, who is going to care, because if they don't care, we're in big trouble. Down through history people were walking and saying, 'Let me get this straight. You're going to make a movie about a baby monkey and you're going to do it with a little clay figure and you're going to do it one little shot at a time. What a stupid thing! No one's going to care about that.' And the movie is King Kong. Or George Lucas is making some rock-em, sock-em space thing with guns and robots. Everybody says, 'Nobody's going to care about that.' And it ends up being Star Wars. The only thing that is going to matter is the story and the aspect of how expensive it is or how technologically difficult it is, is just the aspect of we had to figure out how to make the movie and that's the way we ended up making the movie. Is it a big risk? Yeah, of course. We could lose our shirts and people could lose their jobs if the movie stinks, but that would be the same thing if it was me and Nona Gaye driving in a car talking to one another. If that movie stinks too, we'd be in just as much trouble."

Though Hanks gets to play 5 characters in Polar Express, including the central character of the boy [completely rendered as a Chi character], Hanks doesn't see a time when this kind of film making will making actors eventually obsolete. "The nature of motion capture is only going to work for certain films and is not going to put any other type of movies out of business," Hanks argues. "In fact, motion capture has been used for movies you yourself have said are great, from The Matrix to Titanic. It's in countless movies and it's been used in the same sort of way. What this can do from an actor's point of view is, quite frankly, free us up to a huge degree. I've used this analogy many times, and I've apologized to Meryl Streep, but she's just the name that comes up. If Meryl Streep can perform the greatest Genghis Khan in history, better than anyone else can play Genghis Khan, Meryl Streep can play Genghis Khan. And if James Earl Jones can play the greatest Mickey Rooney in The Mickey Rooney Story, James Earl Jones can now play Mickey Rooney in The Mickey Rooney Story. It's an extraordinary opportunity for actors to no longer be limited by size, weight, colour of hair, gender or race, which is actually really great news. But the fact is, it's right now still pretty prohibitively expensive and very, very difficult for the computer to capture, for example, the essence of a man kissing a woman. All those dots would meet in the face and all of a sudden the computer would go nuts and it would be one big head, so there's not even a way to do that yet. Therefore what this allows from a filmmaker's point of view is, literally, if they can imagine it there's a new way in order to film it, and it's a little easier and a little more costly than some of the other ways. So far as an actor goes it's possible now to play any character in any circumstance in a way that simply was not as feasible as before." From a purely acting perspective, Hanks says that Polar Express gave him an opportunity to work in an unusually traditional acting environment. "I found, that it is actually a return to a type of acting that acting in films does not allow you to do. It was exactly like rehearsing a play in the round, in that you don't have to worry about lights, angles, rails, cameras, or over the shoulders coverage. We essentially did a great series of 10 or 15 minute plays in which we did it real, in real time, and when we were done, Bob had everything that he needed to. So, as far as being an actor goes, it was a blast."

Not to mention the added challenge of playing numerous characters, which clearly presented this actor with some unique opportunities? "When Bob explained it enough to me so that I could understand the process we were doing would make it possible for grown-ups to play the kids, that Nona could play the girl and I could play the boy and Eddie Deezen and Peter Scolari could come along with it, that opened up a lot of opportunities for one aspect of it. But then came, where are all these adults coming from? And what they are, in my sensibilities, is they're all the caregivers. They're all the authorities in this boy's life and he imagines them as variations on himself and variations on his uncles and variations on his father, as well as the great mystery of how he would have imagined Santa Claus needed to be himself. Santa Claus to this boy was not this roly-poly accountant that came down the chimney every day, but this huge, muscular man that had to lift up this massive package, this sack of presents. Bob at one point said that I should play every role in this movie because then we could do it. But there's only so much that I can internally grasp as an actor and on the day of tests that we did I played five or six or seven roles in the course of that day, and I said, "Bob, I'm exhausted here." So in my mind, I had a track on the five characters that I played. I could understand the differences between them all and I understood how they related to the boy and I understood what the boy's perceptions of them were. And it was just a circumstance where it was doable. It was possible without having to do it in the way, like say for example, Jerry Lewis made The Family Jewels or something like that."

But as Hanks insists on reminding of us, as technologically clever as Polar Express is, it still boils down to theme and story. Asked whether this is another film about a loss of innocence, Hanks, mockingly, buries his face into his hands. Isn't every movie about lost innocence? It's like every time you make a movie about people who are innocent it's about the lost innocence. It's maddening sometimes. It's about belief, in that everybody carries around their beliefs with them on their sleeve. It's a very personal thing and it can't be described." Despite us living in cynical times, Hanks adds that without typical bad guys and a conventional narrative thread, Polar Express still remains a film for today's hardened, contemporary audiences. "When we began, and Bob began writing the screenplay, he started the movie with the first line of the book and ended it with the last, staying away from the standard protagonist-antagonist narrative, which is usually a bullsh*t way to move the story along or bring jeopardy to it. I think the vast majority of the audience can see a formulaic narrative a million miles away and they're tired of it, because it's very predictable. The reason you go to the movies is to be surprised by a narrative that you can't predict, so in a lot of ways, we kept figuring out what not to do with the story as opposed to WHAT to do. But this all came out of a stream of consciousness of Bob's when he started digging into the material."

One may or not believe in the mythology of Santa Claus that permeates throughout Polar Express, and the actor may have stopped believing in Santa a long time ago, but maybe not, he concedes, laughingly. "I actually subscribe to the more Russian tradition of a guy named Baz Morose who would come around and I think he'd leave you a pear if you were a good boy and a switch if you were a bad boy. Let me just say I had my share of pears." Never one to be totally serious, when asked what his traditional Christmas movie is, the actor says, without a pause. "My favourite traditional Christmas movie that I like to watch is All Quiet on the Western Front. It's just not December without that movie in my house."

Tom Hanks: "Catch Me If You Can"

There is something almost surreal about being left alone in a room with three of Hollywood's most powerful figures: Spielberg, Hanks, DiCaprio, between the three of them, American wealth and power. "Here, you'd better take the hot seat", booms a jovial Hanks. All suited up, the trio teamed together for Catch Me If You Can, director Spielberg's second feature in a year, a 1960s-set true story with Leo as an adolescent con artist being doggedly pursued by a Bostonian FBI agent played by Hanks. Larger than life on screen, and perfectly aware of their collective influence in Hollywood, they avoid making too much a deal of that whole power thing, yet it's something that one cannot help but address. Are they as powerful a trio of Hollywood players as they think they are? Of course, but for these guys, who represent three generations of such power, it serves as means to achieve creative ends, says the youngest of the three, one Leonardo DiCaprio, who defines his own sense of ‘power' as something rare. "I think what every actor and artist in this business tries to achieve, is to steer the course of their career. The opportunity that I have is one that I've worked hard for but one that was directly linked to a boat movie called Titanic," concedes DiCaprio. "On some levels that propelled me out to be more of a product that I would have liked, but the upside to that is that I get to pick and choose the roles that I want in my career." Director Spielberg, who helped to redefine the concept of the Hollywood blockbuster in the late seventies, agrees with his young star, that commercial success is equated with choice, and that is the real power in Hollywood. "After Jaws, not only did I get to choose my NEXT movie, but I was given final cut, and that is how it affected me," says the Oscar winning director. Hanks, unarguably the most commercially successful screen actor in today's Hollywood, prefers to define power as being transparent. "There are always going to be things that are going to get into the way of doing the work that you really like to do, and for me as an actor, there are always roles that I wish I'd had or I see movies where I envy the people who are up there being able to be in them, but that doesn't mean that I had to go off and do something that I DIDN'T want to do. That is a firmly drawn line in the hierarchy", Hanks insists. "When you do not have to take a job that you do not have to take, then that's true power, because that's the moment when you begin to control your destiny in a different way. Once I got to the point where I said: You know, I don't want to do this, then that was a hugely liberating moment where an actor can take one's career in one's own hands. You can call it the power of ‘no'."

That power of ‘no', however, can be a double-edged sword. When one has the power to have a project greenlit on your behalf, then the question is: How do you choose? With great difficulty, says DiCaprio, who is already signed up for at least three upcoming films, from Scorsese's The Aviator, to Baz Luhrmann' s Alexander the Great and Robert De Niro's next directorial gig, The Good Shepherd. "I think that's something you learn as a result of your experience in this business. I've had projects in which I've found characters that I've wanted to play or that I wanted to work on, and it's hard to figure out who you can trust, " DiCaprio concedes. "The reason is that a lot of people represent something much different to what your initial intent is. The more I've gotten older, the more I've realised that it truly is the director's art form. At the end of the day, it's their vision that's going to be put up on the screen, so you can only do your best. I've read scripts that jumped off the page or characters and stories clearly in the wrong directors' hands so consequently have been completely botched up, so that's the lesson I've learned."

Spielberg has a different attitude when it comes to deciding what he will or will not direct. "I don't really look for projects that I'm interested in. If a project comes along that discovers that I WAS interested in that subject, that becomes much more of a reason to say yes." Subjects such as the Holocaust or World War 2. Yet in deciding to do Catch Me If You Can, a relatively light-hearted chase movie based on the real-life exploits of teenager Frank Abagnale, Jr, Spielberg decided to show the flip side to his cinematic personality, almost the jovial Spielberg. "I love your use of the word ‘jovial' because I've never had that word quite applied to me in any way, shape or form," says the director, smilingly. "But it says, about me, that I've found some kind of new colour that I never splashed against the canvas before. This is certainly the most laughs I've ever gotten out of one film that I've directed in my entire career."

In Catch Me, DiCaprio's 16-year old Frank runs away from home as his parents announced plans to divorce. Running away from a broken home, he immerses himself in a world of subterfuge, posing as a doctor, pilot and lawyer, and forging cheques and living a life of creative masquerade. In some ways, something not too dissimilar from this trio of protagonists and ironically, all three, products of broken homes. Yet it is curious that none of them saw the divorce theme as a prevalent factor in doing the film, at least initially. "I never had the kind of situation that Frank had", says DiCaprio. "At 16, he was faced with the decision between living with either parent and it really propelled him out in the real world and made him have no moral high ground and there was nobody to answer to at the end of the day. In my own life, it was the way it was, ever since I could remember. They split up when I was very young, but they were always very supportive and there for me. I think what struck me about this character and this story, was that I had a love for this character, though unconsciously there are certain reasons why you are drawn to material and why it strikes such an emotional chord in you. That's because of who you are, your genetic make-up, your life experience and what's happened to you." Hanks, who spent much of his childhood moving about with his father, an itinerant cook, while continually attempting to cope with constantly changing schools, religions, and stepmothers, says that by the time he turned 10, he already had "three mothers, five grammar schools and 10 houses" Yet despite his fractured youth, the actor never consciously drew on that experience as a deciding factor to co-star in Catch Me If You Can. "I never read it and thought: Oh here is a fascinating hook about Frank - HIS parents are divorced. It all made perfect sense coming from it as we did, knowing full well that it's a huge motivating force somewhere deep beneath the psyches of all the characters but not worthy of special headlining, more part of the fabric of the piece." But for Spielberg, whose parents divorced after years of intense arguing, used his youth often as a metaphor for his work. Many of his films, notably the likes of E.T, mirrored Spielberg's lonely childhood, and agrees that in some ways, his latest film is his most personal to date. "When I read the script, I certainly found the touchstones that I could relate to. I can honestly say that it did come from my heart, even though it did come from someone else's life." Yet the director still concedes, that Catch Me "is the most literal I've ever gotten to the consequences of divorce. I suggest it in ET, which was the basis for Elliot's need for a friend but this is the first time I've really kind of dealt with it head on, as I suggest it as a motivation for why Frank did the things he did. That was our speculation and Frank had to confirm that that was true."

Spielberg does, however, adopt the view that every movie he has made, has his personal vision. "Making movies is sometimes like going to college and taking 16 different courses where you decide to major in one, learning everything you can about World War 2 or the Holocaust, etc. Now I'm not an expert on these subjects, but I certainly became much more than a dilettante once I got myself deeply immersed in these subjects and therefore I was able to say: Yes, this is a personal vision of mine, having adapted it to MAKE it a personal vision."

Yet it's Spielberg's personal visions, exemplified by a sometimes sentimentalised view of the world that has gotten him in trouble with the critics. Often accused of being overly commercial and mainstream, Spielberg refuses to read his negative reviews. "I'm not one of those stand-up comics that just LOVE to suffer. They read everything bad and nothing good and then when it gets really bad they somehow get funnier. I'm not like that. If somebody tells me something's bad, I avoid it like the plague." Not the effusive DiCaprio, however. "I read ‘em", he says cheerfully. "I'm interested to hear what they have to say", as long as they understand your intentions, DiCaprio insists, recalling the critical backlash he received after the release of The Beach, his first film following Titanic. "I didn't set out to make some kind of love story set on a tropical island. It had an interesting subject and said something that was socially important having to do with urban sprawl and the whole world becoming westernised. The critics automatically looked at it as some meek attempt to sustain my fan base, while my intentions as an actor are to make unique films." Hanks takes the argument one step further, maintaining "that a small part of the vast amount of space has little to do with criticism. A huge amount of it is personality-based and following on what Leo says, is that they're attempting to explain your motivation, which is always according to their own agenda. Buy and large I think it's a waste of time to read reviews, because they tend to be mostly on a bell curve. The amount of truly glowing reviews you get is usually balanced out by the poison pen letters, and then everything else is kind of like mishmash."

Whether they are darlings of the critics at any given time or not, Spielberg, Hanks and DiCaprio continue to carve a unique niche in American cinema, with the latter representing a generation of actor who has successfully learned to be a master of his career, as Hanks was able to from the early 90s, and Spielberg has achieved since 1975's Jaws. Spielberg and Hanks are also trying to enjoy double duty as fathers and husbands, which is perhaps why their latest collaboration, Catch Me If You Can, has a degree of emotional validity attached to it. Hanks admits that he still has many unfulfilled ambitions, but adds that he "never had any real ambitions as far as being an actor goes, except to work, and every time I got a job I found that ambition fulfilled for that amount of time. But all the other things have self-improved and in connection with the family and the world, I always find myself coming up short there," Hanks concedes. "I have to dedicate some more time and effort to being a friend, lover, father and citizen." Despite the pitfalls of his nomadic profession, he would still encourage his younger children to be actors "if they wanted to because it's a wonderful life. I want my kids to be happy, funny and well-adjusted; whatever they do in order to get there, is what I'm looking for." Spielberg says that his oldest son Max, now 17, shows signs of filmmaking, while Spielberg is already looking to the future, and Indiana Jones IV, which he confirms is a go. "It would be fun to have a reunion with everybody, you know? It was really Harrison who got me into it. He was the guy that said, ‘I want to do one more,' and he got George and I interested in working with him again, so the script's being written, I'm going to shoot it late 2004 coming out July '05 for the July 4 weekend," Spielberg happily confirms.

For a director who helped define a changing Hollywood, for better or worse, his passion in movies, which began when he first saw Lawrence of Arabia in the early sixties, remains unwavering. The Oscar-winning director may have his detractors, but all he cares about is sharing his stories with an audience; that, after all, is the power of the cinema. "I hope we're such a communal society that we'll always insist on sharing an adventure in the dark with strangers, no matter what the platform hardware. That's my wish and dream -- that we never give up the communal experience. It started a long time ago with cave paintings and I hope it doesn't go away." It certainly continues with Catch Me If You Can, which, like E.T, is at its heart, a Steven Spielberg film.

Tom Hanks: Road to Perdition

He's a two-time Oscar winner and by all accounts, the nicest A-list star in Hollywood. But his likeable Everyman screen image is about to be put to the test playing a hit man protecting his son from the hands of a desperate mob, in Sam Mendes' revisiting of thirties gangsterism in Road to Perdition. It may be a change of pace for Hanks, but the recent AFI recipient doesn't necessarily see it that way.

Tom Hanks was in his usual jovial mood when we met at a Chicago hotel, an appropriate venue to discuss the Chicago-shot Road to Perdition. The Tom Hanks that one meets is in stark contrast to his Michael O'Sullivan, the lowbrow hit man and surrogate son to gangster patriarch John Rooney {Paul Newman}. Much has been made of Hanks' change of image for this role. Hanks disagrees that too much has been made of this aspect of the movie, "because it takes into account a falsehood that it's possible to change the image to begin with, which you can't. You walk into any movie theatre with a preconceived idea of everybody who's in the movie you're about to see, whether it's Liam Neeson or the Affleck Brothers, and everybody knows that, then hopefully at some point during the movie that switch goes off and you watch the movie and are involved in what's going on. Hopefully you've been able to make some organic connection with the audience that's been there on that particular day, they're moved at that's that." The 45-year old actor, when asked if he had a need to go down the road travelled by Michael Sullivan, quickly responds that he "didn't NEED to play anything; there's no medicinal quality to doing these movies," he laughingly jibes. "You see what the potential for the movie is, and by that I mean, it's ability to truly examine the theme which you think is expressed in the movie. Then you see who eels who is going to be doing it." In making his choices, Hanks adds "there's no science to it as well as no weighing of pros and cons. It's an instantaneous reaction: I've never seen this before. On the one hand it's a genre movie but actually it's dealing with all this father-son stuff that's been around since the Egyptians started carving clay tablets and telling stories in them. Therefore it's something that I get and would like to explore, so you simply say ‘Yeah'."

These days, Hanks has that luxury to make such instantaneous decisions, and that's been the way for the two-time Oscar winner for over two decades. But at the beginning, he recalls making choices on the basis "of being lucky to be offered a job, ANY job. The job could have been selling yoghurt; I would have taken ANY job at that point, because you just want to be able to do it." How times have changed, the actor muses. "I would like to thin k that I'm at this point where the only things that I have to do are truly fascinating to me. The burden of doing one of these movies is really substantial", Hanks, explains. "Not the least of which is when you have to talk about it as much as you have to and the desire to talk it up in a genuine way. If I was to tell you that the sole reason I did Road to Perdition was for a change of image, how would you be able to brook that?"

Hanks loves his profession, as choosy as he is, he remains enamoured of it. Despite being consistently labelled the nicest guy in Hollywood, Hanks recalls never loving anything else. "Acting was the greatest job in high school. I never went into this for any other reason in that it's ridiculous amounts of fun. How can this be work pretending to be other people, whether on stage or in the movies? I can't believe they paid me $285 a week in order to do this thing. And I collected a $10 a raise ever since," he adds laughingly. "Some people do this for power, others for fame and some do it do that they can talk to a guy at you at press junkets. I'm not in it for any of those reasons. I shouldn't be called the NICEST guy, but rather the LUCKIEST guy."

It was also the luckiest guy who, at a very youthful 45, received a recent American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Award. One of the youngest ever recipients, Hanks admits that the whole affair was somewhat surreal, to say the least. "I got the phone call, went through about five months of self-loathing because of it, made my peace with it till I just hoped it was a good party, show good clips, worried who was sitting where and sat down."

And Hanks' career is not slowing down. Next he re-teams with Steven Spielberg in Catch me if you Can, opposite Leonardo DiCaprio. "That was a nice experience. I like working with people a second time around because you're passed the getting-to-know-you phase and you just know how they work. Steven works very fast. He's got the same crew as he had when we made Saving Private Ryan, and there's the added bonus of working with Leo who added something else to the mix."

While Road to Perdition revisits the classic world of the American gangster, at the film's core is an often profound examination of fathers and sons, told in a complex way. For Hanks, that was clearly what attracted him to the project. He was able to respond to the material, "by looking back at the relationship that I had with my own father, as well as the relationship that I have with my own kids. When I read it, I said to myself: I know what these guys are going through." Hanks' relationship with his own father, who was a cook, may not have mirrored this film precisely, but the actor does concede that "it was strained and I didn't live with him for a long time, though basically he was a good guy. He was as complex as anybody's is going to be. We were two different personality types. My dad was a shy man. We didn't have a lot in common but we still had a good relationship." Hanks believes that their relationship "would have been better now, now that I'm 45." Hanks took much from his father, he says, and brought that to his relationship with his own sons. "Of course everybody does. There's a lot of stuff that went down not just between me but also the rest of my dad's kids, and so I don't want my kids to go through that. There are also some mistakes that I know I'm making, no matter how hard I try." As for the most important lesson he hopes to instil in his children, the actor pauses slightly. "To like what you and wake up and be content in the morning."

Tom Hanks: The Ladykillers

Tom Hanks is arguably the best loved and most sucessful actor of the last 20 years. After a very sucessful spell of producing, this month he returns playing lead in The Ladykillers, a Coen brothers remake of the 1955 Ealing classic, which he has just finished promoting at the Cannes Film Festival...

Did the Coen Brothers surprise you at all?

I thought they would be much more animated than they were, they are actually these quiet, retiring guys. I must say they are no different now than the first time I met them. They don't erupt, they don't sink, they don't do anything, they are straight as a highway. And it was like that from the first time we met to talk about Ladykillers. It was like "So how do you want to do this?" and we just started talking and got on with it. I mean, you think they are bizarre, you know? [laughs] You think they wear capes, they have obtuse taste, but they are not like that at all. Ethan always paces around and says "Hey man, let's try this..." and Joel is always saying "Well, what we are trying to do is..." and that's it, it never changes.

Have you seen the original Ladykillers yet?

No. I haven't seen it. In fact out of all of that [Ealing] school, I've only seen Kind Hearts And Coronets, and if someone had come and said "Would you like to do an updated version of Kind Hearts And Coronets?" I wouldn't have done it. Just because I would have had no organic way of approaching it. What am I going to do? Do it exactly the same? Make some strange obtuse changes?

So it was a conscious decision not to see the original?

Yeah. And being completely oblivious to the original made it possible for me to see it as simply a Coen brothers movie. I knew it existed, of course. But like the way you know that certain Charlie Chaplin films existed. I don't know the particulars of it, I've seen a couple of stills from it and that's it. Like for example when The Brothers came and said "What would you think about having some teeth?" If I'd seen the original, I would have said "No, no you can't, because Alec Guinness did teeth..." But I had no concept of teeth or no teeth.

Your character uses some remarkably flowery language. Where did the accent come from?

Well, they wrote him as this kind of petrified southern gentleman, but, you know, without a doubt, a guy with only two suits and a watch that probably doesn't even work [laughs]. And there's this verbosity of this Edgar Allan Poe-like dialogue which required going to some place that was almost old school. Actually, I think everything he says is a lie. There's a grain of truth, but when he says he's on sabbatical from the university where he teaches, I think he's been on sabbatical for about 17 years, ever since he got stuck in an inappropriate sexual situation with one of his students! So you have to start building on that, and it had to be from Mississippi and that just dictates a lot of work you have to do. And the way he talks, if there was one thing that I said it was "OK, I have to do this because it will be demanding of me.." because of the way he talks in that he never hesitates, he is never lost for words, and you just riff so much here. The thing has to be like gas from a pump - once it starts going, it just has to roll along. And the Brothers agreed, they were "Oh yeah, that's the way that we saw it too..."

Is it fun, building a character like that - physically as well as emotionally?

Yeah, it was fun because we had a lot of time. If I'd read it and three weeks later we were shooting it would have been a disaster, but they were busy doing Intolerable Cruelty at the time so I had as much as a year, I can't remember exactly. So it sat there and simmered in the pot. But yeah, that's the reason I'm an actor.

Is it fair to compare your The Ladykillers to the original?

I think it's fair in the same way that every season somebody does a Hamlet and it's compared to the Hamlet of the last season, and sometimes it's better and sometimes it's just different. And you can't deny that it's based on an original and a lot of movies are like that.

But with the Coen brothers doing it, you know it's going to be a very different film...

That's right. And that's exactly how it came to me. It was "The Coens are interested in doing The Ladykillers.." "The Coens? Oh OK, say that I'm dropping by...."

Were they on your list of directors to work with?

The Coen brothers have been these guys, like John Cassavetes or Woody Allen - every time a movie comes out you want to see the latest Coen Brothers movie, whether you understand it or not [laughs].

You were joking the other day that sometimes you found their films a little hard to understand...

There have been some movies, yeah [laughs]. Look, I was with Barton Fink right up to him standing in that flaming hallway and then I wasn't sure what was going on anymore. But they are responsible for movies where I cannot predict what is going to happen next. I don't know how they did it. I watched O Brother, Where Art Thou? and it felt like I was on fire there, it just went so many different places. And Fargo is one of the best movies ever made. So is Blood Simple and so is Raising Arizona, so these guys are capable of putting together a narrative that is a complete surprise, that is totally unpredictable, and also they exist in completely... they are part of the radar but they are under the radar.

Is it easier to play nice guys or villains?

It's easier to play knuckle heads and that's what this guy is - he's just a knuckle head. Really, there is no difference: every role requires the same amount of make believe and faith in the process and I don't say yes to something unless I have an instinctive knowledge of what it is I am going to have to do in order to get there. In this case there was a huge amount of verbiage that went on and massive amounts of check list stuff - you know, he's going to have to have a dialect, he's going to have to be able to rattle this stuff off. But nice guys, bad guys? I try to play somebody who just believes in what they are saying more than anything else. I play people with confidence, whether they are trying to kill an old lady or not, they still are convinced they are doing the right thing and this is the only way to get things done.

But do you sometimes sit at home and think, OK, next time I have to do something different?

No, I don't understand how to work that way. It would be artificial, trying to steer your career in a certain way and that would be very inorganic and it would probably make for a crappy movie. I don't know how to do it other than believing 100% in what we are talking. Even in Road To Perdition or something like that, it can't be "Hey, it's time to go off and completely change the image..." If you try to go off and completely change the image, then you could do anything - play a woman, play Superman, do stuff like that. There's just nothing to be had from it.

Tom Hanks: Catch Me If You Can

It looks like good guy Tom Hanks has turned trigger-happy since his portrayal of a weary mobster in "Road to Perdition". You can catch him if you can packing heat once again, this time in the hunt for Leonardo DiCaprio...

How was it working for Steven Spielberg? I mean, is it hard to work for someone who is also one of your best friends?

Well, no. It's very honest. We broached that subject the first time we worked together. I said, "Look, you have to be the boss. You have to tell me anything that's wrong." I said, "You can't hurt my feelings. Don't think our friendship is going to be lost because you're coming up to me, saying: 'If you do this again, the movie's going to stink!'"

But how do you keep that professional distance?

I go to work thinking he is my good friend. But he's also the director of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". I still think, He's the guy that did that!

How about the relationship between you and Leonardo DiCaprio?

We were peers, I think. Leo's an incredibly intelligent guy who's been through a great amount of life experience over the course of the last few years. He's very dedicated and I think he had a very good idea of what he wanted to do and how he wanted to do it.

Tell us about your character, FBI Agent Carl Hanratty...

Hanratty specialises and takes great pride in working bank fraud, forgeries, and he comes across this 'paper hanger'(con artist) who's just doing magnificent things, certainly a step above the normal cheque forger. He makes it his life's mission to track him down and catch him if he can. It's an adventure larger than he is. He treats Abagnale (DiCaprio) as a criminal and he's going to put him in jail. But at the end of the day, he's also a bit worried about this guy's soul. He sees him as perhaps the son he never had - a sort of fragile human being who's worth trying to redeem somehow.



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