Why Tom Hanks' Felt Guilty After Leaving His First Wife Samantha Lewes

Tom Hanks gained mainstream popularity after he starred in the film "Big," but his wife of over three decades, Rita Wilson, reckons he probably would have been an even bigger star then. Apparently, Hanks was tapped to star in the cult classic "When Harry Met Sally," but had to reject the project for one big reason: He was going through a divorce at the time, just like Harry Burns in the film. But instead of sulking about it like Harry, Hanks thought separating from his first wife, Samantha Lewes, was the right move. In short, he simply found it tough to relate to the character.

"People probably don't know this, but Tom was offered 'When Harry Met Sally,' and he turned it down because he was going through a divorce and he was very happy to be not married," Wilson shared in an episode of the "Table for Two with Bruce Bozzi" podcast. "And so he could not understand that a person going through a divorce would have anything other than just like, 'I'm so happy.'"

Hanks and Lewes divorced in 1987 after almost a decade of marriage, but even though Hanks said it made sense for them to part ways, he was plagued with guilt as he thought he was neglecting their two kids, Colin and Elizabeth Ann, in the process.

Tom Hanks feared he'd 'abandoned' his children

Tom Hanks and his first wife, Samantha Lewes, met when they were in college. They married in 1978, a year after they welcomed their firstborn, Colin, and had another child in 1982, Elizabeth Ann, Hanks' only daughter.

Not much is known about their relationship as Hanks was only a fledgling actor at the time, but he once told Express that it ultimately failed because they lacked the maturity to uphold the marriage. "I was just too young and insecure for marriage," he admitted. "I was not really ready to take on those responsibilities."

And while splitting from Lewes was the right thing to do then, he couldn't help but worry whether he was technically 'abandoning' Colin and Elizabeth, which was the last thing he wanted to do given that he, too, grew up in a broken family. Speaking on the "In Depth with Graham Belisinger" podcast, the award-winning actor confessed that he thought he was an irresponsible dad. "I couldn't be a worse father, and I couldn't be a worse human being. I remember all those feelings of as though I had cursed innocent beings with my own failings," he shared. "I think my job as a parent, one of the things I've learned is to try to guarantee a carefree life for your children for as long as possible ... I felt in the course of being their divorced single guy dad that I was burning them with cares that they didn't deserve to have to care about."

Inside Tom Hanks' relationship with his kids

Tom Hanks married Rita Wilson a year after he finalized his divorce from Samantha Lewes, and together, they had two children, Chester and Truman. According to the actor, Chester and Truman's upbringing was starkly different from Colin and Elizabeth's since he had already established his career at the time.

"My son Colin was born when I was very young. As well as my daughter, but that means we have this gestalt understanding because they remember when their dad was just a guy trying to, you know, make the rent," he shared with The New York Times. "My other kids, they were born after I had established a beachhead in every way." But in his experience raising four kids, Hanks eventually got rid of his guilt and came to the realization that all he could offer as a parent was his unconditional love and support. "I figured out, the only thing really, I think, eventually a parent can do is say I love you, there's nothing you can do wrong, you cannot hurt my feelings, I hope you will forgive me on occasion, and what do you need me to do?" he added.

Hanks eventually got to a point where he developed a good relationship with all his kids. When he received the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 2020 Golden Globes, he made sure to mention his entire family. "A man is blessed with a family sitting down front like that," he said on stage. "A wife who is fantastic in every way, who has taught me what love is. Five kids (including Colin's wife, Samantha Bryant) who are braver and stronger and wiser than their old man is."