What Tom Hanks Was Like Before The Fame

Tom Hanks has starred in a staggering number of rom-coms, heart-pumping thrillers, and dramatic blockbuster movies, including 1992's A League of Their Own, 1993's Sleepless in Seattle and Philadelphia, 1994's Forrest Gump, 1995's Apollo 13, 1998's You've Got Mail, 1999's The Green Mile, 2000's Cast Away, and 2006's The Da Vinci Code — just to name a few. Beyond that, Hanks has earned an inspiring number of industry awards, including Oscars, Golden Globes, and Emmys. On a personal note, he's a father of foura husband to actress Rita Wilson, and a very wealthy man. However, he also happens to be known as one of the most down-to-earth celebrities in Hollywood, which is one of the reasons why fans adore him.

"It's unclear exactly when Tom Hanks took on the de facto role of 'America's Dad,' but these days, it's hard to deny that he's earned the title," Time writer Megan McCluskey wrote in February 2020. "As one of the most beloved actors of his generation, Hanks' effervescent influence has come to transcend his craft." That may be true — but before Hanks was an A-list superstar, his life was very different. Let's take a look.

Tom Hanks was an unpaid intern and slept on a friend's couch

Before Tom Hanks was a Hollywood-dominating star, he was a struggling actor trying to find his way. In a 2019 personal essay for AARP, Hanks recalled a time in 1978 when he "was completing [his] second season with the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival in Cleveland, with all of two leading roles on [his] yet-to-be-created résumé," after moving up from an unpaid internship.

Luckily, he met two more senior actors, George Maguire and Michael John McGann. Hanks explained, "[T]hey were the professionals I admired, examples of the kind of actor I wanted to be — and the kind of human being I hoped to become."

When Hanks found himself "an unemployed actor," Maguire and McGann told the younger performer to head to New York to find success. He listened, sleeping on McGann's couch until the friend co-signed a lease so Hanks could move into "a horridly dark and busted-up fourth-floor walk-up in Hell's Kitchen," something that the star described as "a moment of risky generosity [he] will never, ever forget." It may have been a risk, but it was certainly one that paid off in the end. By 1980, Hanks had made his film debut with a minor role in a horror film, and by the end of the decade, he'd earned his first Academy Award nomination for Big (via The Standard). The rest, as fans know, is history. Hanks' story is proof that everyone has to start somewhere!