What You Didn't Know About Tom Hanks

Academy Award-winning actor Tom Hanks has been wooing audiences for more than four decades with iconic films like "Castaway," "Forrest Gump," "Philadelphia," and "Apollo 13." Though his first on-screen credit was the 1980 feature-length horror film called "He Knows You're Alone," Hanks quickly found his place as a staple in the television sitcom realm. Many Tom Hanks fans have fond memories of him donning a brown curly wig and dancing in a towel with co-star Peter Scolari in the opening of "Bosom Buddies." By the mid-1980s, Hanks proved he was leading man material, starring opposite Daryl Hannah in "Splash" and Tawny Kitaen in "Bachelor Party."

A few short years later, Hanks would marry his second wife, Rita Wilson, and begin what is one of Hollywood's most famously solid marriages. He met Wilson on the set of "Bosom Buddies" and also appeared with her in "Volunteers."

While Hanks seemed to gravitate toward comedies in the '80s, he quickly proved there was nothing he couldn't do, and he had a knack for selecting roles that were made for him. Or rather, the actor himself made the role into something uniquely his. Whether he was playing a slow-witted man who accomplishes great things or a lawyer who's discriminated against for his sexuality and HIV status, Hanks racked up awards for his emotional and heartfelt portrayals. But what else is there to know about the man? Keep reading for some surprising things about Tom Hanks you might not have known.

He's not afraid to transform into his characters

If there's one actor who can virtually carry a movie, it's Tom Hanks. In 2000's "Castaway," most of the movie features the main character, Chuck, stranded on an island after a plane crash. Since Chuck is there for four years, Hanks had to show his character losing weight and growing a beard. According to Showbiz CheatSheet, Hanks lost 50 pounds as he morphed into the character and production halted for him. 

He also physically changed for "Philadelphia." Since his character was battling AIDS, Hank's body needed to show the disease taking its toll. This time, the loss came after having to gain weight for his role as Jimmy, the coach in "A League of Their Own." "There was a couple days I couldn't stand up without grabbing the edge of the chair and I also was always looking at my watch because snack time, an hour and 15 minutes," he shared of his weight loss journey for the film at a press junket for "Sleepless in Seattle," (via Showbiz CheatSheet).

And it's not just his physical appearance that makes him seem so different in each of his roles. Steven Spielberg — a frequent collaborator with Hanks — spoke about how the actor embodies each part he takes. "Well, for me, everything that Tom does is a surprise to me because I don't recognize him. I know Tom so well, but I don't recognize the character he plays," Spielberg told Vulture.

The actor has also written three screenplays

If his acting prowess wasn't enough to secure him a spot in the elite club of Hollywood royalty, Tom Hanks also has some impressive writing credits to his name. "That Thing You Do!" was not only his directorial debut, he also wrote the screenplay for the fun and inspiring movie. According to Deadline, Hanks wrote the script during a global press tour for "Forrest Gump." Hanks shared, "I had talked about myself for a year straight so I started writing to maintain some sort of creative sanity."

Alongside actor Nia Vardalos, Hanks also wrote "Larry Crowne," a movie he starred in as well. The film is about a man who loses his job after his company downsized. The actor told the Los Angeles Daily News: "I wanted to examine the theme of reinvention, and not reinvention by the way of fate dictating it but by your own proactive place in how you move onto the next chapter of your life."

His most recent writing endeavor was the World War II movie, "Greyhound," which he starred in, too. Hanks adapted the screenplay from C.S. Forester's 1955 novel, "The Good Shepherd." When he spoke to "Today" about the film, which follows a merchant ship under attack from the Germans, he said people often asked him why this film, this era. Hanks answered: "Because I keep going back to examine the human condition of how does one deal with a pressure that never lets up."

Tom Hanks collects typewriters and wrote a book featuring them

Given Tom Hanks' love for creative writing, it makes sense one of his hobbies is collecting typewriters. In October 2017, he spoke to NPR's David Greene about what some have called an "obsession" but Green referred to as "a love affair," and how Hanks' love of the typewriter inspired his book, "Uncommon Type." The book, which was released in 2017, features 17 short stories written by Hanks, some more obviously featuring a typewriter, while others are more subtle. As Hanks told PBS Newswire, "Yeah, there're little Easter eggs we scattered throughout."

Hanks mentioned he collects typewriters the same way others would collect vintage guitars. He said, "There's a beauty, an aesthetic quality to them that I just admire them." But more importantly to Hanks, he loves the perfection of the typewriter's function. "They do one thing. And only one thing. You can't make a phone call on a typewriter," he explained. 

He went on to elaborate the permanence of what a typewriter can create, a physical representation of what is on one's mind. He compared it to something chiseled in stone. As far as the book goes? Hanks admitted at least one of the stories, "A Special Weekend," was based on his own life experiences and observations.

He outed a teacher during his Oscars acceptance speech

When Tom Hanks speaks, people listen, but that might not always be a good thing — especially if he's talking about you during his Oscars acceptance speech, revealing something you might not be ready for millions to hear. That's why in 1994, when Hanks accepted the award for Best Actor for his role in "Philadelphia," a story about a gay lawyer who is discriminated against, viewers were surprised when he mentioned a former teacher and a classmate, saying, "I mention their names because they are two of the finest gay Americans, two wonderful men that I had the good fortune to be associated with."

Rest assured the ever-thoughtful Hanks didn't take such liberties on a whim. Entertainment Weekly reported that Hanks placed a call to that former teacher, Rawley Farnsworth, three days before the awards and asked permission to mention him should he win. However, it's not clear whether Farnsworth knew that Hanks would be that specific. Though he was already retired from teaching, the climate of the time wasn't the most accepting of gay people.

This scenario registered with producer Scott Rudin, who had seen the Oscars moment unfold. The EW article goes on to say that Rudin used this moment to produce the comedy "In & Out," starring Matt Dillon as an actor who outs his gay teacher during his award acceptance speech, which goes to show just how powerful Hanks influence really is. 

His brother's voice is on Woody merchandise

"There's a snake in my boots." There's not many people, children and adults alike, who don't recognize that famous quote belted out by Woody from "Toy Story" and smile when they hear it. And if you're wondering how Tom Hanks has the time to be an actor, director, screenwriter, and voice all the toys, games, and merchandise for his films ... he doesn't. According to Digital Spy, Woody's voice for all of the merchandise actually belongs to Tom's brother, Jim Hanks, who also voiced Woody in "Lamp Life," a "Toy Story" short film. 

When Tom was on "The Graham Norton Show" in 2011, Norton whipped out one of the Woody dolls, pulled the string, and point blank asked the actor if that was his voice. Amused, Tom admitted it was his brother Jim, to which Norton responded that he'd thought it was an urban myth. Tom explained that their voices were so similar and that it made sense, adding, "There are so many computer games and video things and Jim just, he works on those all year long." 

Jim's dubbing of Tom's characters isn't just relegated to Woody, either. He also has an IMDb credit for "The Polar Express" video game, in which he voices the conductor, Santa, and Hobo, all roles voiced by Tom in the original movie.

Tom Hanks has played a captain six times

Who knew when Tom Hanks proclaimed, "Houston, we have a problem," as Apollo 13's Captain Jim Lovell, it wouldn't be the only time he played a captain. In fact, Hanks has played the role of a captain at least six times, as of this writing. 

In 1998's war film "Saving Private Ryan," Hanks played Captain Miller, who bravely sacrificed himself to help save his men. His next opportunity to slide into the captain's chair came in 2013 as Captain Phillips in the movie of the same name. "Captain Phillips" is the real-life story of a merchant mariner whose vessel was taken over by Somali pirates who held him hostage. Hanks told ABC News about the filming: "It was terrifying, and we knew it was fake." And for his bravery — as well as his talent — he received a Best Actor Academy Award nomination, just as he did for playing Captain Miller in "Saving Private Ryan."

In 2013, Hanks would take on the role of another real-life captain: Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger. Directed by Clint Eastwood, "Sully" covers the harrowing events of Captain Sullenberger making an emergency landing on the Hudson river and the traumatic aftereffects it had on the pilot. Hanks' latest captain roles both came in 2020, as Captain Kraus in "Greyhound" and Captain Kidd in "News of the World." In a slight change of pace, Hanks has also played a colonel, Colonel Tom Parker, in the film "Elvis."

His Happy Days spot led to his role in Splash

When Tom Hanks was cast in a 1982 guest role on the popular television series "Happy Days," he probably didn't foresee the fortuitous encounter that would launch his career to next-level success. In fact, even visionary icon Ron Howard, who starred in "Happy Days," didn't have much faith in Hanks landing the lead role in question.

Per USA Today, Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, who wrote "Splash," (a 1984 film about a man who meets a mermaid), were also consulting on "Happy Days" at the time Hanks was filming his guest role. Though Hanks was playing a bully, they thought he'd be great as the "every man" character Allen Bauer for their new movie. Howard, who was directing the film, recalled to Us Weekly, "Hanks had no chance in hell." Howard felt the studio execs wouldn't give him the green light. But according to Mandel, "Tom came in and blew the doors off the joint. He was tremendously funny."

Of course, "Splash" was a hit, and the rest, as they say, is history. Hanks was propelled onto a string of leading roles, like "The Man With One Red Shoe," "Big," "Turner & Hooch," and "Joe Versus the Volcano," in which he plays an unassuming man put in a seemingly impossible situation.

He's the second-ever actor to win back-to-back Oscars

If you're a sports fan, you know how rare winning back-to-back championships are. It's even more rare to win back-to-back Oscars, and if we're talking the Academy Award for Best Actor? There's only been two ever! Well, actually four in lead actor: two women and two men. But given they're still separate categories, let's focus on Best Actor.

The first male actor to earn the honor was Spencer Tracy. He won for "Captains Courageous" in 1937 and "Boys Town" in 1938. "Tracy was best known for playing fundamentally decent characters whose innate wisdom won the day in spite of outward flaws," Variety noted. Sound familiar?

Given that over five decades had passed since Tracy's consecutive wins, it was an amazing accomplish for Hanks when he won Best Actor twice in a row: For 1993's "Philadelphia" and 1994's "Forrest Gump." In 1999 and 2001, he received Best Actor Oscar nominations for "Saving Private Ryan" and "Castaway," respectively, but then he would see an almost 20-year dry spell in which he wasn't nominated by the Academy for his acting. A 2019 Indiewire article examined the situation and uncovered several reasons for the gap. One was his consecutive wins, and that the bar became higher after them. Insiders also believed Hanks respected the honor of his wins and simply didn't campaign aggressively for his other nominations in the years that followed.

Tom Hanks was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom

What do Bill and Melinda Gates, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Vin Scully, and Tom Hanks have in common? They're all recipients of the 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

Considered the highest civilian award, the Medal of Freedom was established in 1945 by Harry S. Truman and was intended to honor actions by civilians during World War II. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy established the honor as we know it today. According to the White House Archives, the Presidential Medal of Freedom is "presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."

Tom Hanks has certainly contributed to the world's cultural endeavors, providing laughter, inspiration, and insight through his portrayal of both fictional and real people. In the official announcement, President Barack Obama said: "The Presidential Medal of Freedom is not just our nation's highest civilian honor — it's a tribute to the idea that all of us, no matter where we come from, have the opportunity to change this country for the better." Hanks was selected (per the announcement) because of the "indelible mark" he's left on American film and his work as an advocate. "Hanks has advocated for social and environmental justice, and for our veterans and their families." After receiving his medal, Hanks stated, "This is a great, incredible moment for all the Hanks family."

He's a fan of random acts of kindness

There might be another reason to love Tom Hanks in movies and on TV, and it has nothing to do with acting. Hanks typically plays someone likable, an unlikely hero maybe, an everyday Joe who saves the day in some sense. And it's very possible those qualities exist in Hanks the man, so they aren't very difficult for Hanks to portray on screen. 

With his career-long reputation for being a nice guy, one would be hard pressed to find bad publicity about the man. On the contrary, there are countless stories of kind things Hanks has done for his fans and others. For example, The New York Times mentioned an instance when the shoot for "Angels & Demons" caused a wedding to be delayed because the bride couldn't get to the chapel. As such, Hanks stopped filming and escorted her and her father to the altar.

Time detailed more of these acts, including the time Hanks got a mailed request for a headshot and replied with a typewritten note and a '90s Polaroid of himself. In 2015, Hanks found a Fordham University student's ID in the park and posted on Twitter about it, writing, "Lauren! I found your Student ID in the park. If you still need it my office will get to you. Hanx." Another example: When he met Sarah Moretti, a fan with autism, he exuded kindness, saying, "Sweetie, how wonderful it is to meet you."

The actor's best buddies with other famous people

When you're the most trusted man in America and super kind, you're bound to have a lot of "friend requests." And with Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson forming one of Hollywood's sweetest and most solid unions, they make for the perfect celebrity double date. Now some of these might be a chicken/egg scenario (did they work together because they were friends or did they become friends because they worked together?) but either way, the result has been a long-lasting friendship. 

For example, he formed a bond with Bruce Springsteen in 1993 after he starred in "Philadelphia," which featured Springsteen's song "Streets of Philadelphia," per the Daily Mail. In 2012, the foursome was seen have a grand time together after the premiere of "Inventing David Geffen." In 2017, People reported on a secret jaunt Oprah took on David Geffen's yacht with Hanks, Springsteen, and Michelle and Barack Obama. Hanks spilled the tea to Stephen Colbert about the outing, gushing, "Look, imagine what it could've been like it, triple it. It was off the scale, fantastic."

The pair have also been known to pal around with George Clooney, Sally Field, Kurt Russel, Goldie Hawn, and Tim Allen. He was also really close with the late Peter Scolari, his "Bosom Buddies" co-star, whom he reunited with on "That Thing You Do!". Scolari died in 2021, and Hanks reminisced about their good times on the show during a guest spot on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

Tom Hanks filmed his first western in 2020

With the long and varied list of credits Tom Hanks has on IMDb, you'd think he would have done a western before 2020 — and no, "Toy Story" doesn't count. And though some might think one of his roles in "Cloud Atlas" might fit the time period, the film wasn't considered a western itself. This means that's 2020's "News of the World," set five years after the end of the Civil War, was Hanks' first film in the western genre. In the movie, Hanks plays a war veteran who is escorting a child across Texas. Along the way, he reads newspaper articles to people, charging them $0.10. Of his character, Hanks told "Today," "Captain Kidd is kind of like the original podcaster."

But don't worry; as timid and mild as this sounds, Hanks does get to experience some of the traditional western pastimes, like wielding a gun from behind a rock and riding a horse. How does he feel about finally moseying into a western? "I love the saddle, and I love the horse, and I love to be outdoors," he told Savannah Guthrie.  

Hanks also explained why it took him so long to don a wide-brimmed hat. During a press event for the film (via CinemaBlend) Hanks responded that westerns just aren't made as often anymore, before elaborating, "The science fiction movie has really taken the concept of the western away. Blasters and lightsabers instead of bows and arrows and six guns." 

He has an impressive net worth

With over 40 years in the film industry, Tom Hanks has amassed a fortune. According to Celebrity Net Worth, Hanks has an impressive $400 million in the bank. That number's not really surprising, though, due to his extraordinary box office success.

For most of his career, Hanks has been one of the highest-paid actors in some of the highest-grossing films of all time. Throughout the 1990s, Hanks' movies were the second highest-grossing in the adjusted domestic box office, after only Samuel L. Jackson, per Ultimate Movie Rankings. With the release of "Forrest Gump," he was ranked the highest earner for a single production, due in large part to him giving up his $7 million salary for a higher share of the movie's profits. That decision came as he and director Robert Zemeckis had to foot the bill for a few scenes the studio refused to pay for. And the gamble seemed to pay off, as he made a whopping $65 million off that movie alone, reported Celebrity Net Worth. Quite a big jump from the salary he made from "Splash," which was only $70,000.

It only took the actor four years after "Splash" to hit the million mark for his salary, when he earned $1.75 million for the movie "Big." Ten years later, he pulled in a cool $40 million for "Saving Private Ryan." Add to that his executive producing and writing credits, and it's safe to say Hanks is living the high life.