Tom Hanks Biography

PHOTO: Tom Hanks

From the simple and loveable title character in Forrest Gump, to a charismatic and liberal Texas congressman in Charlie Wilson's War, Tom Hanks has consistently demonstrated his versatility as an actor.

Thomas Jeffrey Hanks was the third of four children. Hanks' parents, Amos, a chef, and Janet, a hospital worker, divorced when Tom was young. Tom, his older sister Sandra, and older brother Larry, went to live with their father while the youngest, Jim, stayed with his mother.

The Hanks family grew through remarriage, with Amos's new wife bringing five children to the house. The marriage only lasted two years and Amos became a solo parent struggling to make ends meet for his children. The family moved around a lot - Tom would later tell an interviewer by the age of 10 he had had "three mothers, five grammar schools and ten houses".

With yet another new stepmother, the Hanks family settled in Oakland, California where Tom attended Skyline High School, excelling at soccer and athletics. Hanks also became interested in acting at high school appearing in productions of South Pacific and Twelfth Night and winning the school's best actor award in 1974.

Hanks continued acting, studying theatre at Chabot College while working part-time at a hotel. A performance of Eugene O'Neill's ‘The Iceman Cometh’ sealed Hanks' ambition to become an actor and he transferred to California State University.

Hanks struggled to win roles in the college productions so he auditioned for a theatre company's production of Chekov's 'The Cherry Orchard'. The director, Vincent Dowling, invited Tom to work at a Shakespeare Festival he was artistic director of in Cleveland. Hanks packed his bags and moved to Ohio to play Gremmie in 'The Taming of the Shrew'. Hanks' girlfriend, Samantha Lewes, moved with him when he returned to Cleveland the following year. This time he dropped out of college to take a role in 'Two Gentleman of Verona', which won him a best actor award from the Cleveland Critics Circle.

Hanks and Samantha moved to New York in 1979 where Samantha had their first child. Hanks struggled for work but had a couple of Shakespearean roles before making his screen debut in the slasher movie 'He Knows You're Alone', followed by the TV movie 'Mazes and Monsters'.

In early 1980 Hanks landed his first major role as one of the lead characters in the sitcom 'Bosom Buddies'. The Hanks family moved to California where their second child, Elizabeth, was born. 'Bosom Buddies' ended after two seasons and Hanks played small roles on 'Family Ties', 'The Love Boat' and 'Happy Days' where he fought The Fonz.

On 'Happy Days' he met Ron Howard, who played Richie Cunningham but, crucially, was also launching a career as a director. Howard asked Hanks to audition for a minor role in a movie he was making called 'Splash' in 1984.

Hanks ended up winning the lead role opposite Darryl Hannah, who played a mermaid washed up in modern day America. The film was a box office success and so his career was launched.

Hanks enjoyed a period of hits and misses over the next few years, appearing in several comedic roles in films such as 'Bachelor Party', 'The Man With One Red Shoe', and 'The Money Pit'. He also took a number of serious roles including 'Nothing In Common' and 'Every Time We Say Goodbye'. His marriage to Samantha ended in 1985, despite Tom taking a break from movies to involve his wife more in his work.

There were a couple more films ('Dragnet', 'Punchline') before Hanks made his breakthrough movie. 1988's 'Big' established Hanks as a star. The film saw Hanks play a kid who wishes he was a grown-up and has his wish fulfilled by a fair-ground fortune machine. His portrayal of a kid in a man's body delighted audiences and the film grossed over $100 million at the box office. In 1988 Hanks married Rita Wilson, an actress he had met on 'Bosom Buddies'.

Hanks followed up his first hit movie with what he now admits were some bad decisions. 1989's 'Turner and Hooch' was a mediocre film, as was The 'Burbs' (1989) and 'Joe Versus the Volcano' (1990). 'Bonfire of the Vanities' threatened to finish his career after it was rated as one of the biggest flops ever. Despite this, the year finished on a high note with the birth of son Chester.

Hanks played a baseball coach in 'A League of Their Own' in 1992, the film marking the beginning of a juggernaut of hits for the actor. The romantic comedy 'Sleepless in Seattle' with Meg Ryan was a massive hit and his turn as a gay lawyer with AIDS in the drama 'Philadelphia' won him an Oscar for Best Actor.

'Forrest Gump' in 1994 saw Hanks play a simple-minded man who lurches heart-warmingly through American history and was a runaway success. Hanks won his second Best Actor Oscar, the first person to win consecutive awards for 55 years. The momentum continued into 1995, with Hanks voicing the character of Woody in the hit children's movie 'Toy Story' and then making another blockbuster as an astronaut in Ron Howard's 'Apollo 13'.

A brief respite to write and direct 'That Thing You Do' was followed up by the romantic comedy 'You've Got Mail', again with Meg Ryan, and then the epic and critically-acclaimed war movie 'Saving Private Ryan'.

The Steven Spielberg film was yet another massive success for Hanks who was awarded a Distinguished Public Service Award, the highest award the Navy can offer a civilian. Spielberg won an Oscar for his direction. The pair reunited to recreate the film for television when they made the series 'Band of Brothers', about US paratroopers in the Second World War, which was another acclaimed success.

Next was 'The Green Mile', hit, 'Toy Story 2', hit, 'Cast Away', hit, 'Road to Perdition', a slight slip - it only made $180 million. 'Catch Me If You Can' with Leonardo DiCaprio in 2002 was another return to box office success followed by 'The Terminal' and 'The Polar Express' in 2004.

In 2006, Hanks starred in the adaptation of the massively popular novel 'The Da Vinci Code'. Splash, in 1988, was considered a hit making $69 million to date. The Da Vinci Code has made $758 million in two years. The total revenue from his films exceeds $5 billion. It goes without saying that Hanks is a very rich man.

In 2007, Hanks played the role of Charlie Wilson, a charismatic and liberal Texas congressman, in 'Charlie Wilson's War'. The movie tells the tale of how Wilson joins forces with his sometimes lover, Houston socialite and active anti-communist Joanne Herring (played by Julia Roberts) and CIA Operative Gust Avrakotos (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman), in the largest and most successful covert operation in history - the arming of the Afghan freedom fighters in their fight against the Soviet Union.

This was followed by ' The Great Buck Howard' in 2008, in which he played a father unhappy with his son's (played by real-life son Colin) decision to follow in the footsteps of a fading magician.

In 2009, he reprised his role as Robert Langdon for the follow-up to the Da Vinci Code - 'Angels and Demons', which is also based on a Dan Brown novel. It was reported that Hanks would receive the highest salary ever for an actor.

He also produced Spike Jonze's 'Where the Wild Things Are' in the same year. This wasn't the actor's first foray into producing as he helped his wife Rita produce 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' in 2002 as well as 'The Ant Bully' and 'Starter for Ten' in 2006.

In 2010, Hanks reprised his role as Woody in 'Toy Story 3' and teamed up with Spielberg once again to produce the ten part miniseries 'The Pacific' about America's role in Japan during the Second World War.

He directed and starred in 'Larry Crowne' with Julia Roberts in 2011, which proved to be a flop. He will be appearing in 'Cloud Atlas' in 2012 and 'Captain Philips' in 2013.

Hanks has four children, the fourth, Chester, was born in 1990. He is a sports fan, listing the Oakland Athletics baseball team and Aston Villa football team as favourites.

He also has a great interest in space and sits on the board of the National Space Society. He also wrote, produced, and directed the miniseries From the Earth To The Moon. On his MySpace page Hanks lists "old manual typewriters" as a hobby.

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