People

Five Iconic Roles Of Tom Hanks That You Can’t Afford To Miss 

Archita Kashyap - 52 weeks ago

Amongst the world’s most recognised movie stars and an icon who bridges all kinds of cinema with ease, here’s what went into delivering Tom Hanks’ most memorable performances

Some movie icons do have birthdays but they never really age. As time goes by, their work becomes timeless and valuable with each subsequent viewing of their classic films. Tom Hanks perhaps leads this list amongst the current living actors. Hanks, the eternal nice guy and positive force, has given unforgettable performances many times. Here are our picks and all that went in Hanks’ prep to play these parts. 

Forrest Gump (1994) 

(Director Robert Zemeckis and Tom Hnaks in a behind the scene image from Forrest Gump)

To play this character, Hanks reversed typical casting norm. Instead of finding a child actor that would fit with his body language and voice, Hanks prepared to sound like Michael Connor Humphreys, the child actor playing him in this American classic. He hung out with Humphreys and recorded their conversations. The young actor had a strong Tennessee accent and had a peculiar way of standing up with his hands by the side of this back. Hanks adapted all of these to build upon his best known character. He maintained this drawling accent and specific body language throughout the film. 

Philadelphia (1993) 

(Tom Hanks in a still from Philadelphia)

Tom Hanks almost didn’t get cast for his Oscar-winning role as Andrew Beckett, a young man who has AIDS and battles severe prejudice in the workplace. Daniel Day-Lewis was director Jonathan Demme’s first choice and the part of Denzel Washington as the lawyer defending Hanks was written for a comedic actor like Robin Williams. Day Lewis refused the part, angering its producer and director. Hanks offered himself, who hadn’t handled serious parts till this point. Hanks kept his prep to himself, focusing on the script and recalling his interactions with gay men over time. His performance moved many to tears and had the gay community polarised. The touching song by Bruce Springsteen, Streets of Philadelphia, was inspired by the real city streets of poorer districts. Slowly growing on audiences, Streets of Philadelphia became a controversy driven hit when a renowned gay activist in the USA wrote an article saying, “Why I hated Philadelphia.” In this very year, Hanks beat Daniel Day-Lewis to win the Best Actor Oscar, with the latter being nominated for his performance in In the Name of the Father

Saving Private Ryan (1998) 

(Tom Hanks in a still from Saving Private Ryan)

Hanks has worked with Steven Spielberg on quite a few films. His experience proved to be most intense while working on Saving Private Ryan. Having gotten hold of the script, Hanks jumped at the phone call from Spielberg asking him to take up the film. Together, they thought it through, to create a war film beyond genre and heroism trappings that mark World War II movies. Preparing for the role of Sergeant Miller, a civilian before the war, meant Hanks and his co-actors had to undergo a week’s physically strenuous and mentally demanding training outdoors. In charge of their training was a US Marine drill sergeant Dale Dye. Weary and exhausted by the end of this week, this training built teamwork and camaraderie amongst the film’s cast, which came through effortlessly while shooting. 

Captain Phillips (2013)

(Tom Hanks in a still from Captain Phillips)

Tom Hanks began his prep for this part by meeting the real Captain Richard Phillips, an experienced Merchant Marines officer who has had to face life threatening challenges like a hurricane at sea and a fire on-board a ship. His role in saving his crew from Somali pirates drives this gritty Paul Greengrass thriller. Hanks found the captain surprisingly unassuming and down to earth, almost like his journey is not worth all the attention. Handling a massive ship with a huge crew, that operates under the controls of different unions, for 3-4 months is his routine work day life. Hanks drew upon this normalcy of going to work every day to build up on the natural born heroism and presence of mind that Captain Phillips shows in the film. Greengrass shot long takes for this film, rarely giving his crew rehearsals or specific instructions. He preferred to capture them as they were. He preferred to capture their reactions as they flowed. When Somali pirates come on board to hijack the ship, is when Hanks and his co-actors met the Somali actors for the first time. The element of shock visible on their film is therefore, absolutely natural. 

Bridges of Spies (2015)

(Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg during the shooting of Bridge of Spies)

Tom Hanks was destined to play the role of insurance lawyer James Donovan. A film based on this subject was mooted way back in 1965 which had Gregory Peck and Alec Guinness as the lead star cast. But MGM declined to make the movie at the eleventh hour. As part of preparation for the role, Hanks devoured James B Donovan’s account of the Cold War spy incident titled ‘Strangers on a Bridge: The Case of Colonel Abel’. Tom Hanks also called out Mark Rylance before the shooting and requested to go through the scenes again and again. “Immediately after I read the screenplay, I did what everybody does – you just Google the guy you’re going to play. I Googled James Donovan and there was an awful lot and a lot of it was repetitious but I came across a piece on YouTube in which the real Donovan, when he was defending Abel, was interviewed at the courthouse and he literally stated the reason why he took the case and the reason why he carried it all the way to the extremes of the Supreme Court,” Hanks had remarked during a press conference in New York while promoting the film.

Tags

Tom Hanks / Forrest Gump / Philadelphia / Saving Private Ryan / Captain Phillips / Bridge of Spies / Steven Spielberg

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of The Film Hashery.

Sign up to get access to the stories behind films and conversations on cinema worldwide.