From the archives: Tom Hanks talks to Saga Magazine

07 August 2006

Tom Hanks reveals the real man behind the Hollywood charmer in this article from 2006.

Read our 2016 interview with Tom Hanks

He’s no Mr Nice Guy

Tom Hanks is an easy-going charmer, who often seems surprised by his success. But Hanks wants us to know that he can be difficult to live with, both at home and on a film set. He flies into a furious temper if he doesn’t get his own way and is ruthless with money.

"I don’t particularly want to admit to the world I can be a bad person," says Hanks. "It’s just that I don’t want anyone to have false expectations. Movie-making is a harsh, volatile business and unless you can be ruthless, too, then there’s a good chance you will disappear off the scene pretty quickly. Appearances can be very deceptive – particularly in Hollywood."

A troubled upbringing

Born in July 1956, Hanks was not caught up in any fall-out from early fame, because he had none. But there’s a dark underbelly to his life.

The victim of a broken home, his father, Amos, a chef, left his mother, Janet, taking Tom (then five years old), his older brother Larry and his sister Sandra with him; a younger brother remained with his mother. From then on he rarely saw his mother.

His father remarried twice more; Hanks now has a stepbrother and four stepsisters from the first remarriage and a stepsister from the second.

His mother also remarried. At one point, he was known as “Number Nine” in a family of 16 siblings and step-siblings.

In search of stability

Hanks’s childhood left him in need of stability. "I was looking for something I hadn’t found as a kid," he says. But when he found it with actress Samantha Lewes, he was clearly unready.

Hanks walked out on their marriage, leaving two children, Colin, then aged seven years old, and three-year-old Elizabeth. Samantha revealed much bitterness in court papers served in 1985, shortly after Splash, his first major success.

She feared Hanks would siphon off money for himself and, in written evidence, told the court: ‘My husband has repeatedly verbally abused and humiliated me during the past 90 days in my home. This has caused me great emotional distress.'

A second chance at happiness

Hanks met his second wife, actress Rita Wilson, in 1984 when they made Volunteers. Talking about after his divorce, he says: "A broken marriage meant that I was sentencing my own kids to the sort of feelings I had at their age. I was just too young and insecure. I was 23 and my son Colin was already two when I married the first time. But I was not ready to take on those responsibilities."

Hanks is frank about how things might have been: "I’ve been lucky that success has come slowly," he says. "I was allowed to make bad decisions away from the spotlight, both in my career and private life. Had the success happened overnight, I would probably have suffered as many problems as some younger Hollywood stars."

Hanks’s relationship with his first wife became amicable, with time, and his older son and daughter get on well with sons Chester and Truman, from his marriage to Rita.

Reflections on a golden career

Hanks has played some terrific roles and plotted his career with care. But success has come at a price.

"My own life has not been as smooth as my career," he reflects. "I question myself: Have I ever been a hero to my kids? All I see is where I let them down, when I was on the road and missed their birthdays or yelled at them because I hadn’t had a second cup of coffee or something.

"Some people go to bed at night thinking: That was a good day. I’m one of those who worry and ask: How did I screw up today?”

On fame

"I know that I am going to pay for it, big time," he says ruefully. "The knives will be out one day. There are quite a few people no longer getting hired who were big stars ten years ago. So I’ve already overstayed my welcome. And, although I know so many actors say they’ve had luck, I’ve had more than my share. I have had it by the bucketload."

But for many directors Hanks is still the go-to guy. "When you need a star actor to stand up and be counted for a tough role, there’s no one better," says Ron Howard, director of The Da Vinci Code.

Read our 2016 interview with Tom Hanks

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