Born: July 9, 1956, California | Successful For: Actor | Zodiac Sign: Cancer
3 Keys To Success From Tom Hanks’ Biography:
Tom Hanks Endured A Confused Childhood, Making Mistakes And Failing Early Led To Bigger Things:
Tom Hanks had a very confusing childhood that involved a lot of moving and included many added step brothers and sisters when his father divorced and remarried a Chinese woman. He claimed “he grew up in a fractured family”. As a student, Hanks was a very unpopular, timid and shy kid amongst other classmates and teachers as well. Hanks has noted that he often felt lonely as a child and as a teenager, which often bothered him emotionally. Watching movies and going to the cinema (alone), and eventually acting, was his form of therapeutic treatment that made him feel like he belonged. “As a young man, even if I was going to see a play or a film by myself, I didn’t feel like I was alone. There was something that was unfolding up there that brought me into it. And I recognized that. For those two hours, it made me feel like I belonged to something really good.”
Hanks worked many random jobs such as selling popcorn at the Oakland A’s games and working as a hotel bellman before realizing acting was his destiny. Looking hindsight, he recalls “And then it was like, wait, you can go to college and study theater? And act in plays? This is almost a racket, you know. And then when the opportunity came along to do it professionally, I thought I’d won the lottery.”
When he finally found his life’s work, he initially had no acting experience in college, but didn’t let that get in the way of pursuing it. In fact, he credits the fact that not getting a part in a college play was what actually allowed his career to pan out, because this circumstance propelled him to audition for a community theater play downtown. He would get the invite from the director to go to Cleveland which ignited his career.
Once Tom Hanks Was Inspired, He Put His Success Story In His Own Hands:
“As long as you as an individual… can convince yourself that in order to move forward as best you can you have to be optimistic, you can be described as ‘one of the faithful,’ one of those people who can say, ‘Well, look, something’s going to happen! Let’s just keep trying. Let’s not give up.”
Tom Hanks’ childhood was free roaming, as he was given a lot of freedom to try whatever he wished to do, and by the time he was in Junior High, he was wandering around trying to seek what he enjoyed most. Hanks considered himself “a free spirit” and the lack of pressure from parents assisted him in a big way.
Although his inspiration to become an actor came from a few angles, a major influence came after watching Stanley Kubricks’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. The film moved him on many levels, as it was, “the most influential film, movie, story, artistic package, whatever, that I ever saw. It was just bigger. It affected me much, much more than anything I had ever seen. There was just awe. I’ve seen that movie twenty-two times. In theaters, not on video tape. Every time I saw it, I saw something new, something else that Kubrick had put in. He was able to suspend my disbelief. I just felt, we are in space.”
As a gutsy 18 year old, Tom Hanks practically begged for a shot for a breakthrough by writing to Oscar winning Director George Roy Hill. In his infamous letter, he confidently showed his self-worth in a roundabout way, telling the director how it doesn’t matter how he gets discovered, but more importantly that he gets discovered.
Rather than be afraid, Tom Hanks learned to welcome the challenges and actually found joy in facing fear. He claims “If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.” Hanks embraced pressure, “My work is more fun than fun but, best of all, it’s still very scary. You are always walking some kind of high wire. I guess it’s like being a sportsman. When people ask great football stars or cricketers what they will miss most when the time comes to stop, they’ll tell you that it’s that moment when the ball comes to them. In that moment, there’s that wonderful anxiety, that feeling of “Please don’t let me screw this up”. If I didn’t have the chance to do what I do, it’s that, that I would miss more than anything. That terror is what makes me feel alive. It’s a wonderful feeling, unlike anything else in the world.”
Tom Hanks Sacrificed The Present For the Future And Took Big Risks:
Although we see Tom Hanks as this big A list actor, the money and fame did not come until several years later, after many flops, failed endeavors and essentially being broke for a period time.
He believes if he had lost his virginity in high school and was the popular kid who went to bachelor type parties, he wouldn’t have been who he is today. Rather, he had one girlfriend for a long time and took a drama class that opened his world. He would begin acting in school plays where he saw 5 different types of theater in a span of 10 weeks and began reading, watching and getting heavily intrigued by The Iceman Cometh.
Hanks initially thought acting classes were for people who liked “to make a lot noise and be rather flamboyant”, and although he was the quiet introverted type who watched movies closely and observed by himself, he decided to jump into it, wholeheartedly, regardless of the norms and limits he had in his head.
While attending university, he met the head of Great Lakes Theater Festival, and got the opportunity to intern in Cleveland during the summers, while working backstage for a community theatre in Sacramento during the winters. Although he learned a ton about production, lighting, and stage management, he felt like he was doing slave labor and decided to drop out of college.
Tom Hanks’ eventually eloped to New York City where he made his début in a low budget film in a drama rather than comedy. “It was a war of survival, really. I was a kid who had never been in such a big city before. I was on unemployment and trying to act.”
When it came to auditioning, Tom Hanks remembers being extremely frustrated a lot and he once sent in a video tape where he did roughly 200 takes and then did 200 more in a rehearsal and was so aggravated by the end, but recalls that he had memorized the lines to such perfection. Eventually he developed a new approach to auditions where he tried “not to care about them too much. So I was able to go in and be so casual, so nonchalant about impressing those people that I’d screw it up-as opposed to trying to show them how great and unique a talent you are. People hate you when you do that.”
“I want to have a good time myself. I don’t want to dread going to work no matter what the gig is. I think, selfishly, I will make sure that I have a good time; how about that?”
– Quote by Tom Hanks