[Here's Deborah with a personal story that any movie-loving reader with a kid (or that hopes to have one might enjoy). How will you introduce them to the movies? And who will they love onscreen? - N]
Tom Hanks was my son's first favorite actor.
I started my son on classic movies when he was just eight years old. Arthur has Asperger's, and was intensely sensitive to any content that was even vaguely upsetting. At the age of nine, he could have worked for Screenit.com or the MPAA. My solution was to introduce him to movies from a time of more delicate sensibilities. Starting with Miracle on 34th Street, we moved to Arsenic and Old Lace, which opened into a long-term screwball comedy kick. Musicals, too, became a major part of our lives, up to and including Arthur's passion for Gene Kelly and his entry into dance school.
But at the movie theater, it was strictly kid stuff: Pixar, Harry Potter, Batman. Christmas of 2002, I asked my then-twelve-year old if he wanted to see a grown-up movie. He loved Catch Me If You Can. About a year later, I heard him say that Tom Hanks was his favorite actor. I was surprised, but realized that in fact, we'd seen Forrest Gump at home together, and he'd seen Apollo 13 at school, making Tom Hanks one of the few living actors that Arthur had seen in multiple movies, and the only one he really remembered.
Tom Hanks, all-American, the late 20th/early 21st century Jimmy Stewart. Arthur liked Hanks; he found he could connect to him. Hanks is also, I'd argue, one of the most tasteful modern actors. He knows how to read a script with a discerning eye. Sure, he's made some clunkers (Larry Crowne), but in general, Hanks's name in the cast adds credibility to a film. I mean, is John Cusack less talented than Tom Hanks? I don't think so, but his career suggests he has no ability to tell wheat from chaff, so when you see that Cusack is in a movie, you don't think, "Well, it'll probably be good."
But Hanks, with his pretty good taste and his aw-shucks accessibility, has managed to star in a whole bunch of movies that are just about perfect for introducing someone to the love of film. You can start with his voice in Toy Story, and eventually land as an adult at Captain Phillips, perhaps stopping at Saving Mr. Banks in the tween years.
I checked in with Arthur while writing this article. His favorite actor is now Liev Schreiber, but he still admires Tom Hanks.