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Tom Hanks, All-American

[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.


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Reader Comments (7)

What a lovely article. Totally fitting for Tom Hanks's style too. Sweet and relatable, but insightful too.

October 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTB

I'm very fond of him. After all Splash! was one of my very first "adult" films.

October 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Such a fun read!

It's curious because I'm also in my twenties and I was also taken to adult movies very early (my first 'big boy' movie was Jerry Maguire when I was 9) but I never really liked Tom Hanks until I was in my teen years and went through Big, Cast Away, Apollo 13 and Philadelphia (I had seen Forrest Gump when I was young on TV and I remember that I HATED it - I still do). Nevertheless, I still don't like him like many people seem to. He's a reliable, charming, dependent screen presence, that oozes charisma but I never linked his name, per se, to quality (this may have something to do with him doing the Robert Langdon movies -yikes).

My parents' favorite actors were, respectively, Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep (mom) and Dustin Hoffman and Glenn Close (dad) so those were the ones whose movies I found more and more around the house. And Dustin and Meryl were invariably the names I grew up favoring. My first big crush was Kate Winslet, which I had already seen in many movies but took me by surprise with 2004's Eternal Sunshine performance. I fell instantly in love.

October 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJorge Rodrigues

My first favourite actor too! "Cast Away" is his best, though I haven't seen "Captain Phillips".

October 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

Liev Schreiber? Where did that come from :D?

October 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAgent69

I agree that Hanks has excellent taste in material. You never hear anyone say "What was he thinking?" when discussing one of his roles.

I think his best acting was Forest Gump, a film I truly dislike. My favorite performances are Splash and Catch Me. I appreciate that he did Philadelphia. A lot of people thought it was a mistake and would damage his career.

October 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

We had a long conversation about Liev Schreiber, actually. I sort of interviewed him in preparing this article. He loves Shreiber's commitment, even to bad roles (I think he singled out the Wolverine movie).

Thanks to everyone for your positive responses! I loved writing this.

I'm a fan of Hanks myself. My favorite is Cast Away, but I also love the way he allows himself to recede into smaller roles, as in Catch Me if You Can or That Thing You Do.

October 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Lipp

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