The World According to Tom Hanks
The World According to Tom Hanks, Gavin Edwards
Published 2018, 301 pages (an additional 40 pages of Sources at the end)
Not a typical biography, this book is a compilation of Hanks’ youth, relationships, movies, and interests. It’s a lighthearted read that will probably appeal mostly to fans of the actor and his movies – that’s me! I especially enjoyed the chapter titled Random Acts of Hilarity and Kindness – many stories I had not heard.
In the author’s acknowledgements at the end of the book he says: "Thanks most of all to Tom Hanks himself. This is not an authorized biography, but when I first contacted him about this book, he sent back a delightful letter (typed of course), saying “Regarding the world according to me, I am not against the use of time and paper to record such for posterity.” Although his busy schedule didn’t allow him to sit for a one-on-one interview with me before my deadline, he was unflaggingly gracious about this book: when his friends and colleagues asked him directly whether it was okay for them to talk with me, he repeatedly gave them his blessing." [By the way, speaking of typing, I read Hanks' book "Uncommon Type" which is a selection of short stories and each story has a reference to a typewriter].
This is not an in-depth study of Hanks and his life, it’s a casual and fun portrait of his life and his nice-guy image. Personally, because I’ve seen so many of his movies (42 of the 54) I liked reading the breakdowns of all his movies, that takes up the last part of the book, even the ones I haven’t seen.
The miscasting of Hanks turned out to be the least of Bonfire of the Vanities problems: artistically and commercially, the movie flailed around like a dolphin trying to do calculations. It wasn’t a big enough flop that Hanks had to enter the witness protection program – but just barely. (I found that comment amusing) The most interesting part of Hanks’ portrayal was how he exercised his clout in the casting session for Sherman’s mistress: after reading dialogue with both Melanie Griffith and Uma Thurman, Hanks thought that Griffith had an indefinable spark and that Thurman, while beautiful, was acting on a level more appropriate for a high school play. He didn’t throw a tantrum, but at the appropriate moment he quietly informed the studio “I just can’t act with Uma”, and got his way.
There were many instances where Hanks’ trademark humor was highlighted, such as:
Hanks conceded that he wasn’t “impervious to perks” – he went on vacation with Bruce Springsteen and Barak Obama, he spent quality time on David Geffen’s yacht, and he compared private planes to crack cocaine. (He hadn’t flown commercial since the late 1980s.) As he joked when one particular vacation attracted attention, “Is this what’s going on with social media, that Oprah and I cannot go on a billionaire’s boat to Tahiti with a former president of the United States and not keep it secret for godsakes?”
He didn’t belong to the school of Method acting, and dismissed actors who tried to stay in character for the duration of a film shoot. Asked about what memories he channeled when he had to look haggard on screen in Cast Away, he scoffed, “You mean when I crossed my eyes and thought about my dog that died when I was seven? It didn’t work like that. It was just acting. That’s what they pay me to do.”
Not being a baseball fan I found Hank’s love of baseball unimaginable - “I don’t root for the home team, I don’t root for the visiting team. I root for baseball to last as long as possible. I root for extra innings. Let’s go fourteen!”
I loved the movie Captain Phillips and it was fascinating to me to learn that the scene at the end where Hanks is safe aboard the ship and in the room with a medic was unscripted and unplanned – she was a true medic, she was not an actress. Hanks said to her: “I just want you to react to how I’m acting.” After the scene, she told the director that “Tom’s blood pressure is really, really high.”
Overall, certainly not a great celebrity biography, no major revelations, but I found it enjoyable. How many of Tom Hanks’ movies have you seen and what was your favorite? Mine is Apollo 13 which is also in my top 5 all-time favorite movies. His other movies that I love are Captain Phillips, Bridge of Spies, Saving Private Ryan, Big, and Charlie Wilson’s War. So many others are also terrific. Most of all, I love Tom Hanks' humor and kindness.
photo via Getty Images