Tom Hanks is the greatest. You can’t argue that. In fact, if you know anyone who actively dislikes Mr. Hanks, you need to reconsider your relationship with them. There is perhaps no one America loves more than the man who played Woody, Forrest, Jim Lovell and so many other iconic figures in cinema.
In celebration of Hanks’s latest film, A Hologram for the King, we are going to explore five performances from the master that didn’t reward him with as much praise and raves as, say, Philadelphia. This is an exercise proving that Hanks can bring it, anytime and anywhere. Even his B-sides or deep cut performances are worthy of your time.
Here are just five of many, many terrific Tom Hanks milestones.
Some people really, really love The Wachowiski Sisters’ Cloud Atlas. Some people really, really loathe it. Wherever your opinion lies, it’s hard to deny that Hanks turns in some fascinating, unique and mind-bending work here. Like all the performers in the film, Hanks plays multiple characters, from a future scavenger to a lowly British thug. He’s certainly stretching himself creatively in the film, employing a variety of emotions, accents and characteristics. This is some heavy lifting and Hanks pulls it off. It’s exciting to see an actor at that point in his career pushing himself in such a way. Most A-list stars wouldn’t be on board for a film like this but Hanks is all in.
The reviews weren’t too kind to Cloud Atlas and the audience didn’t materialize, meaning the film faded quickly. It came and went and isn’t talked about nearly enough these days. Yet, Tom Hanks’s work is very worthy of conversation.
The Money Pit
Tom Hanks is a funny guy. An insanely funny guy, in fact. Funny and well-adjusted and just all around a great man. This all comes across in The Money Pit, a comedy about a newlywed couple who buy a seemingly perfect house that quickly unravels into a financial and physical mess. The movie – including Hanks and Shelley Long – is fantastic and shows that laugh-out-loud hilarious side of Hanks we rarely see anymore. We all know the man can deliver a laugh but the silliness has faded a bit lately. Well, unless you’re talking about Tom Hanks on a talk show…
Any Late Night Show
Remember the Conan O’Brien/Jay Leno/NBC fiasco from a few years back? Remember how people were proclaiming their allegiance to O’Brien by saying they were “with Coco”? And do you know who came up with that nickname for Conan? Why, none other than Tom Hanks. Hanks started referring to the redheaded host as Coco during one of his many riotous appearances on the show. The man fits so well in late night.
Hanks is one of the greatest guests for O’Brien or Kimmel or Colbert. He regularly lit up David Letterman’s Late Show and was even one of his final guests. His repertoire with any host is so inviting and fun and his willingness to do just about anything is charming and not a bit surprising. He’s personable and bubbly and loud and expressive and just flat-out great. Always down for a gag or razzing his host or even partaking in a silly sketch, Tom Hanks has become must-watch TV. His sit-downs on various shows should be part of every conversation about Hanks, they’re just that special.
Bridge of Spies
This one is tricky because it was critically acclaimed and celebrated upon release. It even won an Oscar! Yet Bridge of Spies will likely be remembered as one of Hanks’s lesser roles, not one of the major performances people will showcase decades from now. That’s a damn shame because Hanks puts on an acting clinic in this engaging Cold War drama. He plays a man sent into enemy territory to get American prisoners back so a lot is on the line here. Hanks balances that urgency with his classic everyman demeanor and creates a relatable, human hero.
People sometimes forget Tom Hanks is an acting powerhouse. In fact, he can act circles around many of his contemporaries. You sometimes forget the man is acting because he makes it look so easy and so natural. Natural: that’s Tom Hanks in a nutshell.
That Thing You Do!
People have seem to have forgotten that That Thing You Do! is a terrific film. Not only is Tom Hanks wonderful in his role as Mr. White, he’s also the writer and director of the movie. So here we have Hanks pulling triple duty: performer, filmmaker and screenwriter. And he pulls it off deftly. Of course he does, he’s Tom Hanks.
A film like That Thing You Do! could have ended up as a nostalgic bore with generic characters and a tired story. While the plot, about an American band that makes it huge in the 1960’s, is obviously similar to many true life tales, Hanks peppers the picture with inspired performances and truly memorable tunes.
People enjoy That Thing You Do! but they don’t treat it like the modern classic it is. They also don’t give enough credit to Hanks who proved he could carry an entire film from conception to production to release. This was a labor of love for Hanks and you can tell. We love watching it just as much as he loved making it.