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  • Simon Garner

Actor of the Week: Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks pointing

This week’s Actor of the Week needs absolutely no introduction. It comes in a week where I watched all three Robert Langdon films, and while I was a newcomer to these, I was fully aware of the genius of the actor - the one and only Tom Hanks. Hanks has been there and done it all, from voice work to all time classics, is there nothing he hasn’t done, and done extremely well? He is an actor who straddles generations and endears himself to all ages and tastes. In my book, he’s up there with a shout for the greatest actor ever, and I’m sure I’m not alone.

Hanks’ career began without any acting education at a college level. He actually auditioned for a community play, and was invited elsewhere by the director thereafter, and the rest is history. Since this stroke of luck, he has been prolific in the quality he has turned out.

As previously mentioned, Hanks starred in The Da Vinci Code, and the two subsequent Langdon films, which are adaptations from Dan Brown’s critically acclaimed novels. In The Da Vinci Code, Hanks’ Professor Langdon, a religious symbology expert, is called upon by French authorities for his help solving a murder inside The Louvre. A sequence of clues are ultimately discovered within Da Vinci pieces, and Langdon, along with Audrey Tatou’s Sophie Neveu, are sent on a trail of mystery, making discoveries that could change the face of Christianity forever. Hanks is excellent in this. Without having read the books, I can’t say he is the perfect fit from that angle, but I certainly enjoyed his portrayal, regardless. Complete with a snazzy longer haircut, Hanks looks great and really pulls you in and takes you along on his mission.

Whilst Hanks has won two Oscars in his career, this somehow seems far less than I imagined. When you consider he has been in films like The Green Mile, Cast Away and The Terminal without winning, it’s quite astonishing. Cast Away did bring him a nomination, but somehow The Green Mile did not! His wins, both for Actors in a Leading Role, came two years in a row - in 1994 for Philadelphia, and in 1995 for Forrest Gump. In Philadelphia, Hanks plays Andrew Beckett, a gay lawyer with HIV. When Beckett is fired for having the disease, the only lawyer willing to take on his case is Denzel Washington’s Joe Miller, himself a homophobic. Throughout the case, Miller comes to realise Beckett is no different to any other man or woman, and broadens his own mind and views as a result.

The Terminal is a fantastic film, and one I somehow only got to watching fairly recently. Hanks plays Viktor Navorski, an immigrant from eastern Europe, who arrives at JFK airport with now-invalid papers, due to the collapse of his native government. This sees him forced into staying at the airport and making it a temporary home, and, along the way, befriending several staff members. This is a great example of Hanks’ diverse talent. He affects an eastern European accent with ease, and also makes you feel as though he really is stuck with nowhere to go. The resolution of this film is great, I’d recommend it to anyone that (somehow!) hasn’t seen it yet.

I couldn’t write this without mentioning the Toy Story films. These films are great for all ages, despite being animated and, primarily, aimed at the younger audience, such is the prowess of Disney Pixar in this respect. Yet more adaptability from Hanks, he provides the voice for Woody, the loveable, but sometimes hot-headed, cowboy toy, belonging to Andy. In Toy Story, Andy’s birthday sees him receive the new Buzz Lightyear, that season’s high-demand toy. This sets Woody off on one, as he goes from unrivalled Andy-favourite, to, for a time, second in line to Buzz. Once Woody knocks Buzz out of the window and into the despicable Sid’s grasp, Woody goes off on an adventure to retrieve Buzz. Whilst it may seem anyone could voice-act, I have always believed that it takes the best to be able to convey the proper emotions successfully, and Tom Hanks certainly falls into that category. Despite being in many a classic, Hanks’ voice has now become synonymous with Woody for the younger generation, and plenty of older people too.

If ever there was an actor who could be written about time and again, it’s Hanks. There are so many films I have not mentioned, but easily could have. However, those familiar with our Actor of the Week feature will know we like to celebrate our personal favourites, but also want to hear what everyone has to say, and there’s plenty to say regarding the legend that is Tom Hanks, so let’s hear it! Tom, from Life of Films, you got a friend in us!

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