Little-Known Facts About Acting Legend Tom Hanks

May 2, 2023 | Miles Brucker

Little-Known Facts About Acting Legend Tom Hanks

One of the most beloved actors of his generation, Tom Hanks is known for both his comedic and dramatic roles in Big, Sleepless in Seattle, Philadelphia, Forrest Gump, Saving Private Ryan, and as the voice of Woody in Toy Story. He’s received a Kennedy Center Honor, a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the French Legion of Honor, and was named one of Time magazine’s top ten college dropouts.

Here are a few facts about everyone’s favorite Captain: Tom Hanks.

1. The Glare Heard Round the World

Hanks has a reputation as the "nicest guy in Hollywood," and generally, he doesn't seem to have any big feuds with other stars or directors like many other actors have had. Perhaps because of this sterling reputation, though, fans were shocked when Sarah Jessica Parker was caught giving Hanks a death stare at a New York Rangers hockey game. It was an intense glare of pure hatred, but Parker tried to write it off, saying that the two had been joking around and that she adores Hanks.

tom hanks

2. Woody This, Woody That

There are few animated movies more beloved than Toy Story, and with a number of sequels, the cast is constantly being reunited—but it’s not always fun and games behind the scenes, as Tim Allen has revealed. Allen, who plays Buzz Lightyear in the film franchise, said that it’s difficult to work with Tom Hanks—if only because Hanks’ character, Woody, gets all the good lines.

Toy Story factsToy Story 2, Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar

3. Tragic Loss

Tom Hanks married his college sweetheart, Samantha Lewes, in 1978. They already had son Colin at the time, and the couple later had daughter Elizabeth. Although they divorced in 1987, they must have remained amicable, because when Lewes was diagnosed with cancer, Hanks paid all of her medical bills. As mother to his two children, how could he not? He paid her bills throughout multiple rounds of treatment, but sadly, Lewes passed on in 2002 from bone cancer.

Herod The Great factsShutterstock


4. Run, Chevy, Run!

We may have none other than...Chevy Chase (?) to thank for the Hollywood success of Tom Hanks. Chase was among the first picks for the leads of two films (Turner & Hooch and Splash) that became starring vehicles for a young rising talent by the name of Tom Hanks.

Hanks would go on to dominate the 1990s, which were a less than fortunate time in Chase’s career. We can’t put all the blame on his turning down those aforementioned films, but it didn’t help.

Chevy Chase facts Getty Images

5. I’ll Take an IOU

It’s safe to say that Forrest Gump is one of the highlights of Tom Hanks’ career, winning him an Oscar and making nearly $680 million at the box office, making it one of the highest grossing films of the 1990s. So you might be surprised that Hanks didn’t take any money upfront for being in the movie! He was so confident in the film that he was paid in percentage points of the film’s gross. His gamble paid off, as he earned $40 million for his troubles.

Best Films Of The 1990s facts We Love Budapest

6. He’s Barely Half Way Through

At the age of 45, he was the youngest ever to receive the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award, making everyone else on earth feel remarkably unaccomplished.

Tom Hanks facts

7. Historical Accuracy

Tom Hanks signed onto Forrest Gump after an hour and a half of reading the script, but agreed only to take the role if the film was historically accurate. He initially wanted to ease Forrest's pronounced Southern accent, but was eventually persuaded by director Robert Zemeckis to portray the heavy accent stressed in the novel.

Forrest Gump factsGetty Images

8. I Reckon' That Makes Sense

Tom Hanks ended up modeling his accent for Forrest Gump on the real-life accent of Michael Connor Humphreys, the boy who played young Forrest in the movie.

Forrest Gump factsForrest Gump, Paramount Pictures

9. What Could Have Been

Before Tom Hanks was cast as Captain John Miller in Saving Private Ryan, Spielberg considered Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford for the lead role. Given how much heart and soul Hanks gave to the role, it's hard to imagine anybody else in his place.

Saving Private Ryan factsSaving Private Ryan, Paramount Pictures

10. Not A Solo Shot

Saving Private Ryan was the only movie that Steven Spielberg directed up to that point in his career that he hadn’t developed on his own. Screenwriter Robert Rodat’s script was actually sent to Spielberg by his agent. In a stroke of luck, the script had also been sent to actor Tom Hanks, who wanted to make the movie. Spielberg and Hanks, who had never worked with each other at that point, called each other when they found out they were reading the same script and decided to collaborate on the movie. They went on to collaborate on four more films and a miniseries.

Saving Private Ryan factsGetty Images

11. Fling or Real Thing?

Hanks and wife Rita Wilson first met on the set of the sitcom Bosom Buddies in 1981, when Hanks was still married to first wife Samantha Lewes. Considering that Hanks and Lewes divorced in 1987, and Hanks remarried just a year later, it's often been rumored that Hanks and Wilson had an ongoing affair in the '80s. Hanks and Lewes' divorce papers don't do much to dispel the rumors: they tell the tale of a messy divorce, where each party was ordered not to "molest, attack, strike, threaten, sexually assault, batter or otherwise disturb the peace," with regards to each other.

How Cheaters Got Caught FactsShutterstock

12. Show Me the Money

At $9 billion worldwide, Hanks is the third highest grossing actor of all time, behind only Harrison Ford and Samuel L. Jackson. He just recently edged out Morgan Freeman for third place. That’s right. Tom Hanks beat God.

Princess Margaret, The Countess of Snowdon factsMax Pixel

13. I Am the Captain Always

Tom Hanks has played a captain in four different movies: Apollo 13 (1995), Saving Private Ryan (1998), Captain Phillips (2013), and Sully (2016). If you count Hanks' performance as Paul Edgecomb, who is the Captain of the Guards in The Green Mile (1999), that number is actually five!

Tom Hanks Factsshutterstock

14. Married to the Sea

In three of his movies (Splash, Joe Versus the Volcano, and Cast Away), Tom Hanks has been stranded at sea. Four, if you count Captain Phillips. Although technically, he wasn’t stranded. He was just taken captive. Stranded vs. Captive. Which one is better? Debate!

Tom Hanks FactsPexels

15. Leave No Man Behind

Hanks was inducted as an honorary member of the US Army Rangers Halls of Fame after his perfect depiction of an army captain in the movie "Saving Private Ryan".

Tom Hanks facts

16. Conversion Factor

Before he married Rita Wilson, he converted to Greek Orthodox, which is the religion of Wilson’s family.

Tom Hanks facts

17. Under Fire

Hanks found himself under fire over some comments he made while promoting his HBO series The Pacific. He said that during WWII the American population had a very negative and perhaps racist view of the Japanese. He drew parallels between WWII and the war against terror, which was raging at the time.  This had war supporters calling him up and accusing him of injecting racism into the wars.

Tom Hanks FactsGetty Images

The Verge

18. Either Way, It’s a Problem

One of Tom Hanks’ more famous lines is from the film Apollo 13, about a spaceflight disaster, where he says, "Houston, we have problem". The line, as originally spoken by astronaut Jack Swigert was "Okay, Houston, we’ve had a problem here," followed by Jim Lovell (Hanks’ character) confirming, "Uh, Houston, we’ve had a problem". Hanks changed the tense to make the line more immediate because he is a darn good actor.

Tom Hanks FactsGetty Images



Tom Hanks is a third cousin, four generations removed, of former President Abraham Lincoln. Hanks’ great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather was Lincoln’s great-great-grandfather. They're practically brothers!

Tom Hanks FactsArmed with Science

20. Rocket Man

A big fan of manned spaceflight, Hanks is on the Board of Governors of the "National Space Society," an organization founded by literal rocket scientist Dr. Wernher Von Braun.

Tom Hanks FactsWikimedia Commons

21. If You Weren’t Aware

In 2006, Hanks received the Douglas S. Morrow Public Outreach Award from the Space Foundation. This award is given to any individual or organization who contributes towards public awareness about space programs. Ironically, had he actually become an astronaut, Hanks would likely have done less for space exploration than as a movie star.

Tom Hanks FactsGetty Images

22. Boob Tube

Tom Hanks landed the lead role in television series "Bosom Buddies" alongside Peter Scolari where he and Scolari had to dress as women to stay in the one apartment they could afford. To this day, nobody can tell whether this was good or bad for feminism.

Tom Hanks FactsParamount Pictures

Comfort TV

23. Captain Highliner

Impressed by his performance in "Bosom Buddies", director Ron Howard offered him the lead in "Splash," a romantic comedy about a mermaid (Darryl Hannah) falling for a human (Hanks).

Tom Hanks FactsBuena Vista Distribution

Digital Spy

24. What Goes Up

Hanks gained 30 pounds in order to play the role of Jimmy Dugan, washed-up ballplayer-turned-manager of a female baseball team, in 1992’s A League of Their Own. He credits the local ice cream shop for providing the assist.

Tom Hanks Facts


25. Must Come Down

The very next year, Hanks had to lose that thirty pounds and more to play the role of a man dying of AIDS in the 1993 film Philadelphia.

Tom Hanks FactsTriStar Pictures

Allen John

26. Don’t Try This At Home

To realistically portray a castaway in the film Cast Away, Tom Hanks lost 55 lbs in four months.

Tom Hanks Facts 20th Century Fox

27. No Surprise

Given his constant and medically inadvisable weight fluctuations, it surprised nobody when Hanks went on Late Night with David Letterman and revealed that he has Type 2 diabetes.

Tom Hanks FactsWikimedia Commons

28. Repeat Performance

He is the second actor ever to win back-to-back Best Actor Oscars for his role in Philadelphia (1993) and Forrest Gump (1994). The only other male actor to pull this off this feat was Spencer Tracy when he won for "Captains Courageous" (1937) and "Boys Town" (1938).

Tom Hanks FactsGetty Images

29. De-Closeted

Hanks’ Oscar acceptance speech for 1993’s Philadelphia, where he thanked a gay teacher, was the inspiration for the plot of 1997 film "In & Out," about a teacher who is outed in an Academy Award speech.

Tom Hanks FactsParamount Pictures

Vanity Fair

30. Improvised and Iconic

In Forrest Gump, the line, "My name is Forrest Gump. People call me Forrest Gump," was ad-libbed by Tom Hanks during filming. Director Robert Zemeckis liked it so much that he decided to keep it in.

Forrest Gump factsForrest Gump, Paramount Pictures

31. Live From New York!

Tom Hanks has hosted Saturday Night Live eight times making him a member of the Five-Timers Club (a phrase first coined in a sketch during Hanks’ fifth episode). Other members include Danny DeVito, Alec Baldwin, and John Goodman.

Tom Hanks FactsWikipedia

32. A Knight Who Says Ni

At the 2002 memorial concert for George Harrison, Tom Hanks became a member of British surrealist comedy group Monty Python for one night. He participated in singing Monty Python's famous lumberjack song.

Tom Hanks FactsWikimedia Commons

33. Who’s the Boss

Tom Hanks and Bruce Springsteen have been longtime friends. Springsteen penned the song "Streets of Philadelphia" for Hank’s 1993 film.

Tom Hanks FactsFlickr

34. Sharing is Caring

Hanks shares a birthday with musicians Jack White, David O’Hara, and Courtney Love as well as actor Chris Cooper, politician Donald Rumsfeld and a barista in Denver, Colorado named Jennifer.

Tom Hanks FactsPexels

35. To the Left, To the Left

Tom Hanks has been politically involved for many years, donating to several Democratic politicians. During the 2008 US presidential election, he uploaded a video to his Myspace account endorsing Barack Obama because way back in 2008, Myspace was still a thing.

Tom Hanks facts

36. A Different Kind of Musical Keyboard

Tom Hanks is a vintage typewriter enthusiast. The leading man has amassed 250 typewriters over his lifetime and has nearly every make, type, and year model that all you typing fans out there can imagine. Hanks isn’t shy about his niche hobby; he once wrote an editorial for the New York Times that described the distinct sounds made by typewriters. Honestly, I’m kind of convinced they’re cool now. Thanks, Tom.

Tom Hanks FactsPixabay

37. How Does That Grab You?

One of Tom Hanks’ favorite bands is an incredibly named rock band from Alabama. Unfortunately, the name has been censored from this article.

H.P. Lovecraft factsPixabay

38. Speaking of Which

Hanks was asked to play the title role in Jerry Maguire. He turned it down and they gave it to the Other Tom.

Tom Hanks FactsFlickr Alan Light

39. Rom Com Tom

Tom Hanks has played Meg Ryan’s love interest in three different films: Joe Versus the Volcano (1990), Sleepless in Seattle (1993), and You’ve Got Mail (1998). Hanks and Ryan remain good friends.

Tom Hanks FactsGetty Images

40. Production Values

In addition to being a successful actor, Hanks has also produced over twenty films and miniseries including My Big Fat Greek Wedding, The Polar Express, and Band of Brothers.

Tom Hanks FactsGetty Images

41. Nice Guys Finish Films?

Lovable nice guy Tom Hanks was a self-admitted grump on the set of Sleepless in Seattle, even complaining that the actor playing his son got too many good lines.

Rom-com factsSleepless in Seattle, TriStar Pictures

42. The Sky’s the Limit

Tom Hanks originally wanted to become an astronaut, but was not successful because he "didn’t have the math". He is, however, a supporter of NASA’s manned space program. He even has an asteroid named after him -  the 12818 Tomhanks!

Tom Hanks FactsMax Pixel

Sources: 12345, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

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