The Achievement Of Tom Hanks

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Although just 45 years old, actor/director/writer/producer Tom Hanks has proven himself an extraordinarily versatile and talented artist. Be it comedy or drama, Hanks performances are masterful, refined portraits of men intimately recognizable to audiences. While Hanks complex exploration of each of his characters appears effortless, he consistently creates a three-dimensional personality, devoid of artifice or self-indulgence. Significantly, many of the roles to which Hanks gravitates embody an aching loneliness. Sleepless in seattle, Philadelphia, Apollo 13, Saving Private Ryan, THE GREEN MILE, CAST AWAY theyre all about ordinary men dealing with agonizing pain, both physical and emotional. The gracefulness of a Tom Hanks performance lies in how delicatelyyet profoundlyhe reveals the inner core of a fully realized human being, complete with warmth, empathy and, invariably, humor. Both a cerebral and physical actor, Hanks inhabits his characters without overpowering them. Chameleon-like, he literally reshapes himself to fit each singular identity; the results are startlingly believable. In 1989, his astonishing portrayal of a mischievous 12-year-old boy fascinated by his 30-year-old body in BIG earned him his first Academy Award nomination. Five years later, his physical deterioration as a gay lawyer dying of AIDS was agonizingly depicted in Philadelphia. He received the Oscar for Best Actor, a feat repeated just one year later, when he again transformed himself for Forrest GUMP, playing a slow-witted, awkward man who finds himself in extraordinary situations. And, his most dramatic metamorphosis occurred in CAST AWAY, as he whittled his physique down to depict a man shipwrecked for four years. Because his work is so honest, and because he is incessantly characterized as nice, we think we know Tom Hanks. Which is a facile presumption. The fact is hes actually full of contradictions: Hes a movie star, yet never seems larger than life. Hes the quintessential romantic leading man, yet lacks typical leading man looks. Hes charming and forthcoming in interviews, yet never reveals any personal details. But Hanks does tell us who he isthrough his work. He tells us by the characters he takes on, as well as by the specific, intelligent choices he makes in playing them. Theyre all innately decent men, yet remarkably human. Which means theyre all tested by their frailties. So, as AIDS-ravaged lawyer Andrew Beckett in Philadelphia, Hanks sits in the witness chairin front of family, friends, colleagues and his loverand quietly, yet unflinchingly, answers humiliating questions about a past sexual indiscretion that is now costing him his life. The powerful restraint Hanks brings to the scene is nothing short of heartbreaking. These quiet moments, wherein Hanks most intimately connects with another character, is where his artistic integrity shines most brilliantly. Eschewing grandiosity, heis confident in his ability to communicate ...

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