Few actors have ever conquered Hollywood like Tom Hanks. The iconic filmmaker has been one of the leading figures of the industry for decades, amassing two Best Actor trophies at the Academy Awards for his roles in Philadelphia and Forrest Gump respectively. He has starred in a series of films that have gone on to gross almost $10 billion at the global box office.
Although his net worth of $350 million might be indicative of a professional who focuses on the financial incentive, his career advice would be anything but driven by greed. Outside of his Oscar awards, he would be the leading man for outstanding drama pictures courtesy of Cast Away, Saving Private Ryan, The Green Mile, Big, Toy Story, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, The Terminal, Apollo 13, Catch Me If You Can, Sully and Captain Phillips among many others.
Although he has always appeared destined for superstardom, his modest roots in California outlined how much hard work has been at the foundation of his success. His father was a local cook and his mother was a hospital worker, constantly moving across the state without ever having a regular family home. It would not be until the 1980s that Hanks would establish himself as a talent in the industry, building his profile with Splash in 1984 and The Money Pit in 1986 before Big arrived two years later.
Tom Hanks would be a big proponent of actors throwing themselves directly into the source material and studying the craft in detail. While his friends and peers would venture off to football games on the weekend, he would purchase a ticket at a local theater production and sit in the crowd before losing himself completely into the play.
Getting that all important big break is one of the major discussion points that any famous actor will be asked. For someone with the profile of Tom Hanks, he believes there is no magic recipe that will solve all of the answers and open all of the doors. “The only thing you can go on is your instinct and that window of opportunity you give yourself having enough money to survive for at least a while,” he detailed.
There is one key dilemma that Hanks uses when he watches other films. “What would I do if I was in the circumstances of that man, that woman, that child, that android?” he explained. “As a little kid in the movie theater and as a man now, when I sit down in front of the screen and see it happening before me, I always ponder that question,” he remarked.
A common refrain that reporters and emerging actors will ask Tom Hanks is about shortcuts and quick fixes to make a career from scratch. For those individuals, they will be left disappointed by his response, recalling his days of studying the craft and working hard behind the scenes. “You go there,” he explained. “That’s all you can do. There are no shortcuts. Dear God, I wish there was, but there’s not. You just have to make it so.”
Yet there is one standout piece of advice that Tom Hanks remembers to this day. The power of the word ‘no’ carries a lot of weight for the veteran actor, giving him the power to dictate where he wanted to go and what he wanted to do. “I realized that I had to start saying a very, very difficult word to people, which was no,” he recounted. “Saying no means you made the choice of the type of story you wanted to tell and the type of character you wanted to play.”