Former sitcom actor Tom Hanks is the much-beloved star of such Hollywood hits as ‘Splash,’ ‘Big,’ ‘Forrest Gump,’ ‘Apollo 13,’ ‘Toy Story’ and many more.
Born on July 9, 1956, in Concord, California, actor Tom Hanks began performing with the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival in 1977, later moving to New York City. He starred in the television sitcom Bosom Buddies, but became far more known when he starred in the Ron Howard film Splash. He went on to star in many more popular and acclaimed movies, including Big, Forrest Gump and Cast Away, en route to becoming one of the most powerful and well-respected actors in Hollywood.
Actor Thomas Jeffrey Hanks was born on July 9, 1956, in Concord, California. Hanks’s parents divorced when he was 5 years old, and he was raised, along with his older brother and sister, by his father, a chef named Amos. The family moved frequently, finally settling in Oakland, California, where Hanks attended high school.
After graduating in 1974, Hanks attended junior college in Hayward, California. He decided to pursue acting after reading and watching a performance of Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh (1946), and transferred into the theater program at California State University in Sacramento.
In 1977, Hanks was recruited to take part in the summer session of the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival in Lakewood Ohio. Over the next three years, Hanks spent his summers acting in various productions of Shakespeare’s plays and his winters working backstage at a community theater company in Sacramento. He won the Cleveland Critics Circle Award for Best Actor in 1978, for his portrayal of Proteus in The Two Gentlemen of Verona.
By 1980, Hanks had dropped out of college, and after his third season with the Great Lakes festival, he moved to New York City. Many rounds of auditions later, he landed a small part in the 1980 slasher film He Knows You’re Alone. That same year he was spotted by a talent scout for ABC and was cast in the television sitcom Bosom Buddies as one of two advertising executives who dress in drag in order to rent an apartment in an all-female building.
The show was cancelled after two seasons, but it gave Hanks some exposure and led to his casting in guest roles on various episodes of popular shows like Happy Days (1974-84), Taxi (1978-83), The Love Boat (1977-87) and Family Ties (1982-89). In 1982, Ron Howard, co-star of Happy Days and now working as a director, remembered Hanks and had him read for a supporting part in a movie. That supporting role eventually went to John Candy, and Hanks instead landed the lead role in Howard’s Splash (1984) as a man who falls in love with a mermaid, played by Daryl Hannah. The movie became a surprise hit, and Hanks was suddenly a recognizable face.
A string of panned films followed, most notably Bachelor Party (1984), The Man With One Red Shoe (1985), Volunteers (1985), The Money Pit (1986) and Dragnet (1987). Hanks managed to emerge relatively unscathed from these critical failures, as reviewers often pointed to his performance as the best thing about each movie.
In 1988, he was finally cast in a star-making role in director Penny Marshall’s Big, playing a 13-year-old boy transplanted overnight into the body of a 35-year-old man. His performance charmed both critics and audiences, and earned him his first Academy Award nomination for best actor.
With Big, Hanks established that he could be a box-office draw as well as a talented actor. Over the next several years, however, his projects failed to match the critical or commercial success of that film, although they did display Hanks’s wide range, from lighthearted comedies (1989’s Turner and Hooch, 1990’s Joe Versus the Volcano) to more dramatic fare (1988’s Punchline, 1990’s Bonfire of the Vanities).
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