Tom Hanks: ‘Cast Away’ Scene ‘Drove Me Nuts’

The movie Cast Away presented many challenges for star Tom Hanks. To play a man stranded on a deserted island for four years, Hanks went on a crash diet. He endured injuries making the physically demanding film and went to emotionally harrowing places. Yet, the most challenging moments on Cast Away may surprise fans for their simplicity. 

[Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for Cast Away.]

Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson arrive at the Cast Away premiere
Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson | Vince Bucci/Newsmakers

Hanks spoke with Phoebe Robinson on her Sooo Many White Guys podcast on the Feb. 13, 2018. When Robinson brought up Cast Away, Hanks explained what was really the most difficult scene. 

Tom Hanks movies are full of challenges for the Oscar-winner

Hanks told Robinson he prepares for each role and scene to deliver an authentic performance. However, there’s no amount of preparation that can eliminate all the doubts.

On the day, when you have to show up, you have to make some emotional truth actually occur in a very specific time and place on a very specific day. All these things that come from any movie, speaking for myself, I could sit down with you and we could watch Cast Away together and you could pause it and say, ‘Okay, what about this scene?’ I could talk to you about all the fears, all the worries, all the options we either weighed actually there on the set when we were trying to figure out how we were going to shoot it, or inside my own head that led up to what that moment was.”

Tom Hanks, Sooo Many White Guys podcast, 2/13/18

The ‘Cast Away’ scene that drove ‘Tom Hanks’ nuts

Hanks told Robinson that the scene in which Hanks has to say goodbye to Wilson, the volleyball who has been his companion for four years, came naturally. A scene that seemed more basic in the script was a greater challenge for Hanks. 

Cast Away star Tom Hanks washes ashore on the beach
Tom Hanks | 20th Century-Fox/Getty Images

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“I have to wake up on a beach and wonder what’s going on,” Hanks said. “That stuff drove me nuts because you don’t have an immediate emotional river to jump into like the scene where you say goodbye to Wilson. That’s just cold water. You jump in, the river takes you downstream, you’re done.”

‘Cast Away’ director Robert Zemeckis was hardly a rock 

Cast Away was Hanks’ second movie with Robert Zemeckis, after Forrest Gump. They would go on to make The Polar Express together. Hanks did his impression of Zemeckis not reassuring him at all.

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The building blocks of what that movie was often required just kind of tough brand of work in which you test it, you try it, you talk about other different things. Bob Zemeckis and I have a fabulous working relationship. I’d say, ‘Bob, is anybody gonna give a sh*t about this scene?’ And Bob would say,’ You never know, it’s a minefield.’ I say, ‘Bob, it’s like we’re sowing the seeds of our own destruction by even trying.’ ‘Yeah, isn’t it great? That’s what movies are.’”

Tom Hanks, Sooo Many White Guys podcast, 2/13/18