Tom Hanks: In ‘Cast Away,’ This Emotional Wilson Scene Came Naturally

Tom Hanks, in Cast Away, really put himself through the wringer to make the movie emotional and memorable. Hanks played Federal Express executive Chuck Noland, who survives a plane crash and spends four years alone on a deserted island. The Oscar-winning actor spent half a year losing weight to appear emaciated after four years surviving on coconuts and seafood. Hanks also crafted an emotional relationship with the volleyball, Wilson.

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

Tom Hanks holds Wilson the Volleyball on the beach
Tom Hanks | Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Hanks discussed his work on Cast Away in a 2017 episode of the Sooo Many White Guys podcast. Host Phoebe Robinson brought up the 2000 film, so Hanks used it as an example of what sometimes comes easy for him. 

Tom Hanks in ‘Cast Away’: Who is Wilson the volleyball?

Noland searched the packages on his doomed Fedex flight for anything that could help him survive the island. He inadvertently made a faceprint on a Wilson volleyball with his bloody hand. So, he named the ball Wilson and spoke to him throughout the film. Sadly, when Hanks built a raft and made it off the island, Wilson washes out to sea.

“There’s this thing that happens in films where a powerful beat in the story is going to be committed to film,” Hanks told Robinson. “It’s like Thursday and this is the day that you are going to, for the sake of Cast Away, say goodbye to Wilson. I never thought about it. I just knew oh, tomorrow we’re going to shoot the scene where I say goodbye to Wilson, where he floats away. Never thought about it, didn’t fret, slept fine, got up, the moment came, went down, went to the place that it was required, and out it came. “

Acting doesn’t always come as easy as it did for Tom Hanks in ‘Cast Away’

By 2000, Hanks had already won two Oscars for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump. Hanks told Robinson that sometimes it comes easy and sometimes he still has to really work for it. Either way, he never knows if it’s going to work in the end. 

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

If the question is do I feel confident? I feel confident in approaching the jobs but the jobs themselves, whether or not they land, whether or not you’re actually capturing the moment that is going to speak to the audience or not, man, that’s just a whole other different country that you can’t explore. You can’t do it unless you have some degree of confidence but you also cannot do it if that confidence then is encumbered with hubris that says oh, I know how to do this. The fact is, we don’t know how to do it. We just have to prepare and then do it. We either do it accurately and authentically or not.

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

A lot of acting is instinct

Hanks added that he goes by his gut a lot of the time. If he feels a connection with a role, he goes for it, and if he doesn’t feel it, he doesn’t second guess himself.


Tom Hanks Says He ‘Went Crazy’ While Filming ‘Cast Away’ — ‘When Wilson Was Born, I Had Dialogue With Him’

Look, I am confident in many aspects of the profession that I have chosen for myself. I now am not nearly as intimidated regards to preparing for something, preparing for a role, or even judging whether or not it’s something that I want to do or not. If I read something and I’m not going to do it, I don’t ever look back and think, ‘Aw geez I should’ve done that job because somebody else went off and made it a great movie and I could’ve.’ I never think that way, because it has to land in your instinctive wheelhouse right off the bat. Otherwise, you’re going to be faking it. You’re going to be pretending to know what you’re doing as opposed to actually pursuing the role itself.”

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