This Tom Hanks Movie Was the First Time He Got to Do What He Wanted as an Artist

Tom Hanks movies weren’t always Hollywood events. He worked his way up doing television and wacky ‘80s comedies. In the ‘90s, he won two Oscars in a row for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump. Those finally earned him the clout to do the projects he truly wanted to do. 

Tom Hanks makes Elvis hands on the red carpet, now that he can make movies for artistic reasons
Tom Hanks | Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

Hanks spoke with the New York Times in an interview published June 15. After discussing his role as Col. Tom Parker in Elvis, Hanks discussed his career. Here’s what he said about the first time he got to choose his project.

‘Apollo 13’ was the first Tom Hanks movie he did because he wanted to 

Hanks spent the first decade or so of his career proving himself. With his box office and critical acclaim assured by 1994, Hanks had a new opportunity.

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“The other thing that happened in the ’90s was when [agent] Richard Lovett  at C.A.A. said, ‘What do you want to do?’” Hanks told the New York Times. “No one had asked me that question, either. People always said: ‘What do you want to do with this opportunity?’ But what do you want to do? I said I’d like to make a movie about Apollo 13. That was the first time where I was saying, ‘This is the type of artist who I want to be.’ But if you look at anybody’s career, there’s hits and misses. There’s movies that simply don’t work, and if something not working is debilitating to you, you’re toast.”

He also learned to stop saying yes to every movie

Part of getting to the point where he made Apollo 13 was Hanks himself learning his worth. As an actor, he was inclined to take every opportunity. Once you hit a certain level of success, that can be exhausting, and counterproductive. 

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“I was not an overnight sensation,” Hanks said. “I had been in movies for a long time until I had enough opportunities and experience to realize that I don’t have to say yes to everything just because they’re offering me the gig. Some of that was, What am I going to do instead? Wait for the phone to ring? The phone rang! I said yes! But I was fortunate in that my sense of self and artistic thirst grew at the same time. I had done enough romantic leads in enough movies and had experienced enough compromise to say, “I’m not even going to read those scripts anymore.” So then you hold out for something that represents more of the artist you want to be.”

Before ‘Apollo 13,’ this Tom Hanks movie was a revelation

The ‘90s saw Hanks transition from comedic leading man to dramatic lead. The role that encompassed both was A League of Their Own

“When Penny Marshall came to me on A League of Their Own, I said: ‘Penny, this is written for a guy who’s older than I am. The character is in his 40s and washed up,’” Hanks said. “She said: ‘That’s why I want you. Because this guy should have been great until he was 40 and wasn’t.’ I went Aaaah. Before that a director had never said something to me like, ‘Come up with a reason why you’re 36, broken down and managing a woman’s baseball team.’ Then it was, Katie, bar the door! I was looking for more of that from then on. 

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