Tom Hanks Never Knows if His Acting Performances Are Any Good Until He Sees Them on Screen — ‘It’s a Cruel and Indifferent Fate’

Tom Hanks is one of the most decorated actors in the movie business. With two Academy Award-winning performances, there’s plenty of proof why he’s one of the best in the game. 

However, Hanks himself never knows how he’s done in a role until after the movie comes out. Whenever he assumes he’s had a good or bad performance, it has the opposite outcome on screen. 

Tom Hanks gets nervous before every role

Tom Hanks
Tom Hanks | Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Even though Hanks has 40 years of acting experience, he still gets nervous before every role. For him, there’s an excitement in not knowing what the role will demand from him creatively. 

“And as soon as I start a movie, as soon as it begins, there’s certainly—there’s the exciting element of it, but that element is one of danger. Are you going to be able to do it? Are you going to be able to look at yourself?”

Tom Hanks can’t watch scenes he isn’t proud of

A true artist, Hanks tends to be very critical of his work in previous films. He doesn’t like feeling like he underperformed in a movie, and can’t even watch scenes he feels he didn’t execute well enough. 

“I still look at films and I think there’s moments where I go like that [covers camera lens] over the TV or the screen because I don’t need to see myself be so disappointing.”

Tom Hanks can never predict how his performances will turn out


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Even with all of his experience, Hanks can never tell how his performance will look on the big screen. Later in the interview, he recalled the early days in his career when he sometimes think he really handled a scene well, only to be disappointed. 

“This goes back to earlier days where you think, ‘Man!’ You’re driving home at the end of the day, or you’re back at the hotel, you think, ‘Aw man, I cracked it today, man. I was damn good. I popped that scene, man. I had the dialogue, I had the motivation, I was flexible, I crushed it. And then you see a movie and it’s a big fat nothing. Nothing works, nothing’s real. … Happens all the time.”

He also said the same thing occasionally happens when he’s thought he didn’t execute a scene well, but it turned out better than expected. 

“And the inverse happens as well. ‘I didn’t know what I was doing. I’m not sure I even knew what that scene was about after we talked about it at the end of the day. I mean, did I even come close to getting there what it was supposed to? … And then it ends up being one of the most magnificent moments of your career.”

Overall, Hanks has learned to never assume what the outcome of a scene will look like before seeing the final product. 

Tom says never to trust a director who likes the dailies

Hanks also knows better than to trust the opinion of a director who has just watch dailies from the day before. Apparently, their word is no good. 

“There’s no rhyme or reason to it, it’s cruel and indifferent fate, and you cannot assume that you have done it great, nor should you assume that you’ve been a failure at it. I never trust any director who comes back and says ‘Oh, the dailies were fantastic. That is a great scene.’ …”