Tom Hanks Still Loses Sleep Over Every Acting Role He Takes — ‘It’s a Big High Wire Act’

Tom Hanks has starred in dozens of movies and delivered many memorable performances, but he still gets nervous before every role.

Believe it or not, the Hollywood heavyweight often has moments of uncertainty about whether he’ll be able to deliver a noteworthy performance.

Tom Hanks has a unique philosophy on acting

Tom Hanks
Tom Hanks | NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

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Hanks is one of the most talented actors in the game. He’s worked professional since 1980 and built a reputation for his range and versatility. A big reason for his success is his unique outlook on the art of acting, and what an actor’s job is. He shared his thoughts during a recent interview with Graham Bensinger.

“The actor’s job is to provide his own motivation,” Hanks said. “The actor himself, I think has to be able to go anywhere and do anything on a moment’s notice in the course of the scene. … As an actor, our task is to embody the truth of the moment …”

Tom Hanks still loses sleep over every role

Even a veteran actor like Hanks gets nervous before starting a new project. Despite his sustained success and 40 years of experience, he still gets insecure about his ability to deliver on a new role. 

“Still do, absolutely still do,” Hanks said. “As soon as you have that date on the calendar where you’re gonna have to show up and put on clothes that are not your own and pretend you’re somebody that you’re not, you’re running the great risk. It’s a big high wire act because you’ve got a 50/50 chance that you’re gonna fail. That you’re not gonna be there. …”

Tom Hanks called the movie-making process ‘an emotional ER’

Hanks has mentioned the difficulty of filmmaking on numerous occasions. According to Hanks, it’s stressful knowing that if he doesn’t perform well during any particular scene, it can have drastic implications on the outcome of the movie. 

“Any movie that you go through is an emotional ER, man,” Hanks claimed. “You’re being whipped back and forth between moments where if you don’t get it on that day, on that moment, it’s not in the movie. So you better be there. The only thing you can do is stretch yourself to a limit and hope you come back. …”

Tom Hanks can’t watch scenes he feels he underperformed in 

For Hanks, the thrill of not knowing what a role may require of him is what keeps him coming back. He’s won two Academy Awards and earned numerous accolades for his on-screen performances, but still struggles to watch scenes he feels he didn’t execute to his greatest potential. 

“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,” Hanks said. “Are you going to be able to do it? Are you going to be able to look at yourself? And 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.”