Tom Hanks Wanted to Play Dean Martin — Here’s Why

Tom Hanks has played many historical figures in movies. He played astronaut Jim Lovell, Congressman Charlie Wilson, Walt Disney, Shelsey Sullenberger, Richard Phillips, and also Ben Bradlee. But, the one Hanks never got to play was Dean Martin. 

Tom Hanks arrives at 'The Late Show' but wanted to play Dean Martin in a movie
Tom Hanks | Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images

Hanks spoke with the New York Times in an interview published June 15. After discussing his latest role as Col. Tom Parker in Elvis, Hanks then explained why he wanted to play Dean Martin in a movie. 

Tom Hanks saw Dean Martin as an exception to the Rat Pack

The Rat Pack included Martin, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop and also Peter Lawford. Hanks thought Martin brought something special to the group.

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“I didn’t see Dean Martin as being the cynical presence in the Rat Pack,” Hanks told the New York Times. “I think he’s the only one who got it. Dean Martin was not into any of the show-business razzle-dazzle except for the way it gave him a degree of ease and enjoyment that he wanted because he grew up so hardscrabble. He said, ‘Pally, there’s got to be an easier way,’ and he discovered what that way was.”

Tom Hanks respected Dean Martin’s performance 

Hanks learned about Martin’s struggle to go solo after his duo with Jerry Lewis. He wanted to make a movie showcasing that artistry.  

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After he broke up with Jerry Lewis, everybody said, ‘Jerry is a genius, Dean’s just a crooner.’ Dean then went to play Las Vegas, and it was a disaster. He comes back and says to one of his guys: ‘They don’t seem to like me without the monkey boy. What are we going to do?’ I’m paraphrasing. The guy said, ‘You could always do the drunky act.’ So from that drunky act came jokes like: ‘I don’t drink anymore. I just freeze it and eat it like a Popsicle.’ He was not a boozer. When he’s out there with the Rat Pack, it’s apple juice in his glass. He would pretend not to know his lines. ‘I’d like to have a response to that joke, but I have to wait for Mr. Cue-Card Man to do his job.’ This was all fake! What is that other than an expertise beyond belief? That’s why I wanted to do it. I felt like I understood that guy to a T.

Tom Hanks, The New York Times, 6/15/22

The Dean Martin movie would’ve ended with a reconciliation

The breakup of Lewis and Martin was acrimonious. Hanks wanted to show how they reconciled at the end. 

“Jerry was in some restaurant and Dean came in,” Hanks said. “Did not say hello. Just took his seat. Jerry said, ‘I have to go talk to Dean.’ Understand, the night they broke up at the Copacabana, Jerry said to Dean, ‘What we had all this time was love.’ Dean said: ‘You know what you were to me? A big fat [expletive] dollar sign.’ But at the end, they’re old, they’re infirm, and they just sat and held hands at some restaurant, weeping. Forgive me if I’m telling you too much about the movie we never made.”

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