Why Tom Hanks’ ‘Cast Away’ Inspired Fans to Change Careers

Fans and critics often compare Tom Hanks to James Stewart. After all, both actors have a certain everyman quality to them. Audiences tend to trust characters Hanks plays, and they want to follow him anywhere, finding it easy to identify with the people he plays on screen. Such is the case with Cast Away, which inspired many fans to consider changing their careers after seeing Hanks’ performance.

Tom Hanks arrives with wife, actress Rita Wilson, for the ‘Cast Away’ premiere
Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson | Vince Bucci/Newsmakers

Tom Hanks’ ‘Cast Away’ character pointedly works for FedEx

In Cast Away, Hanks plays Chuck Noland, an employee for FedEx whose specialty is to maximize the company’s productivity. The character travels the world to analyze and resolve systems issues at various FedEx offices. And its during one of his many business trips that his plane goes down, stranding Chuck on a deserted island.

Thematically, part of the character’s arc is watching him survive in an environment completely at odds with his skill set. Suddenly, Chuck’s ability to keep FedEx employees productive and on schedule feels useless. Eventually, he develops processes and systems of his own that keep him alive for more than four years before eventually escaping.

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The film’s release spurred a huge influx in job applications

While on the island, Chuck also uses items found in the many FedEx packages that were on his plane. But he pointedly keeps one package unopened, the film’s way of representing his hope for the future. All in all, it’s a solid representation of FedEx, perhaps one of the best bits of product placement in a movie in a long while.

And Cast Away inspired a ton of moviegoers to want to work for FedEx. According to reports, the company saw job applications shoot up 30 percent after Hanks’ movie hit theaters. FedEx was intimately involved in the movie, allowing access to their property and overseeing production. CEO Fred Smith even makes a cameo in Cast Away. Thankfully, all the hard work on the part of FedEx seemed to have paid off.

Tom Hanks has a history of playing high-stakes professionals

Along with Apollo 13, Cast Away is also one of the first instances in which Hanks plays a high-level professional. Audiences have now gotten used to seeing Hanks play characters who are good at their job. Key examples include his performances as heroic pilot Chesley Sullenberger in Sully, attorney James B. Donovan in Bridge of Spies, and even mystery-solving symbologist Robert Langdon in The Da Vinci Code and its sequels.

Given this type of role, is it any wonder why so many Hanks fans consider him “America’s Dad”? The actor insists on playing so many real people in his movies. And this fact certainly highlights both his willingness to take on true stories and his confidence that audiences will follow him anywhere, even to a deserted island.

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