Why Tom Hanks Once Joked Tom Cruise Owes Him $1 Over ‘Jerry Maguire’

Tom Hanks has the kind of filmography most actors are striving for. Since that late 1980s and early 1990s, Hanks has headlined many beloved movies. Among them are blockbusters such as Forrest Gump, Saving Private Ryan, Cast Away, and the Toy Story series. But Hanks could have had another of the 1990s biggest hits, Jerry Maguire, on his filmography too. Here’s why.

Tom Hanks during an interview on 'The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien' in 2010
Tom Hanks during an interview on ‘The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien’ in 2010 | Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Cameron Crowe originally wrote ‘Jerry Maguire’ for Tom Hanks

In an interview with NBC Sports, Jerry Maguire writer-director Cameron Crowe once revealed Tom Cruise wasn’t his original choice for the lead. Rather, he initially hoped to get Hanks to play the titular sports agent.

“It was originally written with Tom Hanks in mind. … I had this wonderful conversation with Tom Hanks, and people were waiting in the next room for the answer. And Tom Hanks was so complimentary and so great and said, ‘I’d love to do this, but I’m doing That Thing You Do! and I should be doing that instead of this movie. But good luck.’ I was so high on the Tom Hanks personality charisma that I walked into the next room like ‘I just had the greatest conversation with Tom Hanks.’”

That Thing You Do! was Hanks’ directorial debut. So it makes sense he would choose his passion project instead. Still, it’s wild to look back at now-classic movies and imagine what might have been. And the Hanks-Cruise changeover isn’t the only one for Jerry Maguire. Jamie Foxx once auditioned for the role which ultimately won Cuba Gooding Jr. an Academy Award.

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The Oscar winner likes to joke that Tom Cruise owes him a dollar

Given the enormity of the two actors in question, the casting on Jerry Maguire might be one of the more fascinating “what ifs” in recent Hollywood history. For his part, Hanks stands by his decision but believes Cruise owes him for turning down Jerry Maguire, he told Access Hollywood.

“I talked to Cameron Crowe about a year in advance. And during that time, my good friend Jonathan Demme and I were talking about stuff that we wanted to do. And I had this idea for That Thing You Do! So by the time that train was running … I made that movie and was not available then to work with Cameron Crowe on the movie. I would like to think, however, that Tom Cruise owes me one dollar. And I’m still waiting for the check.”

All kidding aside, Jerry Maguire did wind up a career highlight for Cruise. The romantic comedy earned more than $273 million worldwide and five Oscar nominations, including Best Actor for Cruise and Best Picture. Moreover, it sparked a pop culture phenomenon that still endures today.

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Tom Cruise is confident Tom Hanks would have been a great fit too

Although both he and Cruise are A-list movie stars, it’s probably hard for fans to picture Hanks starring in Jerry Maguire. But Cruise himself believes the actor would have tailored the role to his own sensibility, he told Access Hollywood.

“I think he would have done something very special with it also, had he decided to do [Jerry Maguire]. He’s such a brilliant actor. But when you have actors go in, I spent nine months with Cameron going back and forth developing it. And [Hanks] would have worked it into something very special, I’m certain. … And Hanks, I love his work. As a fan of his, I would have been very interested to see what he would have done with that character.”

In the end, it’s fun to speculate how Jerry Maguire would change with Hanks instead of Cruise. But the two actors have led hugely successful careers and clearly have mutual respect for each other. And Crowe’s film remains a classic. So it seems everyone — Hanks, Cruise, and fans — wins.