It’s often during moments of grief that one hopes for a big breakthrough. And we’ve experienced something grave in 2020 already. Though only something like the discovery of dominant vaccine can be touted as a breakthrough during a time as testing as the COVID-19 global pandemic, still, it must be said, anything that’s remotely positive- nevermind a modicum of happiness- can regardless offer great respite.
Not in recent history has a global event jolted our lives so badly. So imagine the plight of that young boy in Australia who got bullied because of his name.
Guess who came to the rescue of the innocent child? Hollywood veteran, actor-par-excellence Tom Hanks! “I get very sad and angry when they call me that,” said the kid in a letter addressed to Hanks.
Each year, hundreds of thousands of celebrity correspondences find their way to the trash can. In a world where every second count for a celeb, little is reserved for ‘spam’ mail. Who has the time for little things when you’re big? But, Tom Hanks is different. Back in the eighties, he did “Big,” a role that was all about understanding the anxieties and bittersweet travails of being a kid.
So when Hanks wrote back, “Your letter made me feel wonderful. Thank you for being such a good friend,” his reply wasn’t the only response to the aggrieved kid. He mailed the kid a special gift; a typewriter.
It’s easy to buy expensive presents when you can afford them, but it’s hard to part with one’s personal collection.
Though truly speaking, there may not have been anyone who could’ve understood what the boy was going through better than Hanks, who tested positive for Coronavirus in March.
There are actors who simply live by the script. But only a few, maybe a handful, possess magnanimity. There are myriad ways to tip the hat to Tom Hanks.
A man with two Academy Awards. The leading man who’s romanced everyone, including Julia Roberts to Meryl Streep, Meg Ryan to Robyn Wright Penn. The Hollywood biggie with a net worth of $350 million. The man who brought to life a part as tricky and enamoring as Sully. The only actor who could turn Forrest Gump- a dimwit on-screen character into an international rage.
The man distantly related to none other than the Great Abe (Lincoln). The man in whose honor they’ve named an asteroid.
Let that sink in.
But nothing quite captures the enduring enigma that is Tom Hanks other than humbly submitting he’s the man we don’t find every day, the man famously described as one of the nicest men alive. It’s for a reason.
Hanks’ success, it could be argued, isn’t merely attributed to box-office sell-outs that send cash registers ringing and producers sporting the smirk. Hanks’ real earning is down to the fact that he’s pretty much the same bloke he once was, back in the day before massive hits like Philadelphia, Sleepless in Seattle happened to him.
You can run into him in coffee shops. He takes the taxis. He invades wedding parties in New York gardens and poses mischievously with the bride and groom.
Moreover, he finds time to post random objects he discovers, time and again, on his Instagram- cracking with over 9.5 million followers- which he calls missing items, only so they can be united with the owners!
Just what sort of Hollywood A-lister does that?
When not busy, he promotes electric cars, doing his bit to promote a ‘cleaner’ more viable future of commutation. He’s the visionary behind one of the leading causes in all of Africa.
When you become successful, your world can either bloom or shrink. You can either be insular, focused only on self-accumulation. Or you can grow by contributing to others.
Make no mistake. Tom Hanks’ charitable nature isn’t restricted to the middle-class, grounded American values he so magnificently epitomizes.
His personality is echoed by the choice of subjects he chooses to invest his creative energies in. At a time when he could’ve just produced just anything random, he went ahead and aligned forced with the great Steven Spielberg- also a close friend- and came up with the Band of Brothers. And the wold learned a great lesson in history about the brave bomber boys from the Second World War.
In Tom Hanks’ world, the Army isn’t the only big definer. The Californian lent his voice to one of the most incredible mini TV-series made in recent American history: From The Earth To The Moon.
And with that one understood the intricacies of the Apollo Space program.
Because when Tom Hanks is shepherding a wagon, you can be assured: Houston or the much of the world, as a matter of fact, can never have a problem.
At a time where many of Hollywood’s leading lights seem simply content in their happy, comfortable bubble, whetting our big screen appetite increasingly by superhero-narratives, here’s a man of earnestness who’s going from one serious story-telling voyage to another.
He touched upon the sensitive, scandalous subject of the Vietnam war papers in The Post. He played Walt Disney with a street-smartness even P.L. Travers would’ve approved of. In times where persisting with franchise-based-cinema seems the new normal, Tom Hanks is busily expanding his acting canvass.
Where many of Hollywood’s paper-thin narratives are trying to take audiences to the space-route, Tom Hanks is devoted at staying humble, proving it’s indeed, “A beautiful day in the neighborhood!”
Would anyone else have portrayed Fred Rogers with the innate nicety that Hanks presented so eruditely on the screen?
But that’s the thing about the greats, isn’t it. That they glitter in the gloom?
Just who would’ve thought that a product of the fractured childhood and a broken home would come as far as importantly, remain ever the modest, mild-mannered man?
Truth is, actors there are many. But only a few tour-de-force performers like Tom Hanks prove it’s entirely possible to be successful and still remain sane.
The big parallel you sense when you look at a Keanu Reeves!
Hanks is a man of captivating integrity who can still carry the weight of a movie on his shoulders. Like he did in Captain Phillips, perhaps one of the most underrated films of his career.
It helps when you have a long but unsullied run in Hollywood where ego clashes are as common as flu.
But honestly what makes the likes of Tom Hanks in “A League of Their Own” is that they’re ever-ready to get into the skin of the character. You can run into Andrew Beckett countless times and be still moved by the plight of the young daring gay lawyer.
You can still feel the ache in the heart when Jenny shuns away Forrest Gump only for him to say, “I’m not a smart man, but I know what love is!”
And maybe it’s because of Castaway’s Chuck Noland says with unfettered honesty, “I know what I have to do now, I gotta just keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise, who knows what the tide could bring,” that we believe that we must look forward to life each day at the break of dawn.
So all we got to do is to keep breathing, ever so thankfully in that we inhale the same wind and occupy the environs to which one of America’s favorite sons belongs.
Thank you for all you’ve done for our world Tom Hanks. Happy 64.