The Lasting Legacy of Tom Hanks

On 13th January 2020, it was announced that Tom Hanks got his first Oscar nomination in almost 20 years, earning a nod for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Fred Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood. Fred Rogers was a positive and heavily likeable personality who made a great impact on those who watched Mister Rogers’ Neighbourhood. It is extremely fitting that Tom Hanks would play this role with his past of likeable characters.

Hanks is a true Hollywood legend and despite actively working he has been overlooked in awards ceremonies in recent years, which is apparent from his two decade gap in Oscar nominations where the academy has snubbed him for performances in films such as The Post and Sully.

The film that launched his career is one that is sharp and funny, a great reflection of Hanks himself. Splash was a massive hit and despite his character being, to put it simply, a jerk, you can’t help but like him and find yourself on his side. However, the performance in which he really can’t be resisted is in Sleepless in Seattle, which confirmed him as everyone’s crush in the 1990’s with his portrayal of Sam Baldwin: the ‘nice guy’ filled with cuteness and charm. He’s a puppy-dog widower sprinkled with undying charm.

Hanks has had the opportunity to play the most likeable characters in cinema history. His most notable performance is that of the titular character in Forrest Gump, in which, despite being a character with a low IQ, the protagonist manages to accomplish amazing things and is a part of many historical events, such as his involvement in the Vietnam war and witnessing the Watergate Scandal. Not only is this fantastic to watch, but it gives off this message that you can achieve anything no matter who you are, and do more than anyone can imagine. Forrest Gump is not a stereotypical lead who lacks a linear goal to accomplish, with an audience that shows great empathy from the beginning as he has this ambition and focus to achieve. Forrest Gump had a pioneering style that forever altered the movie industry, as it would be unheard of to have a film to have so many twists and turns while going through so many different events as it did. Forrest’s innocent and loveable personality shined through any tragic event or hardship in his relationship. For myself, I felt inspired by his optimism to succeed no matter what life was throwing at him.

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Image Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Similar to this is his role in Castaway, where he plays a sole survivor of a plane crash who still manages to find the positive and build up this island from nothing. Despite being alone and with his own thoughts, he works hard to find ways to get off the island. Even creating a friendship with a volleyball called Wilson, who is his only company while he spends four years on the island. In The Terminal, in which he plays a man without a country who is stranded in an airport for months on end. Dealing with both threatening bureaucracy, as well as his own awkwardly humorous lessons in acting like an American, he melts into the central role in a tale of heartbreak and hilarity.

It’s not just the roles he plays but his personality and charm which creates these characters, this is apparent when being in true love stories with Meg Ryan such as You’ve Got Mail. Hanks is playing Joe Fox, owner of a large bookstore chain putting small local bookstore ran by Kathleen (Meg Ryan) out of business. Meanwhile they have been corresponding over the internet without knowing who either of them are. Over the internet they cannot stop thinking about each other despite hating one another in real life. Even though Joe Fox is a corporate businessman, you see his true self shine through when he is with his family or talking to Kathleen. He has a pure heart as he assists in helping Kathleen when realising that he has been falling in love with her even with the harsh rivalry. It is a perfect capture of sparking romance online, while being enemies face-to-face. You cannot help but fall in love with Tom Hanks, with this sweet true character.

Arguably the most beloved Tom Hanks performance is his voice acting role of Sheriff Woody in the four Toy Story films. To many born in the 90s and even more recently, Hanks’ voice will always be reminiscent of these charming, warm animated classics. Woody acts as the leader of Andy’s toy group who has a rivalry with new toy Buzz. There is a real life lesson about acceptance, with Woody initially being cautious with the new arrival of Buzz, but when with this tense relationship Woody soon accepts Buzz into their group, pulling his reservations aside. Seeing an actual depiction of characters with different backgrounds and personalities having this special friendship is a great reflection for children, or even adults watching this series.

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Image Courtesy of TriStar Pictures

Hanks won his first Academy Award for Best Actor in 1994, for his role in Jonathan Demme’s drama Philadelphia. Not only is this one of his most notable performances but it was also the first mainstream studio film to tackle the AIDS crisis. Hanks lost 26 pounds to portray the role of Andrew Beckett, a man hiding his battle with AIDS. Hanks’ natural likeability really benefits his performance and it remains meaningful. This was a role with heavy meaning as it prompted changing attitudes towards HIV-AIDS.

So, with a legacy like this, what is Tom Hanks up to nowadays? Alongside his nomination for A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood, he received the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes for his outstanding contribution to entertainment in the film industry. He’s got a few features up his sleeve, including Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis Presley biopic in which Hanks is playing Presley’s sole manager.

If you need a film to make you giggle or you need a good cry, Hanks varied filmography will fill you with whatever feeling you desire.