Perhaps one of the most beloved actor in recent memory, Tom Hanks has starred in films like Saving Private Ryan, You’ve Got Mail, Forrest Gump, Toy Story, and most recent Clint Eastwood’s Sully. For the last three-and-a-half decades, Tom Hanks has found his way into the heart of his audience – both young and old alike.
Known as “the nicest guy in Hollywood”, Tom Hanks had to suffer through a difficult childhood and struggling at the beginning of his career. His journey to the top was not easy…
If you’ve always loved Tom Hanks, your respect will only grow upon discovering his humble beginnings, and how his journey brought him back around to Jesus.
Thomas “Tom” Jeffrey Hanks was born on July 9, 1956, in Concord, California to mother Janet Marylyn (Frager) and Amos Mefford Hanks. Janet was a Portuguese hospital worker and Amos was a British traveling cook.
Tom’s childhood was hard. His parents divorced when he was five and Amos took Tom and his two siblings, Sandra and Larry to Reno, Nevada. His younger brother Jim stayed with Janet.
Amos did his best to raise Tom but things were tough. Then his parents remarried once more only to fail again. In total, Janet remarried three times and Amos remarried twice.
Tom Hanks was hated in school by both his teachers and his peers. He told Rolling Stone: “I was a geek, a spaz. I was horribly, painfully, terribly shy. At the same time, I was the guy who’d yell out funny captions during filmstrips. But I didn’t get into trouble. I was always a real good kid and pretty responsible.”
Because Amos was a traveling chef, Tom moved often. When he was 10 they finally settled in Oakland, California.
But Tom considered his constant moves a challenge that hardened him. “It made me flexible,” he told Rolling Stone. “It gave me confidence to think I can be in any sort of social situation and know how to gracefully get out of it.”
Tom was raised both Catholic and Mormon but considered himself a “Bible-toting evangelical” as a teen.
In Skyline High School, Tom finally fit in – he was a successful athlete. But everything changed when he watched a friend perform in the school’s production of Dracula. He then dreamed of becoming an actor.
Tom joined the Thespian Club and worked behind the scenes as a stage manager of the school’s production of My Fair Lady.
Despite the grueling work, Tom set out to learn everything about the acting profession both on and off the stage.
He later earned roles in Skyline’s productions of Night of the Iguana, Twelfth Night, and South Pacific. In his last year, he won the school’s Best Actor award – which foreshadowed his Oscar award twenty years later.
He quickly realized that God intended for him to become a great actor. He attended a free community college then transferred to California State University to pursue acting. Tom was discovered by Vincent Dowling who offered him an opportunity to intern at the Great Lakes Theater Festival in Cleveland, Ohio.
He achieved success in Ohio and won the Cleveland Critics Circle Award for Best Actor for his 1978 performance as “Proteus” in Shakespeare’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Then he trusted in God and moved to New York City.
There, Tom was hired a “Kip Wilson,” on the ABC television pilot of Bosom Buddies. Though the show was canceled after two seasons, it gave the world the first taste of Tom Hanks and it never went back.
In 1988, he was cast in Big and his career would never be the same again.
Tom’s wife Rita revealed: “God is a part of our life. Every single day, I prayed to God for I don’t know how many years that he would bring me somebody that I loved […] that loved me in the same way, and he brought me Tom, so I believe in that.”
When asked if he believed in God, Tom Hanks said: “I think you’ll be foolish not to believe in God.”