Tom Hanks is nothing if not modest.
The two-time Academy Award winner for Best Actor is also a writer, producer and director, but during a panel conversation with John Oliver at the Tribeca Film Festival on Friday, Hanks told Oliver (and an audience of 1,200 people) that he “peaked in the ’90s.”
Oliver vehemently disagreed, calling Hanks an “American national treasure,” and proceeded to coax out of Hanks some of the best anecdotes from his 36-year acting career. Here are the highlights from their conversation.
On Hanks’ secret formula for every movie:
This is what goes into every movie: Hard work, blind luck, serendipity, bitter compromise, frustration, the crazy blessings from the goddess Caligula, and this great X- factor of, is anybody going to care at all?
On the unpredictability of making a hit:
Probably the most heralded movie I’ve ever been in was “Forrest Gump.” While I was sitting on the park bench, I asked [Robert Zemeckis,] ‘Is anyone going to care about this guy?’ He said, ‘I don’t know Tom. It’s a mine field. It’s a fucking mine field.’ So when it works, you just say, ‘We dodged all the mines.’
On the funniest thing that’s ever happened on a movie set:
On “Apollo 13” Ron Howard said, ‘What should the shot be?’ Kevin Bacon said, ‘I don’t want to boss you around, but I think this shot really should be a B.F.C.U.K.B.’ Ron said, ‘What’s a B.F.C.U.K.B.?’ Kevin said, ‘Just a Big Fucking Close Up of Kevin Bacon.’ Bill Paxton and I went berserk. We were talking in that same acronym for the remainder of the movie. God bless Kevin Bacon.
On his proudest moment in film:
With “That Thing You Do,” when the band hears their record on the radio for the first time, Bruce Springsteen said ‘I liked that moment when they heard their record on the radio. The same thing happened to us. We were all in cars and we pulled over on the side of the road to listen to it.’
On how he chooses movie roles:
You just have to kind of love them and want to see the movie. At one point in my mid 30s I was making a lot of movies about the goofy-headed guy who can’t get laid and wants to get laid. I realized then that I had to start saying a very difficult word to people, which was no. Saying no means you’ve made the choice of the type of story you want to tell and they type of character you want to play.
On which of his characters he’d like to have a beer with:
I’d go out with Charlie Wilson from “Charlie Wilson’s War.” Charlie Wilson was the most fabulous party animal there ever was. He was a sitting congressman for the United States of America and he was naked in a hot tub with strippers in Las Vegas…on a congressional fact-finding job.
On what it means to be an actor:
The world is divided into two very distinctive groups: people who will always be self-conscious and will never be actors and the people who have defeated their own self-consciousness and can be actors. Now you take that half, and that group is divided into two distinctive halves as well: those that can persevere and artificially produce the wherewithal to continue for another day, and those who have met so much rejection that they can’t take it anymore and they walk away.
Watch the trailer for Tribeca entry “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” below.
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