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Tom Hanks Uses Cecil B. DeMille Honor to Share Life Lessons: ‘If It Stinks, They Won’t Use It’

Even before he took the stage to accept his lifetime achievement award, the actor was already building up some meme-tastic buzz on social media.

Tom Hanks arrives at the 77th annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, in Beverly Hills, Calif77th Annual Golden Globe Awards - Arrivals, Beverly Hills, USA - 05 Jan 2020

Tom Hanks arrives at the 77th annual Golden Globe Awards

Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

As beloved Hollywood actor and comedian Tom Hanks continues to make his way through yet another awards season — with five Oscar nominations and two ultimate wins, plus 10 Golden Globe nods and four wins, this is a star who knows the score — the “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” star could rest a touch easy at Sunday’s Golden Globes ceremony.

While the actor was nominated in the Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture category for his turn in Marielle Heller’s latest feature, Hanks knew he’d be walking away from the ceremony with at least one big win: the Cecil B. DeMille Award, announced in late 2019. (His other category had yet to be announced before the DeMille honor, so Hanks still presumably had a few nerves to work through.)

Even before taking the stage at the Beverly Hilton to collect his award, introduced by a loving speech from Charlize Theron (who professed to a deep, life-long love for Hanks’ comedy classic “Splash”) and a wide-ranging, career-spanning supercut, Hanks had become something of a meme on social media. Bolstered by his wonderfully expressive face and a cameraperson who appeared to love nothing more than cutting to Hanks during all manner of wild moments (starting with Ricky Gervais’ off-color opening monologue and not letting up from there), the actor was already dominating social media chatter before it was time for him to accept his honor.

The HFPA’s version of a lifetime achievement award, the Cecil B. DeMille Award is given to recipients for “outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment.” As it applies to “everyman” Hanks, the reason for his honor is clear, and as Theron herself proclaimed, “he just makes the world a better place.”

In accepting his award after a room-wide standing ovation, Hanks opened with trademark good hour. “How many people in this room have a clip package that includes ‘The Love Boat’?,” Hanks joked, before singing a few lines from the classic TV show’s indelible theme song. The actor soon got choked up before pointing to his family-filled table dead center in the ballroom, including fellow star, wife Rita Wilson. “A man is blessed with a family sitting down front like that,” Hanks said.

Loving family tribute complete, Hanks turned to the inevitable: a mini masterclass in what he’s learned in his many years of acting, his decades working in Hollywood. From practical notes on always showing up on time, to more ephemeral asks like finding a way to tell the truth in your work, Hanks used his time to offer all manner of bits of advice.

First and foremost, though: Hanks advocated for stealing. Within reason! In a fun way! A creative way!

“You’re a dope if you don’t steal from everybody you’ve ever worked with, and I have stolen from the likes of the people that only need one name, like Meryl, like Denzel, like Antonio, like Meg, like Julia, like Sally Field — even though that’s two names, it’s still one,” Hanks said. He added, “I have also been made better by watching the examples of watching the greatest actors who have ever walked the stage,” naming a variety of stars like Robin Wright, Barkhad Abdi, Holland Taylor, and Peter Scolari.

Finally, Hanks encouraged his fellow creatives to take some risks (as long as they know their text backwards and forwards), even if it doesn’t always work out. “If it stinks, they won’t use it,” Hanks said. “When the time comes, you have to hit the marks, you have to go there.”

Named after the legendary director of such films as “The King of Kings,” “Samson and Delilah,” and “The Ten Commandments,” the award was first given out in 1952 and has been doled out continuously since, save for the 1976 and 2008 ceremonies, where it was not awarded to anyone.

Other Cecil B. DeMille Award recipients over the decades include George Clooney, Robert De Niro, Audrey Hepburn, Harrison Ford, Jodie Foster, Sophia Loren, Sidney Poitier, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Meryl Streep, Barbra Streisand, Denzel Washington, Robin Williams, Oprah Winfrey, Jeff Bridges, and many more.

Earlier in the evening, Ellen DeGeneres received the second-ever Golden Globe television special achievement award, the very appropriately named Carol Burnett Award. The multifaceted comedian, actress, and host launched her “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” in 2003. The series aired its 3,000th episode in May 2019 and during its tenure has earned 63 Daytime Emmy Awards, including 11 for Outstanding Entertainment Talk Show.

This year’s 77th annual Golden Globe Awards ceremony was hosted by returning host Gervais, and took place at The Beverly Hilton. Check out the full list of Golden Globe winners right here.

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