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Tom Hanks Opens Up About the Two Moments In His Career When He Realized He Could Finally Do What He Wanted In Hollywood

Tom Hanks’ Hollywood career has been one to admire for numerous young actors. He’s done every genre and won every accolade under the sun. He’s come a long way from his sitcom start on Bosom Buddies. Hanks spent his early career doing comedy after comedy. While they feed his pockets and family, the two-time Oscar winner began to grow tired of doing comedies by the late 1980s. But his film career experienced a seismic shift in the 1990s. The Elvis star recalled the two moments in his career when he realized he could finally do what he wanted in Hollywood.

Of course. Hanks’ 1980s heyday was filled with classic comedies like Splash, Big, and The Money Pit, just to name a few. He’s been open about his misses during that period as well. But the acting legend was ready to show his range to moviegoers. Hanks decided to stop accepting romantic comedy scripts after a successful run of them. At the same time, director Penny Marshall came to him about a little-known project A League of Their Own. The Sully actor revealed to the New York Times how the meeting with Marshall change his career outlook.

But I was fortunate in that my sense of self and artistic thirst grew at the same time. I had done enough romantic leads in enough movies and had experienced enough compromise to say, ‘I’m not even going to read those scripts anymore.’ So, then you hold out for something that represents more of the artist you want to be. When Penny Marshall came to me on A League of Their Own, I said, ’Penny, this is written for a guy who’s older than I am. The character is in his 40s and washed up. ’She said, ‘That’s why I want you. Because this guy should have been great until he was 40 and wasn’t.’ I went Aaaah. Before that a director had never said something to me like, ‘Come up with a reason why you’re 36, broken down, and managing a woman’s baseball team.’ Then it was, Katie, bar the door! I was looking for more of that from then on.

Leave it to a visionary like Penny Marshall to see beyond the rom-com sheen. Taking a chance on Hanks paid off as A League of Their Own’s Jimmy Dugan is regarded as one of his best performances. After the period sports drama’s success, Hanks went on to win back-to-back Best Actor Oscars for his dramatic turns in Philadelphia and Forrest Gump. The career shift paid off for him as the 1990s rolled on. In his New York Times Magazine interview, Hanks recalled the true moment he knew he could start taking chances with his acting career.

The other thing that happened in the ’90s was when Richard Lovett at C.A.A. said, ‘What do you want to do?’ No one had asked me that question, either. People always said, ‘What do you want to do with this opportunity?’ But what do you want to do? I said I’d like to make a movie about Apollo 13. That was the first time where I was saying, ‘This is the type of artist who I want to be.’ But if you look at anybody’s career, there are hits and misses. There are movies that simply don’t work, and if something not working is debilitating to you, you’re toast.

Thankfully, the acting veteran was backed by his agent to take chances. By the 1990s, the two-time Oscar winner had earned the right to take risks after years of safe yet lovable films. As Hanks pointed out, there were successes and duds after shifting his focus. Viewers got to see his range in dramas (Saving Private Ryan, Apollo 13, The Green Mile) to comedies (That Thing You Do!, You’ve Got Mail). He even branched out to animation with the Toy Story films. He started producing and directing more film and television projects at the same time.

Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own.

(Image credit: Columbia Pictures)

Of course, his film career has continued to excel and grow since then. Along with his turn as Col. Tom Parker in Elvis, Tom Hanks has other films debuting in 2022, including Disney’s live-action adaptation of Pinocchio. He even went back to his TV roots with his much-talked 1883 cameo. Things aren’t slowing down any time soon as there are more Hanks-associated projects in the works. So, there’s more to come from the Oscar winner.

A boy from Greenwood, South Carolina. CinemaBlend Contributor. An animation enthusiast (anime, US and international films, television). Freelance writer, designer and artist. Lover of music (US and international).