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The Kennedy Center

Tom Hanks

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    Kennedy Center Honors Highlights 2014



Biography

(Actor, director, producer, writer, born July 9, 1956 in Concord, California) When Reader's Digest did a poll in 2013 to find out who are the 100 Most Trusted People in America, Tom Hanks came out as No. 1. It's no surprise that the much-beloved star of such hits as Big, Forrest Gump, Castaway, and Toy Story is one of the most powerful and well-respected actors in Hollywood. His accessibility and charisma have earned him comparisons with such screen legends as Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant and Gary Cooper. Tom Hanks is the "everyman" whose portrayals make us reconsider our own moral choices. Watching him on screen, we think about what we would do--and have done. "And that's why we all love you so much," said Oprah in a 2001 interview with Hanks. "We recognize ourselves in your characters."

Thomas Jeffrey Hanks was born on July 9, 1956, in Concord, California. After graduating high school in Oakland, Hanks attended junior college before transferring into the theater program at California State University. He spent his summers acting and working at the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival in Ohio until 1980 when he dropped out of college and moved to New York City. That same year, Hanks was cast as Kip Wilson on the sitcom Bosom Buddies, one of two advertising executives who dress in drag in order to rent an apartment in an all-female building. The exposure led to guest roles on Happy Days, Taxi, The Love Boat, and Family Ties. Ron Howard remembered Hanks from his guest stint on Happy Days, and the actor starred in Howard's 1984 hit Splash opposite Daryl Hannah. Tom Hanks and Ron Howard would go on to work together on Apollo 13, The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons.

In 1988, Penny Marshall cast Hanks in a star-making role in Big. His performance earned him his first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor and established his reputation as a box-office draw as well as a talented actor. Hanks' portrayal in Nora Ephron's 1993 hit Sleepless in Seattle with co-star Meg Ryan ensured him a place among the premier romantic-comedy stars of his generation. But it was his courageous performance of a lawyer fired from his high-paying firm because he has AIDS in Philadelphia that won him an Academy Award for Best Actor. Hanks followed in 1994 with the phenomenal box office success Forrest Gump and brought home his second-straight Best Actor Oscar, becoming only the second actor to have accomplished the feat after Spencer Tracy.

Hanks moved from in front of the camera to behind it, making his directorial and screenwriting debut in 1996 with That Thing You Do!. On the Emmy-winning HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon, Hanks produced, directed, wrote and acted in various episodes. "I don't have instinctive talents for directing, it's stuff that I picked up from watching other people," Hanks said in a July 2014 interview with The-Talks.

He forged an important relationship with Steven Spielberg when he starred in the director's gruesomely accurate World War II drama Saving Private Ryan. The two collaborated on Catch Me If You Can and The Terminal, as well as the miniseries Band of Brothers and its companion piece The Pacific, and are currently working together on a Cold War spy thriller slated for release in 2015. Spielberg gave tribute to Hanks during his AFI Life Achievement Award, saying "Tom Hanks' achievements in film are very many, but perhaps his greatest contribution so far is that he instills a great hope in us all for a world where ordinary people have a voice."

Hanks has received numerous accolades, including being the youngest actor ever to earn the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award. For his Broadway debut in Lucky Guy, Hanks garnered a 2013 Tony Award nomination. But his achievements extend beyond film. The Space Foundation awarded Hanks the Douglas S. Morrow Public Outreach Award given annually to an individual or organization that has made significant contributions to public awareness of space programs. Hanks was the first actor to be inducted as an honorary member of the United States Army Rangers Hall of Fame. He served as the national spokesperson for the World War II Memorial Campaign and was honorary chairperson of the D-Day Museum Capital Campaign.

Hanks' roles are unforgettable, whether undergoing a striking physical transformation as in Castaway, playing a washed-up baseball legend turned manager in A League of Their Own or the real life portrayal of Captain Phillips. "I would like to think I've reflected the audience's lives somehow, though it's in this big, false, glamorous arena of movies," said Hanks. "I hope people see themselves somehow up on the screen. Shakespeare said it best: 'Hold the mirror up to nature. Human behavior is worthy of examination and celebration.'"
Tom Hanks