(The idea for this post, and some of its content, was borne from an assignment in my Classic Films elective. So there’s that.)
Now, this is, of course, one of the most memorable scenes in sports film history, from the 1992 film (and my #2 sports film of all time) A League of Their Own. But it shows how memorable, and often lovable, Tom Hanks’ roles are. He plays a freakin’ crochety, washed-up ballplayer/drunk (and that order is debatable) and he still charms audiences because he changes into a strong-willed yet fair manager/recovering drunk. Every character he portrays is done so in a very ‘genuine’ way – he forms a cozy connection with the audience, who always ends up cheering for him. (It’s ironic that, in the last 5 minutes of a rerun of Men of a Certain Age this morning, that Scott Bakula describes being an actor as a “professionally charming person”.)
One argument against Tom Hanks is that his roles are all the same. Now, Sleepless in Seattle is a hell of a lot like You’ve Got Mail – and I’ve not a fan of either – but it’s very difficult to say that all his roles all the same. His role as Viktor Navorski in the 2004 Steven Spielberg film The Terminal (where he plays a man from Eastern Europe basically living the American dream while exiled in an airport, endearing the audience and pissing off Stanley Tucci along the way) is quite different from his role as Michael Sullivan (a Chicago hitman) in the 2002 film Road to Perdition, and is further different from being stranded in the South Pacific as Chuck Noland in Cast Away. The only similarity is that Hanks touches the audience in some way or another. He has this credibility as a regular person (Forrest Gump, anyone?) yet still has the ability to seem, for lack of better phrasing, better than us.
I love that he has a fascination for space – and has channeled his time and money about works involving space (Apollo 13, From the Earth to the Moon…Toy Story – okay, I know it’s a stretch). Further, the other shows he produces through his company Play-Tone – Band of Brothers, The Pacific (which I’d love to see), and the amazing John Adams mini-series (which was luckily on when my family got digital cable and six weeks of HBO free) – they’re well-casted, well-written, and well-filmed.