Tom Hanks: Never-typecast actor delivers diverse performances Metro – Canada By Richard Crouse Oct. 9, 2013

box officeWhen you think of the movies of Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone gut busting action comes to mind. The names Steve Martin and Adam Sandler are forever connected to comedy while Daniel Day Lewis is synonymous with serious drama. Meg Ryan? She’ll always be a romantic comedy star just as the mere mention of Robert Eglund’s can name send a chill down the spine.

But what about Tom Hanks? Hanks is a rarity among a-listers. He’s an actor who has avoided stereotyping by pasting together a resume that includes every almost genre of film.

This weekend he stars in Captain Phillips, a drama based on the true story of the 2009 hijacking of the MV Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates.

It’s a heroic role—in real life President Obama said Capt. Richard Phillips’ courage “is a model for all Americans.”—but it’s a far cry from his last movie, Cloud Atlas, which saw him play three characters, one of which tossed a critic out of a skyscraper window.

His varied IMDB listing includes everything from comedies like Splash (“What you looking at? You never seen a guy who slept with a fish before?”) to Academy Award winning dramas like Philadelphia, where he played a gay lawyer with AIDS suing his firm for discrimination and Forrest Gump.

In the kid’s classic Toy Story (and its subsequent sequels) he’s Woody, a stuffed pull-string cowboy doll. Director John Lasseter says he wanted Hanks to play the character because of his “ability to take emotions and make them appealing.”

Much darker is Road to Perdition, the 2002 Sam Mendes film that cast Hanks as Michael Sullivan, Sr, an ace hitman who must protect his son from a mob assassin.  “I just got this guy,” says Hanks. “If you’re a man, and you’ve got offspring… emotionally, it’s devastating.”

Different still is Nothing in Common, a dramedy that saw Hanks play a successful advertising executive trying to cope with his parents’ (Jackie Gleason and Eva Marie Saint) break up. “[It] has a bit of a split personality,” Hanks said, “because we’re trying to be very funny in the same movie in which we’re trying to be very touching.”

Hanks says, “I’m not looking for any particular kind of story,” and his varied approach to his work hasn’t hurt him one bit. Recently he was named America’s “best-liked movie star,” in a poll by Public Policy Polling.


road-to-perdition-originalThe Irish mafia isn’t given nearly as much screen time as their Sicilian cousins. For every Miller’s Crossing there are three Godfathers; a Sopranos for every Grifters. Road to Perdition sees Tom Hanks as Michael Sullivan, personal “Angel of Death” for Irish mob-boss John Rooney (Paul Newman). Sullivan, an orphan, had been raised as Rooney’s son, and carved a nice Norman Rockwellian life for himself, his wife and two kids. Each morning he has breakfast with his family in their lovely country home, before heading off to work to intimidate and kill Rooney’s enemies. Unbeknownst to Sullivan, his oldest son (Tyler Hoechlin) tags along on one of these missions, and sees exactly what his father does for a living. In a misguided effort to silence the boy Rooney’s son kills Sullivan’s wife and youngest boy. Revenge and the safety of his surviving son motivate Sullivan to hit the road. Road to Perdition is beautifully rendered look at 1930s depression era America. Director Sam Mendes has stayed true to the story’s graphic novel roots, and dishes up a spectacular looking film, one so finely detailed you can almost smell the gunpowder and smouldering cigarettes. Hanks is surprisingly effective as the strong silent hit man. His Sullivan is complicated, the actor subverts his natural likeability to present a man who is at once loyal and caring, but will put a bullet through your skull without a second thought. It’s a layered, subtle performance that moves away from the heroic characters that Hanks usually favours. Look for the supporting cast at awards time. Jude Law as a sadistic killer-for-hire shines, but it is Paul Newman that shows the rest of the cast how it should be done. His Rooney is a great cap to a distinguished career. I only have to wonder why an actress of Jennifer Jason Leigh’s calibre would take on the thankless and nondescript role of Sullivan’s wife. Is there really that little work in Hollywood for women that actresses of her experience must take whatever scraps are offered?