What can’t Tom Hanks do? He’s acted in some of the most highly acclaimed films of recent years (Philadelphia…Saving Private Ryan…Forrest Gump). He’s mastered light comedy (Big) and romantic comedy (Sleepless in Seattle). He was a hit on TV (Bosom Buddies) and is arguably Saturday Night Live’s most versatile guest host. He brings cartoon characters to life (Toy Story). He’s been an executive producer (Evan Almighty), a producer (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), even a director and writer (That Thing You Do).
Which isn’t to say that he’s never chosen a bad film. May I present exhibit one, the interminable Cast Away. Exhibit two, the Coen Brothers rare gacker, The Ladykillers. And finally, one of the most hideous clunkers of all time, Bonfire of the Vanities.
Even in those films, though, you can’t fault Tom Hanks’s performance. When he takes on a role, he becomes you and me. He’s does exactly what we would do if we were that character. He’s genuine, and sincere, and appears completely at home in his own skin. Which, now that I’ve written it, strikes me as a terribly lame description.
Tom Hanks is only the second actor to win back-to-back Oscars (1993 and 1994), after the legendary Spencer Tracy. But if I could compare Tom to an old-Hollywood actor, it would probably be Henry Fonda. Compare Fonda in Fail-Safe to Hanks in Apollo 13. They both exhibit confidence in the midst of crisis, and I think the comparison is a pretty high compliment. To Fonda.