Dubbed the “nicest guy in Hollywood” or even more affectionately, “America’s dad,” Tom Hanks has cemented himself as Hollywood royalty not only for his skill as an actor, but for his kindness and generosity as a person.
Known for both his comedic and dramatic roles, garnering him 2 Academy Awards, 5 Golden Globes and 7 Prime-time Emmys, the 67-year-old has become one of the most popular and recognizable stars worldwide. As he emerged through the years and accrued status and dignity in his roles, he hasn’t lost sight of how much his kindness means to people.
Take a walk down memory lane with a look at Tom Hanks young years, his incredible awards and honors and the movies and shows that have made their mark on our hearts.
Tom Hanks young days
Born Thomas Jeffrey Hanks on July 9, 1956 in Concord, California, Tom grew up in what he has called a “fractured” family. After his parents divorced, Tom and his siblings went to live with their father while Tom’s brother Jim, the youngest, remained with their mother. Several times a year, Tom would board a Greyhound bus for a four-hour journey to and from to visit his mother, oftentimes alone. By the time Tom was 10, he had lived in 10 different houses.
In school, Tom wasn’t very popular with students or teachers, later telling Rolling Stone, “I was a geek, a spaz. I was horribly, painfully, terribly shy. At the same time, I was the guy who’d yell out funny captions during filmstrips. But I didn’t get into trouble; I was always a real good kid and pretty responsible.”
The acting bug took hold while in Skyline High School in Oakland, where Tom took roles in plays like South Pacific. He went on to study theater at Chabot College in Hayward, and later transferred to California State University, Sacramento.
“Acting classes looked like the best place for a guy who liked to make a lot of noise and be rather flamboyant,” he told New York Magazine in 1986. “I spent a lot of time going to plays and wouldn’t take dates with me.”
During his time studying theater, Hanks met Vincent Dowling, head of the Great Lakes Theater Festival. Tom decided to drop out of Sacramento State (in 2010, Time magazine named Hanks one of the “Top 10 College Dropouts“) to take an internship with the theater that lasted for three years. But in 1978 he won the Cleveland Critics Circle Award for Best Actor as Proteus in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, one of the few times he ever played a villain.
Tom Hanks was also married to actress Samantha Lewes in 1978 and they had a son, actor Collin Hanks, and a daughter, Elizabeth. Lewes and Hanks divorced in 1987.
Tom Hanks accolades and awards
Besides the honors for his acting chops, Tom has received numerous nods across industries— including the AFI Life Achievement Award in 2002. In 2006, the Space Foundation awarded Hanks the Douglas S. Morrow Public Outreach Award, given annually to an individual who has made significant contributions to public awareness of space programs. Asteroid 12818 Tom Hanks is named after him.
In 2006, Tom was also inducted as an honorary member of the US Army Rangers Hall of Fame for his portrayal of a captain in the movie Saving Private Ryan.
Tom received the Kennedy Center Honor in 2014, both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the French Legion of Honor in 2016, as well as the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award in 2020. Earlier this year, he delivered the commencement address at Harvard University after receiving an horary degree.
Tom Hanks through the years
As one of the most beloved actors to grace the screen, here’s a look at Tom Hanks’ life, movies and shows from the early days of his career to present day.
It was his lead role as Kip Wilson on ABC’s Bosom Buddies that made Tom Hanks a household name. He and Peter Scolari played a pair of young ad men forced to dress as women so they could live in an inexpensive all-female hotel. The sitcom had Tom move to Los Angeles and it ran for two seasons.
Tom landed a starring role in the TV movie, Mazes and Monsters alongside Wendy Crewson, Chris Makepeace and David Wallace
Comedy Bachelor Party, also released in 1984, became a surprise hit as Tom starred alongside Bradford Bancroft.
Tom shared the screen with Eugene Levy and John Candy in the 1984 fantasy film, Splash. Where Daryl Hannah plays his love interest…a mermaid.
Tom starred in 1985’s Volunteers alongside John Candy and Rita Wilson, who would eventually become his wife after his split from Samantha Lewes in 1978.
Tom successfully segued from comedy to drama in 1986’s Nothing In Common with Jackie Gleason. “It changed my desires about working in movies,” he told Rolling Stone. “Part of it was the nature of the material…a story about a guy and his father.” With his star on the rise, The Walt Disney Studios signed him to a talent pool in an acting/producing pact.
As if things could get any bigger, the success of the 1988 fantasy comedy Big pushed Tom into becoming a major Hollywood star. He earned his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor.
In 1988, Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks got married. They share two sons, Chet and Truman. Hanks converted to Rita’s Greek Orthodox religion before marrying, and the two actively attend church.
Who can forget the famous line, “There’s no crying in baseball,” which was shouted by Tom in the 1992 sports flick, A League of Their Own, here with Lori Petty and Geena Davis
Critics raved about Tom’s portrayal of a gay lawyer with AIDS in Philadelphia alongside Denzel Washington, Mary Steenburgen and Jason Robards. He won the 1993 Academy Award for Best Actor in this role.
Tom Hanks stars alongside Meg Ryan in the cult-classic romance, Sleepless In Seattle.
Tom followed up his winning role in Philadelphia with a winning role in Forrest Gump (with Robin Wright Penn), which earned him another Oscar for Best Actor.
(See the cast of Forrest Gump then and now!)
Tom took home the Oscar for Best Actor for his work in Philadelphia.
Tom meets Princess Diana in 1995 at the London premiere of Apollo 13.
In 1998, Tom teamed with Steven Spielberg and actor Matt Damon for Saving Private Ryan, which was subsequently labeled the finest war film ever made.
Tom and Meg Ryan joined forces once again in You’ve Got Mail, in 1998.
Tom’s performance in 2000’s Cast Away earned him a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor and another Oscar nomination.
Tom collaborated again with Spielberg opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in the hit Catch Me If You Can.
The highly anticipated adaptation of The Da Vinci Code was released in 2006, starring Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou.
Tom starred as the heroic airline captain Chesley Sullenberger in Sully.
Shortly before the release of A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood in 2019, Tom learned that he and the character he portrayed, Fred Rogers, were sixth cousins. He is also a distant relative of Abraham Lincoln.
Tom made a wild transformation for his role in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis.
In 2023, Tom Hanks earned an honorary Doctorate of Arts degree from Harvard University, where he also served as the commencement speaker.
What is Tom Hanks up to today?
In 2022, Tom Hanks was unrecognizable in the role of Tom Parker in Elvis. His latest endeavor, Asteroid City, premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
Tom is also on track to headline a “Major Matt Mason” flick, which will see the Oscar-winning actor as an astronaut who lives on the moon. Adding to his already extensive resume, Hanks published his first novel earlier this year, The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece.
In his downtime, Hanks is a collector of manual typewriters, owning over 200 of them, and he actually uses them almost daily.
Love Tom Hanks? So do we! Keep reading…
Bonnie Siegler is an established international writer covering the celebrity circuit for more than 15 years. Bonnie’s resume includes two books that combine her knowledge of entertaining with celebrity health and fitness and has written travel stories which focus on sustainable living. She has contributed to magazines including Woman’s World and First for Women, Elle, InStyle, Shape, TV Guide and Viva. Bonnie served as West Coast Entertainment Director for Rive Gauche Media overseeing the planning and development of print and digital content. She has also appeared on entertainment news shows Extra and Inside Edition.