Biography of Tom Hanks 2024

Tom Hanks is one of the most beloved and respected actors in Hollywood. Over a career spanning more than four decades, Hanks has starred in some of the most popular and acclaimed films of all time. From comedies like Big and Splash to dramas like Philadelphia and Forrest Gump, Hanks has proven himself to be an incredibly versatile actor capable of disappearing into any role.

In addition to his illustrious acting career, Hanks has also achieved success as a director, producer, and writer. He has received numerous accolades for his work, including two consecutive Academy Awards for Best Actor for his performances in Philadelphia and Forrest Gump.

Hanks’ Everyman persona and natural charisma have made him one of the most bankable stars in the movie business. However, he is more than just a celebrity – Hanks is admired for his integrity, humanity, and advocacy for social causes.

This article will provide an in-depth look at the life and career of this respected and beloved artist.

Early Life and Education

Tom Hanks was born on July 9, 1956 in Concord, California. His father Amos was an itinerant cook, and his mother Janet was a hospital worker. Hanks had two older siblings, Sandra and Larry.

Due to his father’s job, Hanks’ family moved frequently during his childhood, living in towns along the West Coast. By the age of 10, Hanks had lived in 10 different houses across California and Nevada.

Despite the constant upheaval, Hanks looked back fondly on these nomadic years, later saying “in a strange way, it means I have this great toolbox of places I can draw from.”

While attending high school in Oakland, Hanks developed an interest in acting through school plays. At the age of 17, Hanks enrolled at Chabot College in Hayward, California where he studied theater.

1972-1974Attended Skyline High School in Oakland, CA
1974-1975Studied theater at Chabot College in Hayward, CA
1975-1976Transferred to California State University, Sacramento

In 1976, Hanks transferred to California State University in Sacramento. However, after just one year of studies, Hanks dropped out because he felt his time would be better spent pursuing a career in acting rather than completing college.

Early Acting Career

After leaving college in 1977, Hanks moved to New York City to pursue his dreams of becoming a professional actor. He landed a role in an off-Broadway production of The Taming of the Shrew, as well as several commercials.

In 1980, Hanks made his feature film debut with a minor part in the slasher film He Knows You’re Alone. That same year, he landed his first lead role on television, starring as Kip Wilson in the ABC sitcom Bosom Buddies.

YearEarly Acting Roles
1980He Knows You’re Alone (film debut), Bosom Buddies (TV series)
1981Mazes and Monsters (TV movie)
1982Bachelor Party (film)

Although Bosom Buddies was cancelled after just two seasons, it provided valuable exposure for Hanks, leading to larger film roles. In 1984, Hanks starred opposite Sally Field in the hit romantic comedy Splash, which became his breakout role and turned Hanks into a major star.

Breakthrough in Film: Late 1980s-1990s

After establishing himself as a bankable comedy star in films like Splash and Bachelor Party in the early-mid 80s, Hanks began taking on more dramatic roles in the late 1980s and 1990s. This transition proved his versatility as a leading man capable of handling both comedy and drama.

Some of his most notable roles during this period include:

  • Big (1988) – Hanks earned his first Oscar nomination for his portrayal of a boy who wakes up in an adult’s body overnight. The fantasy comedy was hugely popular and further cemented Hanks as a comedic star.
  • Punchline (1988) – Hanks played a wisecracking aspiring comedian opposite Sally Field. It marked one of his first significant dramatic roles.
  • A League of Their Own (1992) – Hanks played the manager of an all-female baseball team in the 1940s. His performance earned widespread praise.
  • Philadelphia (1993) – Hanks won his first Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of an attorney fired after contracting AIDS. It marked a major turning point as Hanks was now seen as a serious dramatic actor.
  • Forrest Gump (1994) – Hanks won a second consecutive Oscar for starring as an unlikely hero who influences several decades of American history. The film became a massive commercial and critical hit.
  • Apollo 13 (1995) – Hanks starred as astronaut Jim Lovell in director Ron Howard’s historical drama about the aborted 1970 Apollo 13 mission to the moon. The film was nominated for nine Academy Awards.
  • Saving Private Ryan (1998) – Set during World War II, Hanks gave another lauded performance as a captain searching for a paratrooper. The intense war epic from Steven Spielberg was a huge box office success.
  • Toy Story films (1995-2010) – Hanks voiced the beloved Sheriff Woody in Pixar’s computer animated Toy Story franchise. He appeared in all three films: Toy Story (1995), Toy Story 2 (1999), and Toy Story 3 (2010).

This decade-plus run of diverse hits firmly established Hanks as an American cultural icon and one of the most popular actors of his generation.

Dramatic Roles in the 2000s-2010s

In the 2000s and 2010s, even as he entered his 50s and 60s, Hanks continued to shine in a variety of dramatic and comedic roles:

  • Cast Away (2000) – Hanks received another Best Actor nomination for his performance as a FedEx employee stranded on a deserted island.
  • Road to Perdition (2002) – Hanks played a hitman set on revenge during the Depression era.
  • The Polar Express (2004) – He provided motion capture performance and voice work in this animated Christmas fantasy film.
  • Charlie Wilson’s War (2007) – Hanks portrayed U.S. Congressman Charlie Wilson involved in a covert operation to supply Afghan rebels.
  • Captain Phillips (2013) – Hanks was nominated for a Golden Globe for playing a cargo ship captain kidnapped by Somali pirates.
  • Bridge of Spies (2015) – Set during the Cold War, Hanks played an attorney negotiating the release of a captured U.S. pilot. The role earned Hanks an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
  • Sully (2016) – Hanks starred as pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger who became a hero for landing a damaged plane on the Hudson River.
  • A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019) – Hanks played beloved TV personality Fred Rogers and was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

Well into the latter part of his career, Hanks has remained one of Hollywood’s most sought-after talents, capable of elevating any film he stars in.

Directing and Producing

In addition to his prolific acting resume, Hanks has also enjoyed success behind the camera as a director, producer and writer.

Some highlights of his work behind the scenes include:

  • That Thing You Do! (1996) – Hanks made his directorial debut with this musical comedy, which he also wrote and produced.
  • From the Earth to the Moon (1998) – Hanks produced this 12-part HBO miniseries about the Apollo space program in the 1960s/70s. The series won multiple Emmy awards.
  • Band of Brothers (2001) – Hanks and Steven Spielberg executive produced this acclaimed 10-part WWII miniseries for HBO.
  • My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) – Hanks helped produce this sleeper hit independent comedy through his Playtone production company.
  • Mamma Mia! (2008) – Hanks produced the popular film adaptation of the Broadway musical featuring the songs of ABBA.
  • The Pacific (2010) – He executive produced this companion miniseries to Band of Brothers, this time focused on the Pacific theater of WWII.

In total, films produced by Hanks have grossed over $4.9 billion worldwide [1]. He and his wife Rita Wilson remain actively involved in producing films, miniseries, and Broadway shows through their successful Playtone company.

Personal Life and Activism

Hanks’ first marriage was to actress Samantha Lewes from 1978-1987. The couple had two children together: son Colin (b. 1977) and daughter Elizabeth (b. 1982).

In 1988, Hanks married actress Rita Wilson. Hanks and Wilson have two sons together, Chester (b. 1990) and Truman (b. 1995).

Hanks is a practicing Greek Orthodox Christian, having converted from his Protestant upbringing later in life. Politically, he has supported initiatives for same-sex marriage, environmental protection, and alternative fuels.

Along with his producing partner Gary Goetzman, Hanks helped create The Hidden Heroes Campaign to honor caregivers of wounded service members. He has been an advocate for American veterans and has done multiple USO tours to support troops.

In 2020, Hanks and Wilson were among the first prominent people to announce they had contracted COVID-19 early in the pandemic. After recovering, Hanks advocated for taking the virus seriously and following medical advice.

Throughout his career, Hanks has maintained a reputation as one of the nicest, most decent people in show business. He is known for his easy-going nature and willingness to mingle with fans. On set, he has built a reputation as an actor who establishes a positive work environment.

Accolades and Impact

  • With over 100 acting credits to his name, Hanks is considered American cinema royalty.
  • His films have grossed over $9.96 billion worldwide, with over 29 films grossing over $100 million [2].
  • He is the fifth highest-grossing actor worldwide behind only Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Downey Jr., Harrison Ford, and Eddie Murphy.
  • Hanks is a nine-time Academy Award nominee, winning consecutive Best Actor Oscars for Philadelphia (1993) and Forrest Gump (1994). Those two roles also won him consecutive Golden Globes, along with 6 total Globe nominations.
  • Some of Hanks’ many other awards include:
    • 2012 Kennedy Center Honoree
    • 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom (highest civilian honor in the U.S.)
    • 2020 Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award honoring his lifetime achievement in film
  • In 2002, Hanks became the youngest ever recipient of the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award, an honor usually given to accomplished veterans.
  • He has been referred to as “America’s Dad” for his likable Everyman persona and roles as father figures and mentors on-screen [3].
  • With his enduring career and box office heights reached, Hanks is regarded as one of the greatest actors in American cinema history.


Tom Hanks’ journey has taken him from obscure theater actor to becoming the most beloved leading man of his era. For over 40 years, he has captivated audiences in both comedic and dramatic roles that have become iconic fixtures of American pop culture.

Hanks has shown a nearly unmatched versatility within the film industry – whether acting, directing, producing, or writing, he has excelled across genres ranging from romantic comedies to historical dramas.

While racking up enormous box office hits and a trophy case full of awards, Hanks has managed to maintain an uncommon authenticity, humility, and passion for his craft. His congenial reputation and dedication to philanthropy have only furthered America’s admiration.

Still evolving and taking on new challenges well into the latter stages of his career, the legacy of Tom Hanks feels securely cemented as that of a national treasure whose performances will endure for generations to come. The boy who dreamed of acting while moving from town to town has realized those lofty dreams to heights few ever experience.

Frequently Asked Questions About Tom Hanks

How did Tom Hanks get his start in acting?

Tom Hanks began acting in high school plays before studying theater in community college. He got his onscreen start with minor TV and film roles in the late 1970s. His big break came starring in the TV sitcom Bosom Buddies, eventually leading to his first lead film role in Splash in 1984.

What was Tom Hanks’ first major film role?

Hanks had his major breakthrough playing the lead role of Allen Bauer in the fantasy romantic comedy Splash in 1984 opposite Daryl Hannah. The success of Splash launched Hanks as a Hollywood star.

How many Oscars has Tom Hanks won?

Tom Hanks has won two Academy Awards for Best Actor – in 1993 for Philadelphia and in 1994 for Forrest Gump. Those two consecutive wins tie Hanks for the record of back-to-back acting Oscars shared only by Spencer Tracy and Jason Robards.

What Tom Hanks movie gained him his first Oscar nomination?

Tom Hanks received his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his performance in the 1988 film Big, in which he played a young boy who suddenly wakes up in an adult’s body overnight.

What was the first film directed by Tom Hanks?

The first film Tom Hanks directed was That Thing You Do! in 1996. Hanks also wrote the screenplay and produced this musical comedy about a fictional 1960s rock band making it big with their hit song.

Is Tom Hanks married?

Yes, Tom Hanks has been married to actress Rita Wilson since 1988. They met on the set of TV show Bosom Buddies and later co-starred in films including Volunteers, Sleepless in Seattle, and That Thing You Do. Hanks and Wilson have two sons together.

How much is Tom Hanks worth?

According to various reports, Tom Hanks’ net worth is estimated to be around $400 million as of 2022. He is considered one of the highest paid actors, earning around $20 million per movie role. Hanks also earns from his production company Playtone.

How many films have featured Tom Hanks?

Incredibly, over his 40+ year career from 1980 to today, Tom Hanks has appeared in well over 100 movies and TV shows counting his acting roles, producing credits, and other film work. Some of his best known titles include Big, Forrest Gump, Saving Private Ryan, and Cast Away.

What is Tom Hanks’ latest film?

Tom Hanks’ most recent film credit is 2022’s live action Pinocchio from director Robert Zemeckis. Hanks voices Geppetto in this adaptation of the classic tale for Disney+. Other upcoming films for Hanks include Bios, Here, and A Man Called Ove.