“It’s a glow-in-the-dark compass ring. So you don’t get lost.”
– Tom Hanks as Josh in the 1988 movie “Big”
Tom Hanks is a five-time Academy Award nominee for Best Actor and two-time winner, establishing himself as one of the all-time greats in Hollywood history. His career compass ring has been glowing strong for three decades. As host Jon Oliver quipped during his one-on-one Tribeca Film Fest “Storytellers” conversation with Hanks, he’s “a national treasure.” The Tribeca talk between Hanks and Oliver was hilarious, insightful and filled with anecdotes and advice about the movie business, storytelling and obscure film references (“Little Boat!” from “Splash”) that are yelled at him in public. Five highlights from the session:
1) The X Factor
Hanks rattled off many factors when it comes to creating a movie that people embrace, including hard work, blind luck and serendipity. However, Hanks said the greatest X factor in the success of a movie is, “will anyone care at all?” So moviemaking is also like a box chocolates.
“BFCUKB” is my new favorite acronym this week. Hanks shared a story on how director Ron Howard, on the set of “Apollo 13,” told Hanks that a scene needed a BFCUKB or a Big F*cking Close-Up of Kevin Bacon! The audience erupted in laughter. Houston, we have a close-up!
3) Moviemaking is a Minefield
After Hanks declared “Forrest Gump” as his best film, he recalled a conversation with director Robert Zemeckis about the minefield associated with the moviemaking process. “When it works, you dodged the mines,” said Hanks. When you look at the mines or the failures, “you can see how lucky you are when the alliances work” and through the choices you’ve made throughout the journey. You “learn most from bad experiences than the good ones.”
4) The Power of World War II
Hanks starred in “Saving Private Ryan” and was executive producer on both “Band of Brothers” (as well as one of the directors and writers) and “The Pacific,” so World War II is an ongoing fascination and passion for him. As Hanks explained, “I do World War II a lot because it was a vibrant time and the people didn’t know if they would live or die.”
5) Hang On if You’re an Actor
During the audience Q&A at the end, an aspiring actress asked Hanks for career advice. Hanks said to “hang on” because there’s always someone out there looking for someone like you, especially where you least expect it. The process is hard, but it requires perseverance and the will to continue another day. Simply put, keep doing that thing you do – even in the face of so much rejection.
Although Hanks jokingly said that his career peaked in the 90s, it’s clear that success in storytelling and creating a prolific movie career requires you to ask yourself, WWTHD or What Would Tom Hanks Do?