Tom Hanks is one of the most likable men in Hollywood.
He’s had not one but many iconic roles as a truly decent person who holds up under duress, from Big to Forrest Gump, from Saving Private Ryan to Cast Away. On Broadway now, Hanks is playing a different sort of character, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Mike MacAlary.
When Hanks first read the play, he thought MacAlary was kind of a jerk.
"Can you say ‘asshole’ on public radio?” he asked.
Starring in Lucky Guy, it's Hanks’ first play in 30 years, and the last work by his friend and collaborator Nora Ephron. Hanks had been looking forward to working with Ephron, who died before the show started rehearsals.
"She was a good hang,” he recalled. “You always ate well, you always laughed, and you were always talking about the pulse of the nation."
He credits Ephron with fueling his fascination with American history, which started when he was young.
“I discovered In Cold Blood when I was 15 ... Knowing that that had actually happened and wasn't just the creepy imaginings of a writer really affected me quite deeply,” he said.
Hanks says he barely ever reads fiction, to the chagrin of his wife.
Many of Hanks' greatest moments are purely visual — they have little to do with his dialog delivery — like the dancing scene in Big or the run in Forrest Gump. He's something of a silent movie star.
“I would love to do a movie that’s completely silent,” Hanks said, citing the very long stretch without dialogue in Cast Away as a formative experience. “I try to take out as many lines as possible.”