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Tragic Details About Tom Hanks We’ve Ignored for Too Long

Tom Hanks has established himself firmly in Hollywood as essentially the quintessential American dad. He owes that endearing honorific to his numerous feel-good movie roles and the fact that he genuinely seems like a decent guy. 

And as for the fact that he hardly ever plays the antagonist in any of his films, Hanks has actually touched on this truth a bit when he explained to The New York Times that he has had this lifelong conviction to not instill fear in anybody. He has little desire to be the ‘bad guy’, and frankly nobody would take him seriously in such a role anyway. 

Sure, he’s got a lot of mystery in his back story but none of it could be classified as malevolent. Still, Hank’s life hasn’t all been smooth sailing, and even a cherished star like himself has faced his fair share of hardships over the years.

Even though he has earned himself a mantle full of awards and a seemingly endless stream of accolades and shout-outs for his work in film and television, he has also had to deal with all of his own personal disappointments, not to mention projects that he’s been a part of that have ended up failing despite his best efforts. It’s all part of the game, and even Hanks isn’t immune to some of the riskier elements that come with being an established Hollywood heavyweight.

Hanks readily admits that he has been a part of a ton of movies that don’t make a whole lot of sense and several of those offerings have ended up being financial duds, but that doesn’t in the least bit affect the work that he puts into it or even what opinion he has about them.

From his past romantic relationships to his film flops to an upbringing that wasn’t always a walk in the park, come along with us for a little retrospective into the somewhat tragic real-life story of Tinseltown’s golden boy, Tom Hanks.

Hanks Had A Troubled Childhood 

The Cast Away star came into the world on July 9, 1956, in Concord, California. He was born Thomas Jeffrey Hanks. His mother had a job at the local hospital while his dad was an itinerant cook that did the best he could with what little he had to provide for his family. Hanks has spoken frankly about his childhood on multiple occasions pointing out that it wasn’t exactly ideal. 

According to an interview that he gave to The New York Times, Hanks grew up in Northern California during a time that the Zodiac Killer was terrorizing the nation, and monumental social movements like the People’s Park riots were causing people to question the status quo. His father often worked long hours to put food on the table and keep the electricity on but as such, his children were often left to their own devices on the home front.

Tom told the Times that there were a bunch of things that he wasn’t taught how to do when he was a kid. No one was there to tell him how to brush his teeth and he didn’t even know what flossing was all about until long past his high school years. Although he missed out on a lot of crucial life lessons when he was a child, he still managed to come out of his formative years relatively well adjusted.

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And don’t you dare think about sneaking off so soon. Stick around to see why Hank’s first marriage ended up falling apart. It seems like there are some things in life that fame and fortune just can’t buy, and love is one of those things.

His Parents Split When He Was Young 

Tom Hanks’ parents filed for divorce when he was still just a young child. His family situation wasn’t that picture-perfect scenario presented on the TV screen through popular sitcoms featuring traditional and healthy nuclear families. His little brother ended up going off to live with his mother while Tom went to go live with his dad.

Hanks has three siblings. He has two brothers named Jim and Larry and one sister named Sandra. Both of his parents eventually remarried two different times a piece so Tom is actually number nine in an extended family of 16 siblings and half-siblings.

By the time he was 10 years old, Tom had already lived in 10 different homes. The Oscar-winning actor told the BBC that his upbringing left him and his siblings perpetually in a state of confusion because no one gave them the courtesy of explaining anything to them. They were left essentially blind to the details of their ever-changing home life with little clarification as to what was actually going on.

Tom’s First Marriage Also Ended In Divorce 

Hanks has been happily married to his wife Rita Wilson since 1988. A lot of fans forget about the fact that the Sleepless in Seattle star was married once before. In 1978 he and his ex Samantha Lewes tied the knot and ended up having two children together. They welcomed a son, Colin, into the world in 1977 – whom as you are probably already aware ended up following in his father’s footsteps by also becoming an accomplished actor. They also had a daughter that they named Elizabeth in 1982 bringing the total number of Hanks’ children to four.

The couple decided to dissolve their marriage after struggling through years of poor communication and incompatibility in 1987, although they had already separated three years prior. Tom ended up remarrying just one year later.

Hanks told GQ that his feelings for his second wife, Rita, grew a lot quicker than he expected. They grew close while on the set of the 1985 film Volunteers and sparks immediately started to fly. He had previously worked with her on the sitcom Bosom Buddies in 1981.

Touching on his first failed marriage, Hanks admitted that he was searching for something in that relationship that he had missed out on as a child. A broken marriage meant that he was essentially sentencing his own children to the same kinds of feelings and heartbreak that he had experienced at their age – and that realization brought a heaviness to his heart that was difficult for him to reconcile with. He was much too young, naive, insecure, and idealistic for marriage at the time. 

He was just 23 and his little boy, Colin, was only two when he got hitched the first time around. So, he was at least self-aware enough to admit that he wasn’t prepared or capable of taking on that level of responsibility at that point in his early adult life.

Samantha Lewes Died Of Cancer 

Tom’s first marriage to Samantha Lewes might not have ended up as a happy ending but that didn’t mean that he didn’t care for her. They were college sweethearts and shared a lot of firsts together. She was also an actress who had already amassed quite a few credits on TV, and when they got divorced in 1987 they continued to co-parent their kids. Both Tom and Samantha knew that their children deserved to have both of their parents in their lives, and they didn’t want to leave them high and dry in that regard.

Sadly in 2001, it came to light that Lewes, who was born Susan Dillingham, was dying from an aggressive form of bone cancer that was already spreading throughout her body. When Tom heard the news, he was devastated. Even though he and his ex-wife had split a long time ago, they still cared about each other very deeply. Sure, they had their ups and downs just like any other divorced couple but at the end of the day, they were still very close friends. Susan died on March 12, 2002, in Sacramento, California.

Tom Hanks Directorial Debut Was A Flop 

Having had directed a slew of TV episodes already, Tom decided that it was finally time to branch out to the big screen to try his hand out as a movie writer and director for the 1996 film That Thing You Do! The movie centered around a band in the 1960s and chronicled their journey of becoming an overnight success after recording a one-hit-wonder. 

Even though the film featured big-name stars like Liv Tyler and Charlize Theron, the film failed to impress at the box office. It wasn’t a complete loss though. The film had a budget of $26 million which was pretty hefty for that period but it still managed to pull in $34.5 million. Clearly that’s not the best return in the history of film, but it wasn’t the worse either.

Setting aside the fact that the movie wasn’t a major success in terms of the numbers, Hanks’ directorial debut has still lured in quite a few new fans in the years since its release. In 2020, the actors who contributed their talents for the film’s fictional band, The Wonders, reunited for an exclusive That Thing You Do watch party to help raise funds and awareness for the MusiCares COVID-19 relief fund.

The stars of the movie have nothing but words of praise to say about their experience being a part of its production. Actor Steve Zahn gave an interview with Entertainment Weekly where he noted that even though it was technically the first time that Hanks had directed a film, at that point he had been working in the industry for so long that he already had a keen grasp of how things worked on many different levels. Even though he has worked alongside a great deal of first-time directors, according to Zahn, Tom was a veteran in comparison.

Tom Hanks Offered Refunds To Disappointed Fans 

While most of his films have been critical and box-office successes, he, like any other actor, has had a few duds throughout his career as well. Hanks followed up his directorial debut That Thing You Do with the 2011 film Larry Crowne, which he also co-wrote and starred in. Even though Larry Crowne seemed to have everything going for it on paper, with all the makings of being a hit rom-com with Hanks and Julia Roberts in the leading roles, a lot of folks that went to theaters to go experience it ended up leaving feeling pretty disappointed about what they had just witnessed. And even though it had to have been frustrating to have his pet project be met with such lackluster reviews, Hanks showed off his gentlemanly nature by how he responded to those criticisms so gracefully.

The National Enquirer reported that after two fans confronted Hanks at a gas station in LA after recently going to see Larry Crowne. Hanks asked them for their honest opinion about the film – and no doubt he probably regretted doing so – as they responded by informing him that they found it lacking in many regards to put it nicely.

‘It wasn’t that good’ they said, but instead of letting that get him down, Hanks offered his sincerest of apologies and even offered to refund their ticket money to make it right. So yeah, even after receiving a damning critique of his work, Hanks was still nothing short of polite – a quality that makes us love him that much more.

Alright, that’s about all the time we have for this one. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed digging through Tom Hanks tangled past as much as we have. But to be fair, as far as celebs go, Tom Hanks is by far one of the least troubled stars around. Sure, he’s had his struggles and troubles just like the best of us, but it’s always been the way that he’s dealt with trial and tribulation that has shown us what kind of man he really is. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone that has anything truly shocking to say about him. He’s all around just a really likable guy – and his reputation proceeds him.

Anyway, now’s your turn to let your voice be heard. Who do you think would win in a knock-down drag-out battle between Tom Hanks and fellow Hollywood leading man George Clooney? Let us know who you’re placing your chips on in the comments section below.

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