Following a spate of mediocre films, he’s currently having an amazing resurgence working with directors Clint Eastwood and Steven Spielberg.
But even during those lean years, he was always gracious and good humoured, and in fact at his most recent press conferences he’s been unusually spry and buoyant. And never warmer.
The 60-year-old two-time Oscar winner is happily married to actress Rita Wilson. He’s not only a devoted husband, but a father, and now a doting grandfather.
Most Hollywood marriages fall apart but you two have managed to stay together.
What marriage? What is falling apart? I don’t understand. When has this happened? (laughs)
Our marriage does not require vast amounts of work. We have been married for 28 years. It will be 29 in April and we dig each other a lot.
I still can’t believe it – we were in high school together and I didn’t have the guts to talk to her, and she has finally confessed to me that she wouldn’t have given me the time of day. But when we got married, we didn’t do it lightly. We knew what we were doing, and there’s just no doubt that she was the person for me.
That being said, look, we make sure we spend a lot of time together, and we make sure that we are honest with each other. I’ve never understood the concept that you really have to work at it to make it work. We are not a leaky boat, I don’t know to put it any other way. We operate on all cylinders. I dig her and she puts up with me, so good enough.
You recently earned 15 minutes of fame for photobombing a wedding in Central Park.
Oh yeah, I photobombed the wedding of Ryan and Elizabeth… Look, the secret of photobombing is timing and locale.
I was just walking by, and there was a whole pack of people in tuxedos and little kids and ring bearers and the bride and the groom, and I could have just been in the back of the video that they were taking, and just gone by, but I just stopped and wanted to wish them luck, and it might have made their day a little goofy. They invited me to the wedding and I could have gone, but I wasn’t dressed appropriately.
So are you now available for weddings on request?
I have no concern that every bride and groom is going to be coming my way after this. But that being said, I have performed at some weddings. I am a minister for the Universal Life Church, and I studied for that position for over US$40 (RM167). I don’t know if I can perform baptisms. But I charge a lot (laughs).
You’ve played many heroes in your career. Is there anything you’ve ever done that could be called heroic?
Even though Civil Rights movement, Vietnam War and the 1960s were going on around me, I never did anything heroic, outside of making a personal decision.
I’ll get married, I’ll have four kids, I’ll have faith in that whole procedure. There are four things you can be in this world; you can be a hero, a villain, a coward, or a bystander. I’m the last. I’m a bystander. I sit there and look at the stuff that goes on. So no, I’ve never done anything heroic.
Do your children consider you a hero?
No, I think that they consider me a knucklehead. I don’t know, you gotta ask my kids. I’d like to think that when it comes down to the things that are important in life I do have a natural instinct. I don’t worry about it. I don’t sweat it.
What advice do you give your older children?
There’s no real advice you can give them. You lead by example. The example that you set a decade ago is more (important) than anything you’re able to do for them right now.
My son Colin has met with a degree of success as an actor, for which I’m extremely proud, but I’m not surprised because I’ve known his personality since he was born. I saw him in high school plays, and I thought that kid’s got it. There’s definitely a natural talent there.
I just hope for all my kids that along with the talent, they develop a passion for whatever they pursue no matter what degree of success or failure they encounter. You just want your kids to love what they do.
What legacy would you want to leave to your kids?
One that has nothing to do with the work that I did.
That I was always laughing, that I was always fair, that I was around much more than I actually was. I say that because I missed so much of my daughter’s growing up. She remembers birthday after birthday when I wasn’t around. So I’d like my younger kids to think: “I don’t even remember dad being gone”. That would be a good sign.
Your wife was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.
Now there you go, I mean yeah. It’s not heroic being the husband of somebody who’s battling cancer. But I would say that’s a type of moment when there is only one thing to do and that’s the right thing.
You have to put your head down there and reprioritise absolutely everything. My task there was to be nothing but attentive and supportive, and if you can’t do that well then you’re a coward.
What would you say was the highest and lowest point in your professional life?
Well, the highest is that I’m still here. The longevity of that is a pretty good yardstick. And then there’s some of my movies, any one of which could be described as the low point of anybody’s career. But as far as a career goes, it’s chequered.
You do your best and some work, some don’t. But there is always someone out there who will come to me and say: “You know, Mr Hanks, I have to tell you that I think your finest work was Bonfire Of The Vanities (which was a flop).
And in your personal life?
Well listen, I’m a grandfather, I have fabulous kids. They are all funny and are more or less self-supporting. I’m controlling my blood sugar and my knees haven’t gone bad. I win! Fabulous! I’m still here!
Makes me feel good.
What is it like being a grandfather?
I had no voice in the discussion. They just did the deed and out popped my granddaughter. It’s magnificent. It’s better than television. There is nothing I would rather be doing than having that little kid on my knee or in my arms.
Can you think of any one specific life changing moment?
There was one somewhere around the making of Big, which was my ninth film, but at that time I had two kids and I was divorced, I was living in a divorced guy’s house, and I had tax problems because a business manager had given me the worst advice on the planet Earth.
But then when it came out, I was married to Rita, and I thought you know what, I am going to be OK. If nothing else happens past this, I will be able to pay my rent and fix my car and buy my kids Christmas presents, I am OK.
Your biggest regret?
Look, OK, I will actually share with you something that I don’t want to share with you. It’s not a big deal, it’s just a moment with the family.
I was going somewhere, I was standing at the car and Colin was at the window, he was four and he wanted to go with me and he kept calling down from the window. It was almost like a moment from Shane, “Dad, Dad!” I got in the car and drove away. And I regret that.
It was just the type of things you do of no great import, but after that moment it will never be the same; it’s those small little moments where you could have taken a second and been a decent dad, but I didn’t know cause I was so young and so friggin’ stupid and I only had one kid, and I thought, it’s not really going to make that big of a difference. And yet that is the thing that has haunted me.
I recently brought it up to him and I said “Do you remember that time when you were four and I was waiting in the car and you kept calling dad and I didn’t say anything?” and he said to me “No, I don’t remember that”. And I said “Oh thank God, you just saved hours of therapists sessions right there”.
You are known as the Hollywood good guy. What do you dislike in people?
If you lie to me, you’re going to be in big trouble. I think by and large I am a good-natured man, and I give everybody a fair shake.
But if someone takes advantage of that good nature, well, then you’re going to suffer the wrath of a lover scorned. I’m a pretty decent guy. But I am not a lightweight. I’m not a sucker. So beware!