What is it about Meg Ryan . . .
Tom Hanks: Meg is very smart. I always feel as if I have to be on my toes
around Meg. Honestly I don't think we've ever talked about
the making of the movie, the three movies that we've made. We talk about things
like paradigm shifts and [laughing] quasi great questions of philosophy. The most
two actors can wrangle with. She is not driven, so it's not about power. She's
not a diva although quite frankly she has her professional responsibility very
much together. I think, in the best of all ways, we're absolute peers and absolute
friends but she's constantly challenging me by the nature of how she does her
job. It's unspoken. It's not a can you top this. The first day we worked together,
which was on Joe vs. The Volcano (she was the role of
Didi, the mousy brown haired girl that I worked with in the office) and I literally
didn't recognize her. I thought I was talking with an extra at the coffee table.
Then she says, "Nice chatting with you Mr. Hanks" and wanders away.
When she was walking away I could tell by the walk "that's Meg!" Truly,
I had talked to her for 15 minutes without knowing it. It wasn't flashy. It was
just doing it. By and large I think Meg gets really good work out of me because
if that. It's like a great tennis match. She's on the other side and she's a very
good player and she makes me better.
Do you recognize a Tracey-Hepburn kind of connection in your role playing?
Tom Hanks: I wouldn't raise us up to the level of Tracey and Hepburn but
by and large yes. On this movie there's a scene towards the end when I'm wooing
her and trying to tweak the situation (oops, sorry). We would just start, improvising,
and eventually we'd be aware that the camera was running. We'd hear noise and
Nora say "Action" and we would keep the scene going with what it was.
That started from the very first moment we sat down. It wasn't an exercise. It
was just being. I've worked in really good tandems before and you really are quite
aware of when it's natural and when it's right. It is with Meg.
Your characters discuss corporate strategy and battles in language right out of
Tom Hanks: Yeah, and how does Nora come up with this? Not The
Godfather 3 mind you but certainly Godfathers Part 1 and
2. Everything you need to know you can learn from The
Godfather. The sad part is you have to kill your brother.
OK then, at what point do you as a performer allow yourself comfort with the comparison
to Tracey and Hepburn
Tom Hanks: Never. These are the true icons. The Mount Olympus type legends
of the genre, of the art form. It would be tantamount to some artist saying "I
am the next Picasso." No way. That will be defined over a long period of
time but I can't lay claim to that.
People say you have the potential to be the next Jimmy Stewart.
Tom Hanks: I'm sorry. It's lovely. I can't ask for better praise but I'm
not about to say, "I've made a couple of movies that were just as good as
It's a Wonderful Life." I can't do that. Our movies
are good and nice and of this generation but, as far as making the timeless classic
or even defining the give and take banter of the art form like Hepburn and Tracey
did, we haven't done anything like that yet.
How far do you think you can stretch yourself as an actor as your career movies
Tom Hanks: Well, not every movie is You've Got Mail.
I had one other movie out this year which I think was very different from
You've Got Mail and I hope I can be as continually different
from this to that.
Oh boy did I misphrase that question. I'll get back to Saving Private
Ryan in a moment. You have maintained a good set of "nice guy"
roles. All positive, all sympathetic, even when you're pushing the boundaries
of what some people might consider immoral (as in Philadelphia).
Have you ever thought about doing a complete 180 a la the nice guy who is truly
an evil man.
Tom Hanks: I am always looking for something that's going to be different,
be demanding something new of me, no matter what the logic is. I'm making a movie
right now called The Green Mile which is about death row prison
guards in 1935. A very different kind of thing. But I'm never looking for change
merely for the sake of change. It's not I'm so tired of being a nice guy I want
to play someone who's venal and evil. I could play an evil bad guy tomorrow but
there'll be no connection to the part. I won't feel as if I'm examining anything
about the human condition. I'd just be playing the next Bond villain who wants
to take over the world. There's no future in that. There's nothing to be gained.
I look at movies in the past and think "My God if I had been able to do Bill
Macy's role in Fargo; that was most magnificent. And you
easily could see me playing that guy. So it's all a matter of the logic of the
piece when it comes around cuz by and large playing the bad guy means you're
playing the antagonist in the standard antagonist-protagonist narrative and it's
just not that interesting to me. But when it comes along, I'd leap at the opportunity.
There's been Oscar® talk about Saving Private Ryan.
Your role excepted, any thoughts?
Tom Hanks: Well, it's a good thing. It's a fine thing. Hope we make the
playoffs, we have a pretty good team. We had a pretty good season. We'll find
out. The whole trophy run season is so big and so long and so all encompassing;
it now starts in February and goes straight through to the following February
so we'll find out. It'd be a wonderful thing if the movie is singled out.
How's your interaction been with WWII vets been since the release of the movie?
Tom Hanks: We get quite a lot of response. It's pretty much ongoing. It's
not so much to me, they're still talking about the movie. I think it was a bit
of a watershed.
What do you do in your leisure time?
Tom Hanks: I go to the dentist. I've got three kids so by and large that
devours your leisure time. I wish I could say I parasail in the Indian Ocean but
I just haven't done that.
Cranky Critic: The kids can do that . . .
Tom Hanks: Not during the school year.
Do you want to take time off and just hang with the family?
Tom Hanks: Yeah. The last year has been much more hectic than I was anticipating
and it does stack up on you. Between From the Earth To the Moon, Private
Ryan, You've Got Mail and The Green Mile, it's
been a long, long heads down working process and I do need to read for myself.
That question about reading? It's tough to read for your own enjoyment.
What were your favorite books to read?
Tom Hanks: When I first started reading I read all the books of Leon
Uris, because they were kind of like these non fiction, full of turgid melodrama
at the same time. Chaim Potok, the man who wrote "My Name
is Asher Lev," I've read almost everything that he wrote. But growing up
there was the "Catcher in the Rye" thing. That's a big thing to go through.
I take credit for never having read that Tolkien trilogy. I read
"The Hobbit" in 5th grade, but got 20 pages into the Trilogy
and went "Yeah. Right. Frodo, Bilbo, Middle Earth. Yeah, thank you."
And I was done. So I never bothered with the rest of it. I'm actually taking claim
for not having read something, which I'm very proud of. I never read the trilogy.
Last question: What's the status of Toy Story 2?
Tom Hanks: That's an ongoing thing. They call you every 5 months and say
can you come back into the studio to do some more recording. I think Ive
done 5 sessions of it.