Tragic Details About Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks has one of the most recognizable faces in American culture, even earning himself the moniker "America's Dad," and there's no single reason why. Perhaps, it's due to all of his lovable late-night appearances, including the time when he performed a slam poem about "Full House" on "The Tonight Show" or rapped "City of Crime" on "The Graham Norton Show." YouTube comments under both clips are replete with unironic praise for Hanks' wholesome affability. Or most likely it's because of the roles he's taken in recent years, which usually involve heroic or likable, all-American figures like Captain Sullenberger in "Sully" or Fred Rogers in "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood," per IMDb. All of this would mean nothing, of course, if it weren't for his legendary and versatile roles in "Forrest Gump," "Cast Away," "Sleepless in Seattle," etc.

Hanks is always willing to please and make others smile, but because it's so obviously inherent to his personality, it never seems disingenuous. So it would make sense to assume Hanks' life and career have always been smooth-sailing. This isn't true, however; from the flops that typical movie stars experience to his own family troubles, Hanks has experienced some adversity. Read on to find out a few tragic details about one of America's top leading men.

Tom Hanks' parents divorced several times when he was young

As a kid, Tom Hanks was not a stranger to divorces and failed relationships. After all, his parents had seven. Hanks was 5 years old when his parents divorced. They both went on to remarry several times: his dad remarried three times before he found his true match, and his mother remarried four times before she found hers, per Showbiz Cheatsheet. In an emotional interview with BBC4's "Desert Island Discs," Hanks lamented the lack of communication between his parents and his siblings to reassure them they were not at fault (via the Daily Mail). What's more, Hanks was constantly on the move as a child, living in 10 different houses in five years.

Luckily for Hanks, he only had to divorce once before finding the true love of his life, Rita Wilson. They've been married 34 years, having wed in 1988. Meeting his in-laws must have been something of a culture shock, since the Wilsons had been together for 50 years. Hanks has called them an "outlier." In his relationship advice given in the podcast "Sooo Many White Guys," Hanks said that a person usually knows whether he or she is committed to a relationship after four and a half years, per Showbiz Cheatsheet. Therefore, most people must wait it out.

His first marriage failed

Unsurprisingly, Tom Hanks wanted the kind of stability he didn't have as a child. As an adult, he now had the means to establish it, and so he married young. He was 23 years old when he tied the knot with college sweetheart (per US Weekly) and actress Samantha Lewes. At the time, Tom's first-born son, Colin, was 2 years old. In an interview with the Express, Hanks recalled his first marriage with some regret since he now knows he wasn't ready. He and Lewes met at Sacramento State University as acting students, per the New York Post. When they later separated, he was aware that he was placing his two children in the same situation he once was in as a kid.

Hanks' first marriage had no chance of surviving when he met Rita Wilson in the midst of it. When he first lay eyes on Wilson, he was smitten. He first saw her on "The Brady Bunch," and he remarked to friends that she was "cute," according to an interview with The Knot. They met on the set of "Bosom Buddies" in 1981 and then worked together again on "Volunteers" in 1984. It was that second collaboration that became the point-of-no-return. The two began dating publicly in 1986, and Hanks' divorce from Lewes was finalized in 1987, per US Weekly.

Tom Hanks' first wife died of cancer

Although Tom Hanks divorced Samantha Lewes in 1987, she was still the mother of two of his children. So the news of her bone cancer diagnosis in 2001 must have been devastating. He learned of it during Oscars season, when he was nominated for Best Actor for "Cast Away," per the New York Post. Lewes died in 2002, per Newsweek.

The people who felt her loss the most were likely her children. Colin Hanks spent most of his time with his mother growing up, only seeing his dad every other weekend and during summer vacation. The differences between the two homes were drastic. In an interview with the podcast "The Armchair Expert," Colin Hanks said he wasn't sure how much his mother was getting in alimony, but he would often hear her say that they didn't have the amount of money Tom did. As a child, trips and bigger purchases were luxuries. Colin also said his father's wealth was limited until he starred in "Forrest Gump," which occurred when Colin was already 17 years old (via Uproxx).

His directorial debut had an abysmal box office

As one of America's most successful stars, you'd assume that Tom Hanks must have had an easy transition to the director's chair. In fact, for his directorial debut, "That Thing You Do!," he received help from the great Nora Ephron, who advised him to trim down his characters and his scenes. Hanks' movie about a one-hit-wonder band set in the 1960s was inspired by the story of Jimmie Nicol's last-minute replacement of Ringo Starr during a Beatles tour. He began fiddling with the story while filming "Forrest Gump" and began developing it after wrapping up "Apollo 13."

But when the nostalgia-inspired film hit theaters, it landed with a dud. It earned only $25 million in the United States and $8.7 million internationally. In an interview with The Ringer, Hanks said he was dismayed by its outcome. But the movie was liked by critics, and it found a second life thanks to cable airings and a Home Video release. "That Thing You Do!" eventually became a classic among a younger generation who saw it on DVD. Stars of the film still get recognized on the streets by fans, and Tom Everett Scott, who played drummer Guy Patterson, was cast in "La La Land" thanks to his role. The director, Damien Chazelle, considered himself the movie's biggest fan, per The Ringer.

Critics panned Tom Hanks' second directorial effort

Although audiences didn't initially show up for "That Thing You Do!" film critics did. But for Tom Hanks' second directorial feat, he received love from neither. The film in question, "Larry Crowne," was about a likable guy who loses his retail job and doesn't qualify for a management position. He starts taking classes at a community college and eventually falls in love with one of his professors, per Roger Ebert. Audiences weren't enamored by the film, and it received a Rotten Tomatoes audience score of 41%. In one instance, Hanks was approached at a gas station by a couple who had seen the film and were disappointed. He apologized and handed them $25 as a refund, per The Guardian.

Critics were more blatantly cruel. The Wall Street Journal called it "a distinctly painful experience." The Los Angeles Times found the movie disappointing considering that, along with Hanks, it starred another typical box-office draw in Julia Roberts. Roger Ebert said "Larry Crowne" had no "reason for existing." Additionally, the film's audience was notoriously old. CinemaScore, a company that conducts exit polling, announced that 94% of its audience was over the age of 25, per The Hollywood Reporter.

His wife battled cancer

In 2015, Tom Hanks' wife, Rita Wilson, announced that she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery and took leave from the Broadway play "Fish in the Dark." Wilson immediately expected a full recovery, crediting an early detection. In a statement to People Magazine, Wilson advocated for second opinions and stressed the importance of an early diagnosis. She noted that Hanks, along with other friends and family, was supportive and was by her side during her recovery. In an Instagram post, Wilson joked that she told Hanks that she wanted him to be sad if she died. That story became the basis for her song "Throw Me A Party," which asks loved ones to celebrate her life in place of mourning.

By 2020, she had been cancer-free for five years. In an interview with Healthline, Wilson said she came to peace with her double mastectomy and is grateful for reconstruction. She felt as though life was finally getting back to normal, although her diet changed. She's adopted a plant-based diet and has lowered her alcohol intake.

Tom Hanks was diagnosed with type-2 diabetes

In 2013, Tom Hanks announced on "The Late Show with David Letterman" that he was diagnosed with type-2 diabetes. After battling high blood sugar since he was 36 years old, his doctor told him he had "graduated" into diabetes. Tom Hanks said it was manageable through diet, and his doctor even told him he could reverse his condition if he lost weight and reached the same weight he had in high school. Hanks joked that could never happen since he weighed 96 pounds at the time.

Hanks believes that losing and gaining for roles might have led to his diagnosis, but he believes he was genetically inclined to get it. He also blames the lifestyle and eating habits he's kept since he was a kid, per the BFI London Film Festival. In an interview with the Radio Times, he mostly blamed the careless diet he had when he was younger and the weight he maintained. At one point, he thought that removing the buns from his cheeseburgers would have been enough to stave off diabetes, but he was sorely wrong.

He and his wife were infected with COVID-19

In a very public news cycle, Tom Hanks and wife Rita Wilson were among the first celebrities to become infected with COVID-19. He announced the news on March 11, 2020, on his Instagram, informing his followers of the protocol they adhered to, which included isolation. His listed symptoms included body aches, exhaustion, and a fever. They caught the sickness while Hanks worked on Baz Lurhmann's "Elvis" in Australia. A few days later, production on the film was postponed. Hanks and Wilson weren't sure how they got infected, but doctors assume both received it from the same person, NBC News. Hanks said that since social distancing hadn't caught on yet, he had been shaking hands and hugging numerous people.

Their symptoms were so severe that they could've been hospitalized. They were medicated with chloroquine, which had brutal side effects, according to Wilson. The two weren't aware of the front-page media attention they received since they were mostly offline while trying to get better, per The Guardian. On Twitter, Hanks said that he and his wife felt better after two weeks. Their quarantine in Australia only lasted for two weeks, since they were seen in Los Angeles again shortly after, according to E! News.

Tom Hanks' son, Chet, has struggled with substance abuse

Whereas Tom Hanks' wholesome, nice-guy persona has earned him the title of "America's Dad," Chet Hanks' image hasn't been so clean. Tom's son has been involved in a few controversies including an Instagram post denouncing the COVID-19 vaccine, which caught flak online, per CNN. But his troubled life goes beyond social media comments and into the realm of substance abuse. In 2015, Chet released a series of videos on Instagram, explaining his whereabouts after an absence online. He had undergone treatment at a rehab center, revealing that he previously sold and used cocaine. But he since found himself in a better place and opened up on the lifelong pressures he's struggled with, including being the son of Tom Hanks, per Entertainment Tonight.

Seeing a child struggle with addiction and drug abuse is harrowing for any parent, and it's no different for Tom Hanks. Tom praised his son for his openness and honesty and said that he loves his children unconditionally, per Entertainment Tonight. Chet said becoming a father forced him to recover, and he credited his own parents' support during the process. It was heartwarming for Chet to see Tom and Rita Wilson's enthusiasm as grandparents since it reminded him of his own close relationship with his grandparents, per Entertainment Tonight.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

He's starred in various flops

We all know "Forrest Gump," "Apollo 13," and "Saving Private Ryan." But have you heard of "The Bonfire of the Vanities" and "A Hologram for the King"? Although Tom Hanks has starred in various hits that have likely been preserved and sanctified by the Library of Congress, he's had a couple of misfires. "The Bonfire of the Vanities" is one of Hanks' most notorious failures, making only $15 million against a $47 million budget. Its failures were even detailed in a best-selling book called "The Devil's Candy," per The Guardian. Another bomb, "Cloud Atlas" seemed sure to be a hit, considering that the filmmakers behind "The Matrix" were helming it. But it only garnered $27 million against a whopping $150 million budget.

Hanks has said that he's experienced periods of despondency as a result of failed features. Filming "Cloud Atlas" was life-changing for him, and it was the only film of his he's seen more than once, so he had high hopes. But failure comes with the territory: he believes that 80% percent of an actor's films end up being financial failures, per The Guardian. But Hanks, whose net worth is an estimated $400 million (per Yahoo! News), can afford to make a couple of duds here and there, so it's not all doom and gloom.

He's blasted his own work

Even as successful as Tom Hanks is, he doesn't put himself or his work on a pedestal. His highest-earning franchise is no exception. The "Da Vinci Code" series was mightily successful at the box office: its first installment garnered $758 million in revenue, making it Hanks' most financially successful film, per IMDb. In an interview with The New York Times, he defended himself against accusations of cynicism, which argued that he only acted in its sequels for money. Although he called the series a "commercial enterprise," he believed the series sought to entertain people with pure motives. However, he called the movies "hooey," comparing its accuracy to the espionage in James Bond movies. By the end of the franchise, Hanks believed it was no longer "good commerce."

In 2002, Hanks said he didn't believe any of his movies were underrated and all received at least their deserved praise, per Showbiz Cheatsheet. In an interview with The Guardian, Hanks admitted that he's made movies that didn't make a lot of sense, but they all required effort. Even then, he doesn't like to think about his past roles, because they remind him of individual acting decisions he regrets making.

Tom Hanks resents the controversy surrounding Forrest Gump

When "Forrest Gump" won Best Picture at the 1995 Oscars, it was immediately controversial. Not because it didn't deserve it on its own terms; in fact, the movie presented an impressive feat of digital filmmaking that allowed Forrest to interact with dead figures in old footage. Rather, it was controversial because it won over "Pulp Fiction." Quentin Tarantino's cult film set in motion a wave of indie filmmaking, and his stylistic directing and sleek dialogue was perceived as a breath of fresh for cinema, per Time. Since then, people are quick to crown "Pulp Fiction" as the true winner, and "Forrest Gump," despite its cultural weight, as the upset.

But Tom Hanks wants none of it. Although he admits that "Forrest Gump" relied on Baby Boomer nostalgia and calls "Pulp Fiction" a masterpiece, he believes that his movie has an "undeniable heartbreaking humanity" that makes it worthy of its Oscar — particularly the moment when Forrest sees Lieutenant Dan with his new legs and wife. Hanks believes the movie's immediate financial success dampened its legacy since it's never on any lists for the best movies of all time, per The New York Times.