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Interview: Tom Hanks

Pure Hanks, Mr. Nice Guy is put to the test in ‘Cast Away’

Dec. 19, 2000, Austin American-Statesman

For his new film “Cast Away,” Tom Hanks, nicest guy in the universe, shed 55 pounds to play a plane crash survivor who spends 4 1/2 years alone on a desert island.

How’d he do it? What an actor! What a guy!

Get over it.

“No secret at all,” Hanks smirks when asked, yet again, how he lost all that weight. “Just bacon and grapefruit. Nothin’ but bacon and grapefruit. Every day. And cigarettes. Bacon, grapefruit, cigarettes.”

Hanks thinks it’s a dumb question, and he’s right. That unimaginative journalists keep asking it chaps him silly. At this point in his publicity rounds, sarcasm (see above) is his buffer from banality.

But moments later, super fellow that he is, Hanks melts and gives it up. “It’s just time and discipline,” he sighs. “You eat a lot of fiber, lots of fruits and vegetables, cut down on everything, exercise every day for an hour and a half.”

(But what about the roly-poly girth you packed on for the first part of the film? “Oddly enough,” he quips, “bacon and grapefruit.” Tom. You nut.)

Hanks looks hale and happy, natty in dark blazer and slacks, his familiar puffy eyes completing a vaguely cherubic face. He and four journalists sit at a circular table, like a forced dinner party, in a Dallas hotel suite. He sips coffee.

Hanks, who comes off in person exactly as he does on screen — just as tall, same towering forehead, slightly goofy — does his best not to act like a prisoner of war as the reporters interrogate him with shopworn questions that don’t even qualify as softball. Most are, at best, mini-marshmallows. Baby lobs like: “Is it still a thrill to see your giant face on a billboard?”

It’s a credit to his forbearance and professionalism that Hanks doesn’t individually throttle us or excuse himself to the restroom never to be seen again. Public figures are geniuses at erecting deflective ramparts around their true selves. They have the persona thing down. No doubt Hanks is donning his force-field on this day. Still, flickers of personality escape the veneer.

Such as: This PG guy peppers his speech with expletives that would earn him an R. He offers a, shall we say, clear-eyed take on the Academy Awards, of which he has won two, for “Philadelphia” and “Forrest Gump.” Winning, he says, is “really a great personal moment that has a finite shelf life. It goes away. . . . The first one was fabulous. The second one was actually quite problematic. I never escaped the white-hot glare of the spotlight.”

And, what do you know, he deplores press junkets — endless, structured interviews with streams of reporters — cursing them as “demoralizing.”

Reporters, he says, “don’t want to talk about the movie. Eighty-percent of them are on some other agenda. I find myself either defending the fact that I’m a nice guy or trying to downplay the fact that I’m successful or commenting on the private lives of my friends.”

He summarily ruled out a traditional press junket for “Cast Away.” “I’m not going to sit in the chair and answer 57 times in one day how I lost the weight,” Hanks snorts.

If only he had told us this at the beginning of the interview.

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Interview: Matthew McConaughey

Diggin’ his inner `Ed’: The subjects of `EDtv’ are ones McConaughey knows well : instant celebrity and the pitfalls of fame

March 26, 1999, Austin American-Statesman

Sucking a cigarette, scrunched into an executive chair with his bootie-clad feet propped on a conference table, Matthew McConaughey looks to be fighting the Hollywood glamour thang with East Texas gusto. Smoke wafts in the air, mingling with the decorum he’s thrown to the wind.

McConaughey, who grew up in Longview, doesn’t rise to shake hands with two strangers who enter the room, and he speaks in such a guttural mumble that a tape recorder only picks up a fraction of his words. The actor has just landed in Austin via Los Angeles, so his weathered leather coat, Longhorns T-shirt and pajama-like pants are excused. (But what’s with the booties?)

None of this matters much. McConaughey’s celebrity assets shine through the civilian smoke screen. He can’t erase the clean symmetry of his matinee idol mug, can’t diminish the klieg-light pearlies (that will take a few more smokes). His dimples are doing their dimply thing, and are his cough drop-blue eyes really twinkling?

McConaughey, 29, was in Austin March 17 for the Texas premiere of  “EDtv” at the Paramount Theatre as part of the South by Southwest Film Festival. He plays Ed in the Ron Howard comedy, a fresh and funny probe of our ravenous celebrity culture and the pitfalls of fame.

“Ron did something really special with it,” McConaughey says. “It’s fun and you get a little message about calling yourself on your own b.s.”

Superficial similarities to last year’s “The Truman Show” abound, but “EDtv” orbits a more accessible, less portentous universe. It’s a mainstream romp in which an East Texan named Ed gets his own TV show that requires cameras to follow his every move 24 hours a day. Unlike Truman in “The Truman Show,” Ed is a willing participant in the mass exposure. He relishes it — for a while.

The University of Texas graduate, who got his break in 1993 in Richard Linklater’s “Dazed and Confused,” resides in Austin when not working on far-flung projects. He took a break from the Italian shoot of the World War II submarine drama “U-571” to be in the United States for “EDtv” premieres in L.A. and Austin.

“I’m more than glad to be in Austin, man,” he says. “I love it here. I love the people. I sleep well at night. There’s a wonderful pace.

“It’s a place where you can find people who hang on to the right things and traditions, yet they’re modern and progressive enough to take on new things that work. They allow you to come in and be whoever you want to be, as long as you’re on the good guys’ side. There’s a lot of leverage with that, too.”

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