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.