Film star Tom Hanks: having fun making movies filled with mirth
Tom Hanks, star of two of this year's biggest movie box office hits, has had another glamorous day. ''So far today,'' he says, ''I've pumped up a tire twice on a bicycle. That's all I did before lunch, on camera.''
He is resting from his labors, sprawled out on a couch in his trailer dressing room. Hanks is the star of a spy spoof being shot in Washington, a movie tentatively titled ''The Man With One Red Shoe.''
Hanks is also the ingenuous-looking young man with curly brown hair who fell sweetly and obsessively in love with a mermaid in the Walt Disney hit ''Splash.'' Comedy is his forte, as he proved in ''Splash'' and in his other hit , the R-rated ''Bachelor Party.'' Hanks believes there's always a need for comedy, even when people are worried about nuclear winter or war in Central America:
''All through history this has been the case, from the Greeks on ... sooner or later everybody wants that sort of relief. It's like sleep. You can't live without it. Certainly during the depression that was the case,'' he says, a reminder of some of the ''screwball comedies'' from that era.
Hanks may be a shooting star, one of the hottest young actors in America today, but the subject bores him. Fame? He doesn't want to talk about it except to say ''Yes, the calendar pages flew by and bang, here I am. It all happened that fast.'' Right after his big ''Splash'' Hanks was tapped for the starring role of the bridegroom in the raunchy sex comedy ''Bachelor Party.'' He shrugs off the role, saying, ''It was an opportunity to be an iconoclast down the line, '' and he says he chose it because the film was so different from ''Splash.''
Variety in his roles is what interests him now, says Hanks, who chose this spy caper for another reason that's important to him as an actor: fun. ''As far as the making of these things is concerned, there's nothing worse than being in a comedy that's no fun. I have a tendency to play quite a bit, I want to have a good time. And I think that (fun) bleeds through on the screen in really good comedies. I can't believe Cary Grant didn't have a great time doing some of his movies, or James Stewart, and I'm sure the Marx Brothers did a lot of laughing.''
Well, perhaps not every moment on the set is rollicking fun. Hanks had spent part of one torridly steamy afternoon in Georgetown, where many scenes were filmed, opening the front door of a red brick house and wheeling a bicycle down the steps for endless takes. And bumping the bicycle over quaint cobblestoned streets in hot pursuit of a car which had kidnapped the heroine (Lori Singer). But on the day of this interview, in addition to pumping up that bicycle tire, he got ready for a scene with Dabney Coleman, Jim Belushi, Edward Hermann, and Lori Singer. An office building in downtown Washington had been transformed into a tour agency decked out in red, white and blue decor as patriotic looking as campaign bunting. The tour office is a CIA cover, with spys camouflaged as office personnel and tourists. In this scene dastardly Dabney Coleman as the head spook is breathing menace all over Tom Hanks, who is pursuing gorgeous blond spy Lori Singer.
Hanks is dressed in the sweats he was wearing in his trailer: a royal blue sweat shirt with the words Chair 1 printed on white on the back, a pair of grungy blue sweat pants, once-white running shoes, and a red baseball cap with a treble clef emblazoned on it. It's exactly what a concert violinist belonging to a symphony baseball team would wear. The character he plays, Richard Drew, is a young violinist, a former child prodigy mistaken for a spy. It is a switch from the role Pierre Richard made famous in the French souffle of a comedy ''The Tall Blond Man With One Black Shoe,'' which inspired this new American film.
The film's producer, Victor Drai, is currently mining the gold of successful French films like that one and another Yves Robert film on which he has based the current Gene Wilder comedy ''The Woman in Red.'' Drai, wearing red and white high-top sneakers, faded blue jeans, and a white shirt, stands on the sidelines while the scene is rehearsed. Hanks is right in the middle of beguiling the blond spy into talking with him when director Stan (Mr. Mom) Dragoti decides to close the set and shoos everyone out.
During our interview, Hanks talked a bit about the violinist he plays. The character, Hanks says solemnly, ''has tunnel vision. Unless he is focused on this one thing, music, he has the attention span of a lower life form.'' Hanks says the violinist goes through life listening only to the music in his head and oblivious to the havoc that erupts around him as a massive spy operation pursues him. Does Hanks play the violin? ''I do now,'' he volleys back with a grin. After one and a half months of lessons with a violinist from Twentieth Century Fox's music department, Hanks says he can play a section of Rimsky-Korsakov's ''Scheherezade,'' ''Love Me Tender,'' and the theme from ''Father Knows Best.''
With or without pizzicato, the role of a concert violinist is a change of pace for the young actor who broke into show biz in a TV sitcom, ''Bosom Buddies ,'' and first surfaced as a star in ''Splash.'' In ''Splash'' Hanks brought an endearing zaniness to the role of the smitten lover who didn't care whether his girl had gills or not. ''The guy was a potato, he was a lox,'' sighs Hanks, ''and that's what I was trying to portray, a swept-away character. If he hadn't met this girl, he would have ended up in 40 years as a bitter guy sitting on a park bench who doesn't even come alive for the baseball season.'' As he talks, Hanks snaps the blue sweatbands on his wrists like slingshots.
It was Hanks who pointed out to producer Victor Drai that since he was neither tall nor blond the original film title, ''The Tall Blond Man With One Black Shoe,'' wouldn't work. ''The Man With One Black Shoe'' sounded flat, so when a member of the crew suggested ''one red shoe'' for color that became the working title.
Hanks is wearing scruffy brown and tan saddle shoes a few days later when the gang of 100 or so involved in the film arrives on location in Georgetown at Blues Alley, a jazz nightclub. Blues Alley has been temporarily converted to a laundry with a ''Linens of the Week'' sign posted overhead in front of its laundry truck; a Landmark Tours car carrying a kidnapped Lori Singer has just collided with the truck, spewing a rainbow of laundry over the alley. The morning is devoted to getting just the right take of Tom Hanks running up to the Landmark car, snatching Lori Singer to safety, and running off with her. When everything including the movie crane is in place, an assistant director yells ''Quiet please! Roll tape! Action!'' and a few more seconds of the movie are shot. The next day it's back to Los Angeles where the rest of the film will be shot and intercut with footage like Hanks's bike ride down the Lincoln Monument steps.
For Tom Hanks, making movies is one long Landmark tour.He was raised by his divorced father in Oakland, Calif., had his first role in a school production of Tennessee Williams's ''The Night of the Iguana,'' then ricocheted off to college. He wanted to study stage carpentry but ended up in front of the lights, acting for three seasons in the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival in Cleveland, then went on to New York for what he remembers grimly as ''A hack-and-slash film ,'' the movie ''Mazes and Monsters.'' ABC spotted him in that and flew him to L.A. to test for ''Bosom Buddies,'' which landed him fame and a two-year contract. Hanks is reluctant for reasons of privacy to talk about his producer wife and their two young children, but he'll tell you about shooting a TV sitcom:
It was fun, he admits, but ''after a while it just beats you to a pulp, the physicality of it.'' He prefers movies like this one or his next, ''The Volunteers,'' a film about the Peace Corps in 1962 to be shot near Vera Cruz in Mexico. ''When you make a movie, you get to go somewhere - Vera Cruz, Washington , Toronto, Europe, LAX (Los Angeles Airport). I've been all over making movies. When you do TV, you get to go to Studio 25 at Paramount,'' says Hanks, deadpan except for the wry glint in his hazel eyes.