Tom Hanks’ debut novel sheds light on the film industry and his on-set behavior

  • By Rebecca Jones
  • Arts Correspondent, BBC News

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Hanks says he „pulled every bit of it” in the moments of bad behavior he describes in his novel

Tom Hanks says he wrote his first novel to „relieve the ever-present pressure” of making movies.

The two-time Oscar winner releases The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece, inspired by his own screen career.

The long grind of shooting a film, he tells the BBC, means „you can lose interest in the work”.

„Sometimes you have to have some other reason to spark your imagination,” he explains.

Hanks, 66, says „Always” was written „in some form.” His short story collection, Uncommon Type, was published in 2017 and has sold over 234,000 copies in the UK.

He started writing the 448-page novel the very next year. „I wrote between films, I wrote wherever I was, I wrote on airplanes, I wrote at home, I wrote on vacation, I wrote in hotel rooms, I wrote on long weekends when I wasn’t working,” she says.

Critics’ verdicts

„It’s not fair,” she admits, noting that her first novel was published without undergoing the usual ordeal of rejections from publishers, while other first-time writers struggle.

But he is unapologetic and knows that the book will ultimately „live and die based on its own ability to entertain and enlighten its audience.”

Critics’ verdicts on The Making of Another Motion Picture Masterpiece were lukewarm.

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Hanks played Elvis Presley’s manager Colonel Tom Parker in the singer’s biopic

Hanks was undeterred by the criticism. He says his „day’s work as a movie star” means he can „handle” any criticism.

„He’s gotten stronger when it comes to actually getting cut,” says the actor.

His novel is about the making of a multi-million dollar superhero action movie, and features a cast of characters, including an eccentric director and a self-important and highly inhibited male actor who disrupts and delays filming.

So it’s a surprise when Woody’s endearing voice in Toy Story admits: „I pulled every moment of that behavior into one package.

„Not everyone is great on a motion picture set every day,” he continues.

„I had a hard time being a professional when my life was falling apart in more ways than one, and I needed the day to be fun, charming, and loving—that’s the last way I felt.”

Hanks prides himself on always being on time. „What can’t happen in a motion picture is that somebody can’t ape the time or the length or the budget of the shoot. That’s a great sin in the motion picture business.

„You’d be surprised,” he adds, „how many people know they can get away with it, and are told they can get away with it, because they carry the image on their shoulders.”

In fact, in the book he mentions a cast of „cry babies, psychological train wrecks, caboose drinkers, wagon drug addicts… and more than a couple of fights between talent.”

Sexual harassment is also mentioned.

With such bad behavior in his novel, the actor-writer believes it is unnecessary to airbrush classic books for modern audiences.

Novels by Ian Fleming and Agatha Christie have been revived, and Hanks’ own publisher, Penguin Random House, has adapted works by Roald Dahl and PG Wodehouse as part of an effort to remove offensive language.

„I think we’re all brought up here to trust our own feelings rather than someone else deciding what we can or shouldn’t offend,” Hanks insists.

„Let me decide what I find offensive and what I don’t. I will be against reading any book from any era that is 'abbreviated by modern sensibilities’.”

Fleming’s secret agent James Bond is mentioned, and Hanks is in no doubt that Idris Elba should be the next 007.

„Understand this,” he says. „James Bond has a license to kill. I’d give that license to Idris Elba, based on the work he’s done.”

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Tom Hanks cheered on Aston Villa when they played Arsenal in February

Aston Villa, the English Premier League football team that Hanks supports, also appears in the novel. But he has no plans to buy the club after Hollywood actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McClenny bought Wrexham in 2020.

„I think Wrexham is a little bit different economically than Aston Villa,” he laughs. „That’s a little above my pay grade.”

„When it came time to leave, no nonsense left.”

So what’s next? Another novel would be „good”, but not for a few years due to busy filming.

But he says he always had the desire to write.

„It’s a great way to spend time with the people you love and make yourself laugh.”

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