Tom Hanks celebrates his birthday today and to make the occasion we thought we might regale a story or two about Hanks’ appreciation of letters.
We’ll start by going back to 1974 when a little known eighteen year old Hanks wrote this hilarious letter to George Roy Hill, a recent recipient of an academy award for his work on ‘The Sting’.
Dear Mr Hill,
Seeing that I have seen your fantastically entertaining and award-winning film The Sting, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, and enjoyed it very much, it is all together fitting and proper that you should ‘discover’ me.
Now, right away I know what you are thinking: ‘Who is this kid?’ and I can understand your apprehensions. I am a nobody. No one outside of Skyline High School has heard of me … My looks are not stunning. I am not built like a Greek God, and I can’t even grow a mustache, but I figure if people will pay to see certain films … they will pay to see me.
Let’s work out the details of my discovery. We can do it the way Lana Turner was discovered, me sitting on a soda shop stool, you walk in and notice me and – BANGO – I am a star. Or maybe we can do it this way. I stumble into your office one day and beg for a job. To get rid of me, you give me a stand-in part in your next film. While shooting the film, the star breaks his leg in the dressing room, and, because you are behind schedule already, you arbitrarily place me in his part and – BANGO – I am a star.
All of these plans are fine with me, or we could do it any way you would like, it makes no difference to me! But let’s get one thing straight. Mr. Hill, I do not want to be some bigtime, Hollywood superstar with girls crawling all over me, just a hometown American boy who has hit the big-time, owns a Porsche, and calls Robert Redford ‘Bob’.
Your Pal Forever,
Thomas J Hanks
(Source: AMPAS – & Thanks to Tom Hanks.)
You can see the letter being read below by Benedict Cumberbatch.
Tom Hanks may be known as a Hollywood nice guy, but few people are aware of the other role Hanks has embraced, that of pen pal and typewriter enthusiast.
In a 2013 NY times opinion piece Hanks spoke of his passion for typewriters and the art of letter writing;
“I use a manual typewriter — and the United States Postal Service — almost every day. My snail-mail letters and thank-you notes, office memos and to-do lists, and rough — and I mean very rough — drafts of story pages are messy things, but the creating of them satisfies me like few other daily tasks.”
“Everything you type on a typewriter sounds grand, the words forming in mini-explosions of SHOOK SHOOK SHOOK. A thank-you note resonates with the same as a literary masterpiece.”
Many of his fans are aware of his passion and some have taken to writing letters to the actor. One fan sent a letter with a ‘selfie’ expressing her eternal love for his ’90s movie That Thing You Do! and asked for a headshot. Much to her surprise, Hanks took the time to respond back with a note and a Polaroid selfie with the fan’s own photograph. In the Imgur post, the note, appears to have been written on a typewriter on personalised stationery embossed with the word “HANX”.
That wasn’t the only time Hanks blessed a fan with a heartwarming note. In November 2016, he sent a typewriter and a letter to an artist who had gifted him a sketchbook.
Hanks eloquently explains the timeless significance of letters when he said;
“No one throws away typewritten letters, because they are pieces of graphic art with a singularity equal to your fingerprints….E-mails disappear from all but the servers of Google and the N.S.A. No one on the planet has yet to save an Evite….pull out a 1960s Brother De Luxe 895, roll in a sheet of paper and peck out, “That party was a rocker! Thanks for keeping us dancin’ till quarter to three,” and 300 years from now that thank-you note may exist in the collection of an aficionado who treasures it the same as a bill of sale from 1776 for one dozen well-made casks from Ye Olde Ale Shoppe.”
Take inspiration from Hanks, send someone a letter they can treasure today.