Tom Hanks on Why He’s Going to Broadway, Nora Ephron and Being “Afraid of Blowing It” (video)

tom-hanks-lucky-guyWhile I respect wanting to challenge oneself as an actor, I often wonder why an A-list actor like Tom Hanks chooses to take a Broadway role, as he is with his Broadway debut Lucky Guy.  After all, Hanks could command one of his usual hefty salaries for a movie role with less work (though don’t let that make you think Hanks won’t potentially make a mint from Lucky Guy).  But in an interview with The New York Times, Hanks reveals that his Broadway debut has been a long time coming — and so is the anxiety!

It seems likely that Hanks has something to prove to himself because he’s dismissive of his own acting ability.  He says, “Look, the title is Lucky Guy. It’s about somebody who is almost good enough to deserve what he achieves. And I understand that.  I still feel sometimes that I’d like to be as good as so-and-so actor.  I see some other actors’ work, and I think I’ll never get there. I wish I could.”

It’s not hard to see why he might feel that way — in his early acting days in New York, Hanks never got a shot at Broadway, but not through lack of trying.  He reveals, “I lived around the corner from Broadway, but I couldn’t even get arrested.  I didn’t know how to dance, I hadn’t taken a voice lesson, and I wasn’t feeling confident.”

In that sense Hanks admits he is going for a new phase in his career.  He explains, “Anytime you go off to do something new, you’ve involved in a reinvention, and any actor who says otherwise is just trying to lower expectations.”

As for lowering expectation, Hanks confesses he is preparing himself for the worst.  He says, “We’re just resorting to imagining the headlines for bad reviews — ‘Lucky Guy, Unlucky Audience!’ ‘Yucky Guy!’  But O.K., here’s the thing: I’m not afraid of the end result because I think we’ll have a very good production. But I am afraid of blowing it myself. I’m afraid of having something being my responsibility, yet not having the wherewithal or lack of self-consciousness or stamina to pull it off. Look, I have just as impressive a track record of movies and projects that didn’t work out.” 

But much of his desire to do the play came from his past work with the late Nora Ephron, the Lucky Guy writer who previously wrote and directed Hanks’ films Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail.  He points out that Ephron’s involvement is what pushes some that anxiety away for him, saying, “But when I walk home at night, that’s when I hear Nora’s voice the clearest, and that’s when I feel the most excitement about taking on this play.”

Lucky Guy begins previews March 1 at the Broadhurst Theatre

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