“What would I do if I was in the circumstances of that man, that woman, that child, that android?” – Tom Hanks
There are few actors in film history who have a successful track record like Tom Hanks‘ filmography. Sure, Hanks has a few blunders, particularly over the last few years, but for the most part movies starring Hanks have been both critically praised and box office hits. But Hanks will be the first person to tell you that there is no magic formula — he doesn’t know that a film like Larry Crowne will tank while a film like Sully will soar (no pun intended).
Last month, Hanks was recognized by New York City’s Museum of Modern Art for his work in film with a retrospective of many of his films. At the benefit honoring him, Hanks spoke at length about his work and the current political climate, and offered this bit of knowledge about whether or not there are any shortcuts to creating so many memorable moments in his films:
To talk about art, which films are, is hard when your job is to go out and make them and promote them and to take the high road and say, “Oh, I’m [an]artist, I’m a craftsman.” But we are. People who make movies are craftsmen. There’s no way to fake it. There’s no way to bluff your way through a moment that is going to live forever. You have to be in the moment. When I’m asked, “Mr. Hanks, how do you create these moments in your films,” I say, “You go there.” That’s all you can do. There are no shortcuts. Dear God, I wish there was, but there’s not. You just have to make it so.
I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to do this as long as I have. I’m glad that we’ve all been able to experience some degree of bitter compromise that can somehow be examined when we go to work. That fantastic, glorious effort that goes into capturing moments in time that are real and accurate and make audience members think, “That’s like me! I wonder what I would do in the those same circumstances?” As a little kid in the movie theater and as a 60-year-old man now, when I sit down in front of the screen and see it happening before me, I always ponder that question: “What would I do if I was in the circumstances of that man, that woman, that child, that android?”