tom hanks and george roy hill -- 8/14/20

Today's selection -- from Letters from Hollywood by Rocky Lang & Barbara Hall. A young and irrepressible Tom Hanks:

"Tom Hanks was a seventeen-year-old high school student and George Roy Hill an Academy Award-winning director, but that didn't stop the young aspiring actor from writing to Hill about his future ambitions. Born and raised in northern California, Hanks was living in Alameda and attending Skyline High School in Oakland when he wrote to Hill, whose niece and nephews were among his classmates. The young Hanks's charming scenarios for becoming a star, and his references to Hollywood icons like Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable, and Lana Turner, reveal him to be smart, funny, and imaginative, and shed light on his bright future as one of Hollywood's most versatile actors. At the time this letter was written, Hill was among the most commercially successful directors working in Hollywood. His latest film, The Sting, a 1930s caper movie starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman, was one of the biggest hits of the year, and had just won seven Academy Awards, including best director and best picture. Clearly, Hill was charmed by Hanks's disarming letter, and he seems to have enjoyed crafting his entertaining reply. It would be a few years, but both Hanks and Hill were right -- this young performer was destined to be a star.

Dear Mr. Hill,

Seeing that I am very close, dear, good, and long-lasting friends with your nephews Kit and Timothy, and your niece Kate, and 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, but I figure if I change my name to Clark Cable, or Humphrey Bogart, some people will recognize 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 ('The Exorcist,' for one) 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'm a star. Or perhaps we could meet on a bus somewhere and we casually strike up a conversation and become good friends, I come to you weeks later asking for a job. During the last few weeks you have actually been working on a script for 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 big time, 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'.

I hope you have read through all of this, and have enjoyed it.

Respectfully submitted,

Your Pal Forever,

Thomas J. Hanks
2394 Webster St.
Alameda, Calif. 94501

Congratulations on your Academy Award for Best Director. I was rooting for you all night. We would be very honored to have you present at our Evening of One Act Plays on May 3rd. I will be appearing in one of them and so will your niece, Kate.

Your Good Old Buddy,
Thomas J. Hanks

April 26, 1974

Dear Thomas:

Or how about this Scenario? --

I am driving wildly down Broadway Terrace trying to escape from my insane nieces and nephews when I hit a boy commuting to Skyline High on his pogo stick. Before he slips into unconsciousness I tell him of my good fortune in finding someone for my next movie who has not stunning looks, is not built like a Greek God, can't grow a mustache and is willing to change his name to Humphrey Bogart. The whole part is to be played in a cast up to the neck and BANGO -- you are a star!

Your pal,




Rocky Lang & Barbara Hall


Letters from Hollywood: Inside the Private World of Classic American Moviemaking




Copyright 2019 Rocky Lang and Barbara Hall


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