Be it as Sheriff Woody in the Toy Story series, Chuck Noland in Castaway (2000), Captain Miller in Saving Private Ryan (1998) or Robert Langdon in the adaptations of Dan Brown’s books — Tom Hanks has played some of the most memorable characters in Hollywood. He is a two-time Oscar winner, and has been nominated for three others since he made his acting debut in 1980.
Interestingly, the star has been playing Langdon for a decade now. Ask him if there are any similarities between him and the character, and Tom says, “There are certain similarities. Like Langdon, I believe that even the most daunting present-day problems, such as overpopulation, can be tackled. I am a pragmatist. I’m not cheery for the sake of being cheery. I don’t jump to conclusions, and I dig a little deeper to find out the root causes [of problems]. And, I study history.”
Tom has often teamed up with directors such as Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard to create successful franchises. “All of [my associations with] them start off at the same place. We ask ourselves, ‘Is there something here we can crack?’ Because otherwise, I’d stay at home and play with the kids, rather than go off and make a movie that isn’t going to confound and challenge us every single day. It’s always about the material,” he says, adding, “Actually, it’s been more than 30 years since Ron and I teamed up, and I am happy that our approach to film-making hasn’t changed since the very first time we worked together.”
An increasing number of popular books are being adapted for the screen, but it is often thought that such movies are rarely as good as the books. But Tom says “readers and audiences get to discover brand new things” in these movie adaptations. “Those who don’t know the story will also be entertained by an engrossing, topical movie,” he adds.
Langdon’s character is, perhaps, one of the longest on-screen adaptations that exist in Hollywood. The books are set in historical locations across several cities in Europe. Tom reveals a comic incident that took place at one of the locations. “The filming of the series took us to some extraordinary places. I once changed my clothes, [including] my pants, in front of the Mona Lisa in the Louvre (Paris, France) at 3am,” he says.
The actor also reminisces about other incidents, saying, “We also got to hang around at CERN (Geneva, Switzerland) and run around [the premises]. We weren’t allowed to walk into the Pantheon in Rome (Italy), but we shot outside it. And, in one case, we were inside the actual Palazzo of the Hall of Five Hundred (Palazzo Vecchio), while shooting in Florence (Italy). So, [in terms of] life experiences, all this is great.”
The 60-year-old is known to have played ‘the nice guy’ in a lot of films during his career, but lately, we have seen the actor in action sequences and physically challenging roles. “A lot of them (movies) are physically demanding. But, you know, they keep you in shape. And it ends up being kind of fun,” he says, adding, “For example, I was shooting for Inferno in Florence… we were running away from a drone. I had to run on those ancient cobblestones. [There were] a lot of stairs to run up, a lot of walls to jump over, and you’re being chased around. It was hot, and I was wearing suede shoes, which were completely flat with no ankle support. It was not easy!” says Tom.