Tribeca: 6 Revelations From Tom Hanks' Wide-Ranging Talk With John Oliver

Getty Images

The Oscar-winning actor recalled the terrifying first movie he saw in the theater, what Bruce Springsteen liked about 'That Thing You Do!' and how the acronym "BFC" entered his on-set lexicon.

On Friday night, Tom Hanks and John Oliver teamed up for a wide-ranging Q&A at the Tribeca Film Festival.

The Oscar-winning actor and host of HBO's Last Week Tonight ironically did not discuss either Hanks' current film, A Hologram for the King, which premiered at Tribeca just two nights earlier and hit theaters the same day as the talk, or his highly-anticipated upcoming movie, Sully, about the pilot who performed the "Miracle on the Hudson" airplane landing.

But Hanks — who peppered his answers with impressions of Bruce Springsteen, Ron Howard, Robert Zemeckis, Kevin Bacon, a lost glove (like the ones he posts photos of on Twitter), an Argentinian reporter and others — shared an account of the terrifying first movie he saw in the theater, after his parents mistakenly thought he and his siblings were going to 101 Dalmatians; the That Thing You Do! scene that resonated with Bruce Springsteen; what questions reporters shouldn't ask him and other entertaining anecdotes.

Below check out six revelations from Hanks and Oliver's chat.

The first movie he saw in a theater "haunts [him] to this very day."

An innocent question about the first movie "little Tommy Hanks" saw in a theater led Hanks to recall a scary moment from his childhood. The actor explained that his parents, who divorced when he was young, "so loathed the sight of each other" that they sent Hanks and his brother and sister to the movies one day and dropped them off at the theater, thinking that the children, including a 4- or 5-year-old Hanks, could see 101 Dalmatians, which they thought was playing there.

"101 Dalmatians closed on Wednesday," Hanks said. "On Saturday afternoon, a movie called Shriek of Fear was playing. So little Tommy Hanks was, 'Aaaaaah!' All I remember was all of these people running around in this black-and-white scary mansion and there was a swimming pool filled with weeds and choking grass and at the bottom of that pool, an old lady sat in a rocking chair. And some guy swam down and saw an old lady sitting in a rocking chair at the bottom of the pool. Not exactly 101 Dalmatians."

After working with Kevin Bacon on Apollo 13, he sometimes jokingly calls for a "BFCTH" during filming.

After talking about the discussions he's had with directors on the set of his films, including about the logic of particular scenes and characters' behavior, Hanks shared a funny anecdote from working with Bacon on Apollo 13. He recalled how director Ron Howard was walking around, clutching a rolled-up piece of paper as usual, trying to figure out what the shot should be. While Howard was assessing some options, Bacon said, "I don't want to boss you around, Ron, but I really think the shot should be a BFCKB right here."

Hanks: "A BFCKB, what's that?"

Bacon: "That's a big f—ing close-up of Kevin Bacon."

"Bill Paxton and I went berserk," Hanks said. "We were talking in that same acronym for the remainder of the shoot. God bless, Kevin Bacon."

He joked that a version of the acronym still finds its way onto his sets: "I use that all the time: Steven [Spielberg], BFCTH."

Bruce Springsteen can relate to That Thing You Do!.

Hanks said he doesn't usually watch the movies he's made, partly because when he sees various scenes he just remembers what they did on the day they shot that, so he often quickly flips past one of his movies when he's watching TV. But his movie about one-hit-wonder band, The Wonders, which he wrote, directed and stars in, That Thing You Do!, is one of his personal favorites.

"It was a great hang, all we did was laugh," Hanks said. And he revealed that Springsteen helped one scene surpass his expectations: the one when the group first hears its song on the radio and the bandmembers run around town screaming.

Evidently Springsteen can relate, he told Hanks.

"Hanks, impersonating Springsteen, said the musician told him, 'I liked that movie where they heard their record on the radio. The same thing happened to us. We were all in cars, we pulled over to the side of the road to listen to it.'

"So that moment's perfect," Hanks said.

He doesn't like when journalists ask him two types of questions.

Note to journalists interviewing Hanks, steer clear of two sorts of questions. After Oliver pointed out that their chat would be followed by an audience Q&A, Hanks, saying that he was "in the middle of a publicity blitz," added that he'd be happy to answer questions but urged people to avoid "the laziest journalistic questions."

Specifically, "What was it like to blah blah blah blah?" and "What was your favorite blah blah blah blah blah blah?" Hanks indicated he finds it annoying when a foreign reporter on a red carpet begs to ask him a question and then uses the opportunity to ask one of the above types of queries. 

He claims "nobody wanted to pay to see" his Dean Reed passion project.

When asked about "white whale" types of projects that he hasn't been able to make, Hanks pointed to one particular story that he "really tried to make into a movie and we just ran into really solid business walls over and over again." The film was about singer-actor Dean Reed, whom Hanks called "a third-rate if not fourth-rate version of Elvis meets Ricky Nelson."

"He wasn't a very good actor, he wasn't a very good singer. He was drop-dead gorgeous. But in his mind he viewed himself as an intellectual socialist. He was seeing no success in Hollywood whatsoever despite his good looks and then he found out that he had the number one record in Chile, so he got on a plane and flew down to Chile and when he landed in Santiago, there were thousands of people at the airport," Hanks explained. "He walked from obscurity to the most wild success you could possibly have in the blink of an eye and along with that brought along a Socialist sensibility. … [His] life was fascinating [and] ultimately tragic, which turned out to be a movie absolutely nobody wanted to pay to see."

Hanks is a fan of Oliver's Last Week Tonight.

As Hanks and Oliver walked onstage they pointed at each other and shouted the other's name. While Oliver was the interviewer, Hanks quickly made it clear he's a fan of what Oliver does on Last Week Tonight.

"Can we just thank John Oliver for being the only voice left in the public domain … who tells us what we should know? Our life would be void of outrage if it wasn't for John and for those people without HBO they are void of outrage," Hanks said toward the beginning of the talk.

When the two left the stage roughly an hour later, Hanks called out for people to watch Oliver's show, Sunday nights on HBO.

comments powered by Disqus