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October 07, 2021

Tom Hanks Faced Many Tragedies over the Years - From Miserable Childhood to His Health Battle

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A-lister Tom Hanks is one of the most celebrated Hollywood actors. However, despite his successful career, Hanks has faced many difficulties throughout his life. 

Celebrities are real people just like us. Their lifestyle and list of accomplishments and ultimately, their bank account, can be different from most of us, but they do face life challenges too.

And it is no different for Tom Hanks — America’s best buddy had his share of health issues, childhood traumas, and the loss of a beloved one. 

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In 2006, Esquire had Hanks on the cover with the headline “Confessions of the Most Normal Guy in Hollywood,” of him wearing khakis and a polo shirt with a beer in one hand. 

After years of watching one of the most established actors performing on screen, it’s hard to imagine Hanks as an Average Joe. 

Even though it’s hard to believe, Hanks’ politeness and manners make it easier to understand why he’s considered the “American Dad.”

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TOM HANKS UPBRINGING

Thomas Jeffrey Hanks is the third of four kids. He grew up in Northern California and their parents separated when he was just five. At 10, Hanks shared that he had already lived in “probably 10 different homes.”

His parents were often out to work long hours so Hanks and his sibling were left at home to their own devices. They had to learn many things by themselves. When his parents got divorced, Hanks went off with his dad along with his older brother and sister. 

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A year ago, Hanks spoke candidly about the tragedy involving his father, chef Amos Hanks, and his grandfather. In an interview for Graham Besinger’s podcast, the Academy-winner actor revealed that Amos witnessed the murder of his own father during a fight:

"He was eight or nine or 10 years old and a hired hand killed his father in the barn of the farm that they were growing up in Willows, California."

The “Forrest Gump” actor said the trauma robbed him so much that he didn’t have the strength to pursue his dreams of becoming a writer, among many others. 

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The Hollywood star shared that he came to terms with his past and writing his recently debuted book “Uncommon Type” was part of the healing process. 

HE DECIDES TO PURSUE AN ACTING CAREER

His first contact with acting was in college, at California State University. After watching a performance of Eugene O’Neil at the “Iceman Cometh” in 1974,  Hanks decided to transfer to the theater program.

Three years later, he was invited to take part in a summer program in Lakewood Ohio which included productions of Shakespeare's plays. The A-lister would spend his next three years acting in the Shakespeare festival and his winters working in a community theater group, in Sacramento. 

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After three seasons in Lakewood Ohio, Hanks moved to New York City. Few auditions here and there, the then-aspiring actor landed a part in the film “He Knows You're Alone,” in 1980.

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In the same year, Hanks was spotted by a scout who offered him a role in the ABC’s “Bosom Buddies” sitcom. The show didn’t last and it was canceled after two seasons. 

But that was good news to him, as he got a few guest roles in popular shows at the time, such as "Taxi" (1978-83), "The Love Boat" (1977-87), and "Family Ties" (1982-89).

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His first big break came when he landed the leading role for “Splash,” in 1984, which made Hanks a noticeable actor. Upcoming roles in films like “Volunteers” (1985), “The Money Pit” (1986), and “Dragnet” (1987) brought him great reviews, with critics often referring to him as “the best thing in the movie.”

In 1988, Hanks landed his star role in what’s considered his first major hit prior to “Forrest Gump.” Director Penny Marshall cast the actor for his film “Big,” in which he played a 13-year-old who turned into a 35-year-old man overnight. 

The actor kept on landing important roles, such as “Philadelphia,” a movie that rendered him his first Oscar for Best Actor. But it wasn’t until he became the iconic Forrest Gump in 1994 that Tom Hanks turned into one of the most acclaimed actors in Hollywood at a young age.

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His performance as Forrest gave him his second Oscar as Best Actor, breaking the record of the first person in 50 years to accomplish that. From then on, he starred in blockbuster after blockbuster, including “Apollo 13” (1995), “Saving Private Ryan” (1998), "Cast Away" (2000), “The Da Vinci Code” (2002), and so on.

 TOM HANKS’ LOVE LIFE

Before marrying his long-life partner, actress Rita Wilson, in 1988, Hanks wed his first wife Samatha Lewes while he was in college. They were married from 1978 to 1987 and had two children together, Colin and Elizabeth. 

In 2002, Samantha (whose real name was Susan Dillingham) passed away from bone cancer. Hanks was devastated, according to a close friend:

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“Tom was absolutely devastated by the news. He and Susan separated a long time ago. They’ve had their ups and downs like any divorced couple but they have remained friends.”

With second and current wife Rita Wilson, they had two children, Chester and Truman. But diseases came to his life once again and in 2015, the couple shocked their fans by stating that Wilson had been diagnosed with breast cancer. 

The actor and singer praised her husband publicly for giving her all the support she needed while battling the disease. Fortunately, she won the battle and she’s been five years cancer-free now. 

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THE ACTOR’S HEALTH BATTLE

Hanks also has his own struggles with health. In 2013, the actor was diagnosed with diabetes type 2, to which he blames his poor diet and lifestyle:

“I'm part of the lazy American generation that has blindly kept dancing through the party and now finds ourselves with a malady.”

Luckily, the actor has been able to manage and keep his condition under control. His last health battle was with the COVID-19 virus. Hanks and Wilson were diagnosed with the virus while on a trip to Australia. Both of them made full recoveries in March 2020.

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