Wed, Nov 10, 2004 - Page 16 News List

Mr Nice Guy

With the humble image of a likeable and polite man, Tom Hanks has earned Hollywood's affection over the span of 20 years

By Fabian Waintal  /  ATLANTIC SYNDICATION

Tom Hanks is shown as he acts out a scene from the new computer-animated film The Polar Express, using ground-breaking technology to capture the movements of the human actors which was then transformed by about 500 visual-effects specialists into the feature length film. The completed scene is shown above, right.

PHOTO: REUTERS

I found him dressed entirely in black Armani with the same color pants, shirt and shoes. The absence of a jacket or tie is an indication of the informal personality that it took for him to produce and star in his new movie The Polar Express.

It was hard for him to sit still while he talks. Trying to explain the new cinematic style called "Performance Capture." Surrounded by three-dimensional images about a fantastic trip to the world of Santa Claus, Hanks invited us to see an exclusive preview right inside a Warner Bros studio in Los Angeles and later, in the New York IMAX theater (for the 3D version), clarifying first -- this isn't an animated film, even though it looks like one.

Fabian Wantal: With its Christmas theme, do you remember how you celebrated Christmas as a kid?

Tom Hanks: Hey, I celebrated whatever was at the window at Woolworth's. Christmas was almost a very personal and yet commercial enterprise. We always did it up nice. It was pretty much all about figuring out first of all what you want and then you let the parents know and hopefully you got what you wanted. It was always a blast. And it still is.

FW: Did you ever dress up as Santa?

TH: I had a job once where I was Santa Claus for about three weeks. I sat in a little cookie gingerbread house and had on a stinky wig ... It was at a shopping center that was kind of going out of business and they were hoping that Santa Claus and his little gingerbread house would attract customers, and it didn't really attract customers. We only had about seven visitors a day.

FW: And for your kids? Did you ever dress up as Santa Claus for them?

TH: No. That's somebody else's job.

FW: As a father, how do you keep your own kids believing in Santa Claus?

TH: I ask them what they believe. I don't try to influence them, let them find out for themselves.

FW: In your personal life, when did you lose your

innocence?

TH: I'm still the most innocent, oblivious human being on the planet. I keep waiting to lose my innocence. And it has yet to happen.

FW: I am referring to when you figured out if there really was a Santa Claus.

TH: I put it together pretty quick that Santa Claus does exist because you know, I go to bed on Christmas Eve and there are presents around the tree the next morning and the cookies that we left the night before were gone. I always figured it out right away that there is a much bigger belief than that some fat guy is coming down the chimney. As a matter of fact, if I had seen a fat guy coming down the chimney, I would have hit him over the head with a pole.

(FW: Being a specialist in these kinds of family movies, it is surprising that Tom Hanks was not brought up in a stable family environment. His parents, in fact, were among the first couples to get legally divorced in the US. And he followed that same example. With his wife Samantha Lewes, he got married two months after his son, Colin, was born. And after nine years of marriage he got divorced in 1987, to marry the next year, actress Rita Wilson, who he met filming the movie, Volunteers.

Since that time, he is an example of a solid marriage, in a family that now has two sons, Chester Marlon (14) and Truman Theodore (eight).)

FW: Did you film the movies Toy Story and now The Polar Express for your sons, Truman and Chester?

TH: I did this in particular because the book is one of the best I had read in a long time. And I wanted to take it to the big screen, keeping all the same emotional impact of the original. It isn't just a child's story, adults enjoy it, too. Of course, my family sees me in these kinds of movies but I don't do it for them. Quite frankly, my kids have already seen so much of my work, I've got to drag them off to see a new movie.

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