The guy next door: Tom Hanks turns 60 | Film | DW | 08.07.2016
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The guy next door: Tom Hanks turns 60

He's hardly had a single flop. Nearly all of Tom Hanks films have raked in the big bucks at the box office. Extraordinarily versatile, Hanks shines by playing characters we can all relate to. He turns 60 on July 9.

It used to be James Stewart who played the everyday hero. Then came Tom Hanks, and now his successor is arguably the likeable Matt Damon.

Tom Hanks isn't quite as attractive as George Clooney and doesn't act as virtuously as Robert de Niro. Leonardo DiCaprio has more charisma than he does, and Hanks isn't nearly as buff as Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Nevertheless, Tom Hanks is an unbeatable Hollywood superstar - perhaps the biggest at the moment.

Tom Hanks in 'Turner & Hootch,' Copyright: Imago/EntertainmentPictures

Tom Hanks got a cute co-star in his early film 'Turner & Hootch' (1989)

Tom Hanks: the guy next door

That has a lot to do with his character type. Like James Stewart in the 1950s and 60s and Matt Damon in more recent years, Tom Hanks has average looks - which the vast majority of viewers can closely identify with.

Most of us can only dream of looking as good as Clooney or DiCaprio. But Hanks is the guy next door - and those are often the kinds of roles he takes on.

Hanks plays normal people like you and me that find themselves stuck in unusual situations.

Tom Hanks in 'Apollo 13,' Copyright: Imago/UnitedArchives

Lost in space: Tom Hanks in 'Apollo 13'

He's been stranded on an uninhabited island ("Cast Away"), in outer space ("Apollo 13"), in Normandy at the beginning of the Allied invasion ("Finding Private Ryan"), and in the clutches of global bureaucracy ("Terminal").

Despite the rather desperate circumstances, Hanks always comes out on top.

He's at his best when he encounters the confusion and conflict around him with astonishment, questioning eyes, reservation and a touch of shyness. And when he goes a step further, sometimes even greater things happen.

As Forrest Gump, he plays a man with a slight mental handicap who faces the major historical changes of century. In "Big," he portrays a boy caught in the body of a grown man. And in "Philadelphia," he raises awareness for AIDS with his brilliant performance of someone suffering from the disease.

Tom Hanks and Halle Berry in 'Cloud Atlas,' Copyright: picture-alliance/dpa/X-Verleih

Hanks' first collaboration with Tykwer was 'Cloud Atlas,' co-starring Halle Berry

Hanks teams up with German director

Currently, Hanks' German fans can look forward to his upcoming collaboration with director Tom Tykwer.

After "Cloud Atlas," the American actor is teaming up with the German filmmaker for the second time with "A Hologramm for the King." The role of salesman Alan Clay, who gets stranded in the Saudi Arabian desert, was perfect for Hanks: he plays an awkward, rather unhappy guy who rises to the challenges he faces and comes out smarter and cleverer.

Tales of ordinary people doing extra things have been at the heart of cinema since its creation. They're what Tom Hanks, the film world's everyman, does best - which has been his secret to success for decades.

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