Skip to content Skip to content

Tom Hanks - Actor/Director - Chabot College

The turning point in Tom Hanks's life came when he enrolled at Chabot College in Hayward, started studying theater, and watched a performance of Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh. The title role played by Joe Spano, later of Hill Street Blues fame, reportedly blew Hanks away. Tom Hanks decided that one day he would become as good as Spano.

Hanks first role as a student at Chabot College was George in Our Town. His two years at Chabot obviously left an indelible impression on Hanks.

Hanks told an interviewer from that in the movie Larry Crowne, he "was in junior college because it was my only option — if I didn't enroll right after high school I would have had no path to any future. Two years in junior college became the jumping-off point for everything that came later and I think this was the same for others — not just kids out of high school, but guys back from Vietnam, wives going back to school after their kids were older, and folks who were looking to change their lives for the better."

Tom Hanks later transferred to California State University, Sacramento after two years at Chabot College and dropped out when an internship was offered at a prestigious Midwest theater festival.

Even though he based Larry Crowne on his own two years spent studying theater at Chabot College before enrolling in California State University in Sacramento, he never got a degree. Instead, he told USA Today, "I got an offer to go off and do the thing I was studying to do."

That offer was to become an intern at the Great Lakes Theater Festival in Cleveland, Ohio. His internship stretched into a three-year experience that covered most aspects of theater production, including lighting, set design and stage management. Hanks won the Cleveland Critics Circle Award for Best Actor for his 1978 performance as Proteus in Shakespeare's The Two Gentlemen of Verona, one of the few times he played a villain.

Hanks' career track is the stuff of showbiz legend. After two seasons on the silly TV sitcom Bosom Buddies (partly in drag, no less), the affable actor came to prominence with the 1984 romantic comedy Splash. Then a string of big-screen flops (Turner & Hooch, The Money Pit and Bonfire of the Vanities) hurt Hanks' career. Aside from his Oscar-nominated turn as an overgrown kid in 1988 dramedy Big, as well as an underrated performance in the stand-up comedy drama Punchline that same year, he struggled for box office success into the early 1990s. But by mid-decade, Hanks had finally scored a slew of commercial and critical hits, earning two consecutive Oscars, first as a gay lawyer dying of AIDS in 1993's Philadelphia and then as a mentally challenged man in 1994's Forrest Gump. He was the first actor since Spencer Tracy in 1937 and 1938 to win back-to-back Oscars for Best Actor. In 2002, at age 46, Hanks became the youngest actor to receive the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dubbed a latter-day James Stewart because of his everyman likability, the actor was careful to avoid typecasting. Although Hanks played plenty of heroes, they were usually complicated and flawed, and he never portrayed outright villains - though his role as a mob enforcer in the 2002 period drama Road to Perdition came close. He also branched out into writing, producing and directing with the 1996 feature That Thing You Do! and, a few years later, the Emmy-winning World War II miniseries Band of Brothers. Hanks has collaborated multiple times with Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan, Catch Me If You Can, The Terminal, The Pacific) and Ron Howard (Splash, Apollo 13, The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons).

His most recent movies include Captain Phillips and Saving Mr. Banks, both released in late 2013.

Hanks also has distinguished himself from other megastars by staying in the spotlight but out of the tabloids, with a stable off-screen life with his actress wife, Rita Wilson, and their children.

Hanks is a distant relative of Abraham Lincoln, through Lincoln's mother, Nancy Hanks.

Read about more notable alumni...