14 facts you (probably) didn’t know about Tom Hanks

To celebrate the new space exhibition, The Moonwalkers, co-written and narrated by Tom Hanks, we unveil some fascinating facts about the actor.

With two Oscars under his belt and a varied movie portfolio featuring everything from animated Christmas classics to war films, Tom Hanks has cemented his status as a beloved Hollywood icon, captivating audiences of all ages.

The actor can also add novelist, producer, and writer to this list of achievements, but did you know he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016?

We’ve rounded up some more interesting facts about Hanks, so get ready to impress friends, storm pub quizzes and just generally be a more informed person…

Tom Hanks at the premiere of A Man Called OttoCredit: Shutterstock/Fred Duval

1. There is an asteroid named after the Oscar-winning actor. The Asteroid 12818 Tomhanks was discovered on April 13 1996 by Joseph L Montani, an astronomer from the University of Arizona.

2. Hanks is an avid collector of typewriters and owns around 250. When he appeared on Desert Island Discs in 2016, he chose a Hermes 3000 manual typewriter and paper as his luxury item.

He even sent one of his own antique typewriters – a Corona – to a young boy, with the same name, who wrote to Hanks, revealing he had been bullied during the pandemic.

3. He may have been born and raised in California, but Hanks is a huge Aston Villa supporter. Why? Quite simply, he was taken by the name, which he saw flash up on TV while visiting the UK.

Appearing on Late Late Show in 2019, Hanks said: “And I thought ‘Aston Villa’, what a lovely vacation spot! Aston Villa… It’s a beautiful villa, you throw open the French doors, there’s the beautiful port of Aston down below you. And it turns out it’s in Birmingham.

“There’s nothing wrong with that, nothing wrong with Birmingham. But it’s not a town for light-hearted, I tell you that. So, I’m a dedicated Aston Villa fan since then!”

4. While Hanks is known for his breadth of different roles, he has played a captain in six different movies: News of the World (2020), Greyhound (2020), Sully (2016), Captain Phillips (2013), Saving Private Ryan (1998) and Apollo 13 (1995).

In 2006, Hanks was inducted as an honorary member of the United States Army Rangers Hall of Fame for his accurate portrayal of the captain in Saving Private Ryan.

5. As well as being a force to be reckoned with on screen, Hanks is also a player behind the scenes. He set up his production company and record label Playtone in 1998 with producer friend Gary Goetzman.

6. As a life-long lover of all things space, Hanks has overseen the creation of a new space exhibition, The Moonwalkers, where he interviews the crew of Artemis 2. You can catch it in London, from 6th December until 21st April 2024.

7. It’s all thanks to a bit part on US TV show Happy Days that Hanks became a household name. During his guest appearance on a 1982 episode, in which he played a disgruntled former classmate of Fonzie, he impressed the writers Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel.

They were also writing the film Splash, and got Hanks to try out for the role of the main character’s brother, but he instead landed the lead role. It was a huge box office hit when it was released in 1984, grossing more than $69 million and propelling Hanks to stardom.

8. When he was younger, Hanks was a bellboy in Oakland, California. During this time, he carried bags for stars such as Billie Jean King, Bill Withers, Sidney Poitier and Cher.

9. Hanks’ brother Jim sometimes steps into his big brother’s shoes. He was his body double in Forrest Gump and, due to their vocal similarity, he often substitutes for Tom as the voice of Sheriff Woody in Toy Story video games and spin-offs.

10. The actor is the third cousin, four times removed, of Abraham Lincoln (via the President’s mother, Nancy Hanks). He’s also connected to the former president via his work – he has narrated a film called Killing Lincoln and even played ‘Honest Abe’ in a documentary series called Freedom: A History of the US.

11. For one night only, Hanks became a member of Monty Python. A huge fan of the comedy group, he joined them for a rendition of The Lumberjack Song during a 2002 memorial concert for George Harrison.

12. Hanks’ love of space continues into his leisure time. He cites 2001: A Space Odyssey as his all-time favourite movie, which also inspired him to become an actor. He’s also said that he’s a huge fan of Doctor Who. Former Doctor, Peter Capaldi, unsuccessfully lobbied the producers to cast Hanks as another incarnation of the Doctor.

13. Fancy getting married by Hanks? He’s an ordained minister and in March 2022, he officiated at a wedding in Pittsburgh after the bride wrote him a letter asking him to be involved.

14. Tom Hanks Day is a thing. What started out as an April Fool’s joke, is now into its 20th year. All proceeds raised from the annual tribute to the star go to Lifeline Energy, a charity close to Hanks’ heart.

Jayne Cherrington-Cook

Written by Jayne Cherrington-Cook she/her


Jayne is the Senior Editor at Saga Exceptional. She cut her online journalism teeth 24 years ago in an era when a dialling tone and slow page load were standard. During this time, she’s written about a variety of subjects and is just at home road-testing TVs as she is interviewing TV stars. A diverse career has seen Jayne launch websites for popular magazines, collaborate with top brands, write regularly for major publications including Woman&Home, Yahoo! and The Daily Telegraph, create a podcast, and also write a tech column for Women’s Own.

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