Hometown: Sacramento, California
Currently: Making his Broadway debut as Mike Clark, a nurse who looks after Jane Fonda’s character—while falling in love with her daughter, played by Samantha Mathis—in Moises Kaufman’s 33 Variations.
“I Knew Him When…”: Yes, Colin is the eldest son of Tom Hanks, the two-time Oscar-winning box-office titan. So some people assume his mom is Rita Wilson, and that he grew up with Meg Ryan burping him and Steven Spielberg helping out with science projects. In fact, he’s the son of Tom’s first wife, the late actress Samantha Lewes, and was born in 1977—three years before Dad ever appeared in a movie, much less Bosom Buddies, the sitcom in which he spent two seasons mostly in drag. “I can remember being one year old and him taking me along to go cash his unemployment checks,” says Colin. “I can remember going with him to his first real job and watching him put on a dress when he got to work.”
The “Eureka” Moment Or Lack Thereof: Many actors can remember exactly when they felt the call to perform. Hanks, apparently, isn’t one of them. “I never had that blinding ‘eureka’ moment, when all of a sudden I was a different person,” Hanks says. “Being in plays in school didn’t feel that different from playing with friends in the neighborhood. Playing with props or playing capture the flag, it’s the same thing. It’s all make-believe.” Under the tutelage of three “different, interesting” drama teachers, Hanks racked up some eclectic credits—One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, House of Blue Leaves, The Dining Room, Much Ado About Nothing, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy—while studying at Sacramento Country Day School and Loyola Marymount and Chapman Universities.
You Want It? Okay, How Bad? As Hanks rose up the academic ranks and honed his own acting skills, a string of box-office smashes and back-to-back Oscar wins turned his father, whom he strongly resembles, into Hollywood royalty. “There was such a white-hot pressure,” Colin remembers. “Now he was one of the most recognizable people on the planet, and for the first time, I had to sit down and take stock. Did I really want to pursue this? Because no matter how hard I try, he’s always going to come up.” Luckily, his down-to-earth dad offered sage career advice. “He was like, ‘Don’t be in a rush. Take another class. Get up onstage and act. Do plays. Do it on your own terms. You’re only this age once. You can question your entire existence later.’”
The Family Business: Hanks made his first onscreen appearance as a studio page in his father’s directorial debut, 1996’s That Thing You Do! Though he’d spent time on plenty of movie sets, the young actor quickly realized that performing in front of a camera isn’t as easy as it seems. “I figured I’d just show up on time, hit my marks and say my lines,” he says. “But it’s like going back to school.” His film resume now includes Orange County, Untraceable, House Bunny and W, in addition to the recurring role of a priest on the hit TV series Mad Men, but Hanks still feels baffled by Hollywood. “People who are in plays generally come from a similar background, since they all trained to get where they are,” he observes. “But people in movies may be like, ‘My mom’s been making me do this since I was seven and I’m sick of it.’ Or, ‘I was walking in a mall and someone found me.’ It’s like, ‘How’d you get here? Oh, you wrote ‘The Thong Song,’ right!” Hanks adds that he is no way making fun of Sisqo, his screenmate in the 2001 comedy Get Over It. “He’s a great guy. I mean absolutely no disrespect.”
Dancin’ Machine: Not merely his Broadway debut, Hanks’ performance in 33 Variations also marks the first time he’s acted onstage in four years. Of course, he’s got nothing on Jane Fonda: “She told me the last time she was on Broadway was when Kennedy was president,” he says, laughing. “It’s been just a few years for me, and I feel rusty.” The play recounts the story of Beethoven’s creation of the famed Diabelli Variations, as filtered through a present-day tale about a terminally ill musicologist trying to make amends with her daughter. Hollywood is fond of casting Hanks as the tense, nerdy guy who eventually busts out some hip-hop moves to score big laughs. The nurse he plays in 33 Variations isn’t all that tense or nerdy, but he does bust some hip-hop moves—and a minuet, to boot. “I seem to be getting typecast in roles where the script has that moment of ‘so-and-so does a funny dance,’” he says mildly. “What did you think was funnier—the hip-hop moves or the minuet?”