Tom Hanks Revealed The Heartbreaking Journey That Restored His Faith In God

Tom Hanks may be known for his beloved roles in movies like You’ve Got Mail, Big, Forrest Gump, and Toy Story, but there’s a side of Tom Hanks many haven’t seen. For the last thirty-five years, Tom Hanks has romanced, inspired, and captured the hearts of his audience — both young and old alike.

He’s known as “the nicest guy in Hollywood” but Tom Hanks’ childhood was full of heartache and chaos, and his journey to stardom wasn’t an easy one.

I’ve always loved Tom Hanks, but after learning more about his humble beginnings, my love and respect for him has only grown all the more.

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Thomas “Tom” Jeffrey Hanks was born on July 9, 1956, in Concord, California. Tom’s mother, Janet Marylyn (Frager), was a Portuguese hospital worker, and his father, Amos Mefford Hanks, was an itinerant cook whose parents were from the United Kingdom.

Tom had a very confusing childhood. He was only 5-years-old when his parents divorced and Tom’s father took him and his two older siblings, Sandra and Larry, to Reno, Nevada, while his younger brother, Jim, remained with his mother.

Life was hard being separated from his mother and little brother — something a young child could never quite possibly understand. But Tom’s father did his best to raise him and his siblings.

As if life wasn’t already challenging enough, both of Tom’s parents remarried more than once; his mother remarried three times, while his father remarried twice.

Tom’s first stepmother had eight children of her own, and eventually divorced his father. Tom’s second stepmother was an Asian woman named Frances Wong, who had three children of her own, two of which lived with Tom growing up.

In school, he was unpopular with both peers and teachers alike. He later told Rolling Stone magazine:

“I was a geek, a spaz. I was horribly, painfully, terribly shy. At the same time, I was the guy who’d yell out funny captions during filmstrips. But I didn’t get into trouble. I was always a real good kid and pretty responsible.”

Because of his father’s job as a traveling Chef, Tom and his siblings were moved around often. By the age of ten, young Tom had attended at least five different grammar schools and lived in more than ten houses. Eventually, in 1966 they settled down in Oakland, California.

But Tom’s optimistic outlook considers all of his early moving an excellent primer for the actor’s life. “It made me flexible,” he told Rolling Stone. “It gave me confidence to think I can be in any sort of social situation and know how to gracefully get out of it.”

While Tom’s family religious background was Catholic and Mormon, he has characterized himself as being a “Bible-toting evangelical” as a teenager.

At Skyline High School, young Tom finally felt at home. He was gifted in athletics, but everything changed the day he watched a friend perform in the school’s production of Dracula and began daydreaming of becoming an actor.

After being inspired by his friend’s performance, Tom joined the Thespian Club and began acting in his junior year of high school. His first ‘acting’ role would be behind the scenes — working as a stage manager for the school’s production of My Fair Lady.

It was long hours and hard work, but the young, aspiring actor didn’t complain. Instead, Tom set out to learn all he could about acting and theater — both on and off the stage.

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Finally, he went on to earn roles in Skyline’s productions of Night of the Iguana, Twelfth Night, and South Pacific. As a senior, he was honored with Skyline High School’s prestigious award of Best Actor. This award would later prove to be a foreshadowing of what was to come when he would be awarded his first Oscar, twenty years later.

After graduating high school, Tom promptly left Oakland and set off to explore the idea of studying theater. He explains that he graduated from high school as “an underachieving student with lousy SAT scores” and in no way able to afford college. Chabot College in Hayward was the perfect answer to Tom’s question of what to do with his life after high school “..because it accepted everyone and was free.”

While there, it didn’t take long for Tom to realize that God had indeed created him to inspire audiences. By the time he graduated with his Associates degree, Tom had made the community college’s dean’s list. He then transferred to California State University in serious pursuit of acting.

He told New York magazine in 1986, “Acting classes looked like the best place for a guy who liked to make a lot of noise and be rather flamboyant. … I spent a lot of time going to plays. I wouldn’t take dates with me. I’d just drive to a theater, buy myself a ticket, sit in the seat and read the program, and then get into the play completely. I spent a lot of time like that, seeing Brecht, Tennessee Williams, Ibsen, and all that.”

During his years studying theater, he met Vincent Dowling, head of the Great Lakes Theater Festival in Cleveland, Ohio. Dowling immediately recognized Tom’s God-given talent and suggested that he become an intern at the festival.

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