Tom Hanks is a Hollywood legend, but he wasn’t always the beloved acting sensation he is today, and many often wonder about Tom Hanks’ first movie.
Tom Hanks’ first movie was 1980’s He Knows You’re Alone. Hanks had a minor role in the low-budget, poorly received slasher flick, and people were unlikely to think that Tom Hanks would go on to be one of the best actors of all time based on the film.
Read more below about Tom Hanks’ first movie paved the way to Hollywood superstardom.
Hanks’ High School Debut
Tom Hanks was born in Concord, California, but moved numerous times after his parents divorced. Despite the upheaval, Hanks took up theater while in high school and acted in plays and musicals, such as South Pacific.
Hanks realized how much he loved theater and went on to study it at Chabot College and then Sacramento State during his short-lived college stint. Despite his passion for studying theater, Tom Hanks dropped out of college when given the opportunity to intern at The Great Lakes Theater Festival in Cleveland, Ohio.
What started out as an internship for Hanks turned into three summers on the festival circuit and the opportunity for Tom Hanks to get his union card, which allowed him to begin acting professionally. With that in mind, Hanks packed up his life, and as so many theater actors before him, moved to New York.
Shakespeare to Slasher Films
Tom Hanks arrived in New York in 1979, already showing the major acting chops he’d acquired while interning back in Cleveland. The year prior Hanks was awarded Best Actor from the Cleveland Critics Circle Award committee for his starring role as Proteus in Shakespeare’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona.
Despite his star turn on stage, Tom Hanks had never been in a movie role, but all of that was about to change. Shortly after arriving in New York, Hanks was cast as Elliot, a psychology student who crosses paths with the main character in He Knows You’re Alone.
In the film, Hanks’ character only appears in a few scenes, and in fact, Elliot was supposed to be killed in the script, but the director and crew enjoyed Hanks so much that they opted not to film his character’s brutal demise.
Though Hanks was able to charm the cast and crew of the film, he was unable to change the minds of critics and audiences, who gave the film scathing reviews. Michael Blowen from The Boston Globe commented on the terrible production quality, noting it was “only slightly better than those in my uncle’s home movies.”
You can watch Tom Hanks discuss his role in He Knows You’re Alone with David Letterman in the YouTube video below.
Tom Hanks Makes a Big Splash
Regardless of the poor reviews, Tom Hanks soon began landing roles in various films and television shows, as well as continuing to thrive on stage in theater productions. The following year he was cast in the sitcom Bosom Buddies, opposite Peter Scolari.
Tom Hanks did not know it then, but this role, along with a guest appearance on the legendary Happy Days, caught the eye of veteran actor Ron Howard, who was casting for his second film Splash. This was the start of one of Hollywood’s longest and most famous collaborations between actor and director, with Hanks and Howard working on five films together over the decades.
Splash was a critical and commercial success and became the tenth best-selling movie of 1984. Tom Hanks’ Hollywood star began to rise and he starred in a slew of movies over the next few years, but it was his role as Josh Baskin in 1989’s Big, that cemented his place in the film industry, with Hanks receiving his first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
Tom Hanks continued to act into the 1990s and the following two decades and the rest, as they say, is history. Hanks went on to become one of the most lauded actors (winning Academy Awards for Forrest Gump and Philadelphia) and racking up numerous other award nominations, as well as becoming one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood history.
Tom Hanks married actress Rita Wilson in 1988 and has become known as one of the nicest guys in the industry, always taking time for fans, and even going so far as to join a couple’s wedding photo shoot.
Though He Knows You’re Alone is certainly not Tom Hanks’ finest role, nor did it make him famous, his stellar work ethic and jovial nature was on display all the way back then, and his first film helped open the door to all the other incredible films Hanks has done over the past four decades.