The AtlanticThe Atlantic

How Tom Hanks became Tom Hanks

By Chris Heath

03 May 2023 · 28 min read

Editor's Note

Tom Hanks is a household name. In this expansive interview with The Atlantic, he discusses how life shaped him to become the man that he is and speculates over the lives he may have lived instead.

There is a particular circumstance deep in Tom Hanks’s past that he thinks may explain something significant about the person he is now. One that suggests how, before all of this—before everything he would achieve and come to represent in the world, before he had even begun to work out what talents he might have and how he might best use them—he was already well on the way to becoming who he would be.

As a child, several times a year, Hanks would take a long journey on a Greyhound bus, heading to and from the small Northern California town of Red Bluff. He was often alone, and he always sat by the window. In Red Bluff, Hanks would stay with his mother, Janet; after his parents’ marriage ruptured when he was 5, he never lived with her, but on holidays he’d visit. And so, from when he was 8 until he was 17, four or so hours each way, he’d take this ride.

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