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Larry King Live Weekend

Tom Hanks' Career From `Bonfire of the Vanities' to `Saving Private Ryan'

Aired February 17, 2001 - 9:00 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Tom Hanks, up for another academy award and that puts us in an encore mood. Highlights of our interviews with this extraordinary performer, next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.

Thanks for joining us. The 73rd Annual Academy Award nominations were announced this week, and a very familiar name was on the best actor list. Tom Hanks got the nod for his remarkable performance in "Castaway." Talk about giving your all for a part, he took of 40 pounds to look like a guy who'd been stuck on an island for nearly four years.

We sat down with Tom Hanks late in 1990. His focus back then, "The Bonfire of the Vanities," based on the huge best-seller by Tom Wolfe. I asked him whether audiences should look at the film as the book or as something that stood on its own.

TOM HANKS, ACTOR: You must look at it as the film version of "The Bonfire of the Vanities" for a very simple reason. And that is the overpowering, the awesome star of the novel was Mr. Wolfe's prose. The way he wrote those paragraphs that always seemed to end in exclamation points. The way he could, he could unfold his characters for you by describing the type of wallpaper that they had in their foyers. This is, this is what swept you into not only "The Bonfire of the Vanities," but all of the stuff that he's written.

KING: What is it like the first day people like yourself and Willis and Griffith and the director with the strength and persona and reputation of DePalma, when -- that fascinates me. When all of you get together that first time, what is that like? Is that -- does the symmetry begin right away?

HANKS: I think we all end up looking for some guidance in some way. We all have preconceived notions about each other, if we don't know each other already. We already have, yeah, there is that bizarre confluence of admiration for each others talents, envy for each others successes, jealousy for each others abilities. And when it comes down to it, we just kind of hem and haw and make notes in our script and hope that Brian is going to talk and tell us what to do. I don't know how many times Brian came up to me and said, "Look, Tom, this has to be this. We have to have this in this moment, otherwise all the rest of the narrative is going to implode." He is incredible. So focused is Brian that it's not that he doesn't want to say hello to you, or good morning, it's that in his mind he's already jumped so far ahead of that he just glosses over. So ...

KING: Now what is that like, what's that like for you?

HANKS: Well, after awhile you get used to it. You figure out what makes the guy tick and you realize this is how he works, and you go ahead and make the movie. But initially, I stuck my face in his in the morning and said, "Good morning, Brian. Good morning, Mr. DePalma." And he would laugh and then realize that I was making a comment on the fact that he does not do that, which is quite all right.

KING: Why is it difficult for so many actors to handle comedy?

HANKS: Very simply, the world is broken up into two very distinctive groups. The people that make people laugh and the people who laugh at the people who make people laugh. I think that being funny is something that you are born with, cursed with, you make the call, but it's either something that is in your chromosomes and is not. And, but there is a consensus that somehow comedy can be crafted by a committee or you can take a film and bust it apart and put it all back together and it will be very funny, which can happen on, as much as lightening strikes twice.

KING: Does it come easily to you? Is that correct?

HANKS: I would have to say that over the course of my goofy existence that yeah, yeah, I have either been born with the gene or cursed with it, depending.

KING: What was it like to work with Jackie?

HANKS: It was a great honor, and I knew it at the time. I had to take stock of myself and steel myself for going to work everyday by saying, "I am not going to make a fool of myself in front of Mr. Gleason today. I'm going to treat him as a peer. I'm going to give him the respect that I would give any other fellow actor. And I will stand up to him, toe-to-toe, and we will shoot the scene as we see fit and as we rehearsed it." And, miracle of miracles, I was actually able to do that.

But, at the time I realized that I was, I was going to be working with something other than a show-biz legend. Something other than an icon. Something other. I was working with, like, the Pope of entertainment. That's pretty much the way I viewed him.

KING: Can you explain, and maybe it's hard because you're so involved, how that film got bad reviews?

HANKS: Well, I think because people saddled us with a label of ambiguity. They said that we didn't know what we wanted to be. Did we want to be funny or did we want to be serious? Was this a comedy that we were selling to the American public or was it a drama? People, there were some reviewers that could not get past the fact that, yes, we were sliding things all over the emotional spectrum there. KING: People would tell me that when they worked with him, he improved you because Jackie understood not only the scene, but everything about the scene. He understood what you had to do as much as he understood what he had to do.

HANKS: You know, I think that's the phenomenon that was Jackie Gleason. That, was just able to come, I think, to the forefront, almost, from a philosophical point of view, because so much of his work existed still. We could go back and look at it. "The Honeymooners" were still on every night at 11:00, so you could see that aspect of it. But it was very simple to go back and look at the films that he made, that -- I mean, this guy was in "Requiem for a Heavyweight" for crying out-loud. Something that you might not get the host of a sketch comedy series on television now. I don't think you'd see that opportunity anywhere.

I think that he had instincts that were as pure as anybody who has every stood up on a stage or in front of a camera. I think it was just, he was truly, he was one of a kind.

KING: I think Tom Hanks qualifies as one of a kind, too. And we've got much more of him ahead. When we return, batter up for "A League of There Own."

Our next conversation with Tom Hanks was in the summer of '92. He joined us from Seattle and my first question, what was he doing in Washington state?

HANKS: I'm about to start work on yet another opus that I will add to my film cannon.

KING: Another opus? What is this one, Thomas?

HANKS: This will be called "Sleepless in Seattle," Larry, "Sleepless in Seattle", directed by Nora Ephron and I'm reunited with a bunch of old friends. Meg Ryan, Rosie O'Donnell, Bill Pullman.

KING: And here you are, still out talking about a movie -- is it hard to talk about something that's already done and you're looking ahead to another thing?

HANKS: It's hard to talk about it for as long as I've been talking about it. I have been holding America hostage, it seems, for an awfully long time.

KING: That's right. Why are you doing so much for this film?

HANKS: Well, mostly because I really like the movie and I really liked the time that I had on it and, but, in all honesty it's because the stakes are so high in the industry unlike, say, the other times. This summer is no exception.

KING: So, in other words, this has got to weld it's way in here, between the "Batmans" and the "Patriot Games" and all that's going on?

HANKS: Something happens to, something happens in America during the summertime in which the average citizen is subject to an endless barrage about every single movie that comes out. The marketplace is extremely crowded, so you have to scream extremely loud so that your movie will get some degree of attention.

KING: Now, this has gotten, you will admit, wonderful attention, pretty good reviews. July 4th weekend, baseball, you, Madonna. By the roll of the dice, this should make it.

HANKS: Well, there's no substitute for having a good movie. If we have a good story and we have told it in a good fashion, the audience will react. You can't fake them out; if it's no good, they'll find out very quick.

KING: For sports, for baseball movies to make it, it's got to really click, though, right? I mean, although we've had a string of baseball movies do pretty well, normally, sports movies don't make it, right?

HANKS: I think if you're actually making a movie about the, that is specifically about the dynamics of the sport of baseball, it's too diffuse a subject matter. If you've done, like Kevin Costner now has done twice, he's two for two, have a movie that is just using the shape and the ritual of, and the personality of baseball, but you're still talking about one of the seven great stories of literature, which all stories have to be, all movies have to be, well, then you have a chance to sort of eclipse the fact that it is actually about this very convoluted game that is usually summed up in something as diffuse as what is the infield fly rule. So ...

KING: Was it fun to do?

HANKS: Let me tell you something, sir. There are very few ...

KING: Sir?

HANKS: Sir. There are very few men in this industry that will not do one of four stories. Everybody wants to play an army man. Everybody wants to play a cowboy. I would also like to play any sort of astronaut. But a baseball player, to be able to go, day in and day out, and put on those flannels and grab that mitt and walk out onto the mesa verde and actually take part in the worship at the temple Americanas (ph), well, yes. This was a job that was a paid fantasy vacation.

KING: I tell you, sir, you explained that delightfully.

Madonna. She comes in for so much attention. Forget that part. What is she like as an actress? What's she like to work with?

HANKS: Well, we -- for somebody that is a global pop icon, like Madonna is, she is actually pretty down to earth. She just came in, no entourage, had her trailer, put on her wig, went out and did the job. She was -- I can't say that working with Madonna was like working with an average Joe, but she certainly is as professional as anybody and was a member of the bus and a member of the dugout and a member of the team, just like all of us. KING: Tom, selection of parts. Is that an aspect of your business that's the hardest? What you choose to do?

HANKS: I think, yeah. I think there's an undue amount of pressure because the, because the risks are so huge. However, boy, if you don't have an instinctual connection with the part, if you don't have some sort of organic piece of yourself that is also there on the page and springs forth, then you're going to be making a mistake. And I think it's very easy to fall into the, well, I should do this kind of a role, I should do that kind of a role, I should be playing much more to my strengths.

KING: Can you give me a Tom Hanks rule-of-thumb when he looks at a script?

HANKS: You have to have a theme. I guess I still think of it like I did, you know, reading books and writing papers in high school. What is the theme of this piece? What is it saying about the human condition, first, the American condition, second, and my condition, third? I always look for that. Then after that, it's the other stuff is like, who else am I going to have an opportunity to work for? What is it that I get to do that I've done well before? What is it I get to do in this script that I've never been able to do before. Then you get off into that.

KING: Do you prefer comedy?

HANKS: I think, I think comedy is acting with a gun to your head all the time. I think drama, for the sake of drama, usually closes on Saturday. I think that unfunny comedy, a comedy that isn't funny, closes on Friday unfortunately. But a comedy that actually tells a good story and is funny and delivers seven, eight, nine, ten bon-a- fide belly yucks through the course of it will play the entire summer, Larry.

KING: "A League of Their Own" was a hit, of course, but there were much bigger triumphs to come. More with Tom Hanks after this.

HANKS joined us again in January of 1994. After establishing himself as a funny yet sensitive leading man, he'd done a stunning dramatic turn as a gay man dying of AIDS. I asked him how the role in "Philadelphia" had come to him.

HANKS: I met Jonathan Demme when I was on the press barrage for the baseball movie, "A League of Their Own," I guess about two years ago. And I was just there because I was kind of told to go, go say howdy-do. I'd never met the man and didn't really know him, but we chatted for a bit and he told me about this script that was untitled and still very much in the working stages. And we talked about it briefly. And he asked me if I would read it when I, when it was done. And he did that, when I was in Seattle working up there, I took one read of it. And we chatted for a bit, and that was that.

KING: Did you like it right away?

HANKS: I thought that it had accomplished an awful lot for the subject matter. A movie that I know that there were a number of other things out there that were going to try to be what, like it's a sweepstakes, in order to be the first big budget mainstream Hollywood motion picture that dealt with this aspect of our American society.

I thought that it had a number of paths of accessibility so that the unrelenting tragedy that we all know that the story has in it is going to somehow have some degree of surprise in it for the audience.

KING: It also has what we love. A trial.

HANKS: Well, yes it does. But I think it has, it's not like Rocky in a courtroom, and it's not the most, you know, it's not a perfectly choreographed sort of legal battle, because they never are.

KING: Did you question, can I do this?

HANKS: No. I felt from the very first, beginning, that I had an awful lot in common with the character of Andrew Beckett. I thought that he was like me in so many aspects of my past and so many aspects of the way I look at life now. The fact that he was a gay man who was suffering from a terminal disease was, you know, certainly that was in there, but I didn't see that as a massive, you know, obstacle.

KING: You are not a gay man suffering from a terminal disease. How do you put yourself into that?

HANKS: I thought that I was as educated and enlightened a heterosexual white boy as you were ever going to get. But in the course of talking to doctors about the very specific science that's involved, but talking to an awful lot of gay men who have, who are, who have AIDS. And finding out the vast scope of who they are, where they came from, why they were so willing to talk to me in the first place, was almost, I almost felt as though I was a mercenary. I felt as though I was an unfair, sort of, a privy inspector to very, not just intimate aspects of their lives, but, I mean, literally the part and parcel of their life and who they are. Questions about their sexuality. Questions about, you know, their senses of security, and also about their health. They opened themselves up in ways that I honestly thought I was going to get slapped and thrown out of the room just at any given moment.

KING: The makeup process.

HANKS: Yeah.

KING: (INAUDIBLE) every day?

HANKS: Carl Fullerton (ph) and Alan Dengerio (ph). Yes. They, it was protracted, yeah. And all based on, you know, strict research and, once again, a number of men, some of whom have since passed away, who opened themselves up and, in incredibly unselfish ways, to literally, to show us what was happening.

KING: I gather, Tom, this movie taught you a lot?

HANKS: I, boy that's really quite an understatement. Like I said, I thought I was as hip and enlightened a man as you'd find average on the street. But, this is the thing, actually, that I think this movie and what the script gave me when I read it is that I have never been very, very close to someone who's died of AIDS. I've known people, people in my family, I've lost a cousin, I wasn't very close to him. I haven't really witnessed it. What I thought that this movie would give people who have never had it was the sense of a loss, of someone that they loved and cared for, to AIDS. That's a great equalizer, I think. And having been in the movie, it's a granite experience that because the country is going through and the society is in the place that it is, it's tantamount to something very, very, very, very, big.

KING: View phone calls are a very key part of LARRY KING LIVE. We took lots of them during our '94 interview with Hanks, one from a man with a very personal response to the actor's performance in "Philadelphia."

Norfolk, Virginia. Hello.

CALLER: Hello, Tom.

HANKS: Yes.

CALLER: This is Scott Flander (ph) calling. I'm a person with AIDS and I just wanted to commend you on the job that you've done with this film. I think it's a very courageous thing, to take on this role. And I just wanted to know if there was anything that you learned while making the film that surprised you.

HANKS: Single-handedly, without question, how much I have in common, how much we all have in common, me specifically, with an awful lot of men out there who are supposed to be so different from us. We're so used to drawing, you know, the line between the two poles, heterosexual and homosexual, and that's the, you know, the big colors. And to find out that the men that I talked to had much the same sort of upbringing as I did, had the same sort of feelings of confusion when they were young, that a lot of the same sort of adolescences, came from a lot of the same sort of families, both, you know, for good and for bad.

KING: It's just a gene difference, right?

HANKS: Well, whatever ...

KING: We don't even know.

HANKS: Whatever it is and, honestly, who are we to judge.

KING: Schenectady, New York. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Tom, how are you doing?

HANKS: Very good.

CALLER: Tom, I saw a screening of the movie last night and I wanted to just ask you, to lose during the movie, I read where it was all computerized and you had some trainers helping you lose the weight for the movie.

HANKS: Yes, that's right.

KING: How did that work?

HANKS: Well, I had two guys, Dr. Paul McColly (ph) who is a sports Ph.D., Dr. Paul, and Dan Isaacson (ph) who is a very well-known guy. They put me on a program that was very specific as far as diet, the amount of exercise that I did. We shot the movie in sequence because it had to, you had to see some changes. And all I was either in car, in a trailer, or on a treadmill or a stair-master for the better part of four months.

KING: Because you were not heavy.

HANKS: Well, actually ...

KING: The character has to go through an immense loss of weight.

HANKS: Well, I was still carrying around some of that "A League of Their Own" weight with me, so I was heavier than I am now. But there was, and some people say, well, it's just this cosmetic approach that you take the role. How could you do it any other way? It was just part and parcel to taking the job. What will have to happen is this, because this is what happens to the body. There is no way of faking that, so ...

KING: Balboa, Spain. Hello.

CALLER: Hello, Larry. Congratulations for the show.

KING: Thank you.

CALLER: Hello, Tom.

HANKS: Hello.

CALLER: First of all, if you think love scenes from the screen between people of the same sex are more embarrassing for actors than for actresses?

HANKS: I think that for the vast majority of everybody, any kind of sex/love scene is embarrassing to do. But, specific to the question, I think that there is something inherent in American males that make them shy away from the idea about doing a love scene with a man more so than a woman. It's just something that's kind of built into the plumbing.

KING: If there were a kissing/love scene in this movie, you would have had no qualms about doing it?

HANKS: Well, actually, we discussed it and in some ways it was the obligatory ...

KING: There's the dancing scene. HANKS: Well, there's a dancing scene. And we do kiss very briefly and the fact that my, Antonio Banderas plays my lover. He is amazing. We are lovers that have been together for nine years. We're very secure in the relationship. But, the, about the actual kissing scene, we have received both heat and whatnot for, there was discussion of it's the obligatory scene, or if we have that scene where everybody's saying OK, here's the two straight guys, they're going to kiss and they're going to get credit for finally kissing. If we do that, then it's not, the organicness of the moment is going to be lost somehow, because it's going to take it right away. There were other ways to show that these two gay men loved each other and would love each other for the rest of their lives. And that's what we found, or if they'd only had the opportunity.

KING: Did you feel it playing it, too?

HANKS: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

KING: Tom Hanks earned an Oscar for Best Actor. As his performance in "Philadelphia" proved, there were more kudos to come. You stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We continue looking back at our interviews with Tom Hanks. By the time he sat down with me in June of 1995, he'd have two Oscars to his credit, the second Best Actor Award for "Forrest Gump." I asked him about the first time he read the script for that astonishing film.

HANKS: I knew that I was reading something that was brand new. I knew that it had no bad guys in it. There was no way to describe what the story was. I mean, as you read it, it read faster and faster and faster. It made me laugh in the same places the movie made me laugh and it made me weep in the same places the movie made me weep and I just thought, we've bottled lightening, here. Something's going on.

KING: How do you react to the fact, we'll get to "Apollo 13" and lots of other things, that people looked at it from their point of view, liberals saw it as liberal, conservatives saw it conservative, moderates saw it as moderate, some people saw it as apolitical, antipolitical. How do you -- is that just great scripting?

HANKS: I think it's great scripting and great filmmaking on Bob Zemeckis' part, Eric Roth, who wrote it. I think that it ended up reflecting what the movie really was. It was "Forrest Gump." It was a guy who had no, he had no prejudice and he had, really, no point of view of himself, but everybody brought theirs to him. Everybody considered him to be whatever they wanted to consider him to be. I thought it was, it was like Dadaism at its best. A surrealistic moment in sort of the American movie psyche.

KING: Did you have a tough time doing Gump that way?

HANKS: No, because actually Gump learned from all the things that he was going through. He was actually cognizant of what the world was, on a different level than you or I would be. But when, say, for example, he realized that the Army was not that hard a thing to get through, you just made your bed and stood up really straight and answered every question with "Yes, drill sergeant." When he figured that out, he, the you saw him putting together his experience, to the betterment of himself.

KING: But he couldn't think in the abstract, could he?

HANKS: No, he was, he could not think faster than his own common sense. But his own common sense said that, when Bubba got shot it was a bad thing and that he couldn't sum up his real feelings about it, so he said that's all I can say about that.

KING: We'll go back to that later. Why "Apollo 13"?

HANKS: I have always thought that the story of Apollo 13 is better than anything any screenwriter could come out, could come up with.

KING: Did Ron Howard come to you with the idea? Did he say, "I want to do this"?

HANKS: Here's what happened. Years ago, right after I had done the baseball movie, "A League of Their Own," I was sitting around with my crack team of show-business experts, and he said to me, "What do you want to do? I mean, what do you want to do?" and I said, "Well, you know, I'd like to play a cowboy, I suppose, that'd be fun. But, you know, I would love to play an astronaut, and I'd love to do something like the story of Apollo 13. Do you know it?" and I told him what went on. He said, "Wow, that sounds great." We could never find anybody who was honestly, who could honestly take to it.

I was in Paris doing the European publicity tour for "Philadelphia" and he called me and said, "You won't believe what I just read and couldn't put down" and I said, "What was it?" He said a movie called "Apollo 13", "Lost Moon: The Story of Apollo 13".

KING: By Lovell?

HANKS: By Jim Lovell, well, it was based on his book.

KING: Yeah.

HANKS: So, I immediately, Ron had it and so I immediately had a meeting with Ron and three days later, back here in the good ole' U.S. of A. we both decided to make the movie.

KING: Toughest part of shooting this was ...

KING: Cracking the authenticity level of it, I think, was the toughest part, sort of figuring it out. There was a lot of, kind of, obtuse concepts, like orbital mechanics and just what Gimble (ph) lock means to a space craft, that we had to barrel through and become associated with ourselves so that, you know, there would be a vicarious understanding for the audience. Physically, I guess the toughest part of making the movie was, physically tough but yet at the same time the most invigorating and the most fun was shooting in that zero-gravity aircraft at NASA.

KING: But you get nauseous when they do that on, they take a plane up and dive it down, right?

HANKS: Yeah. They took off at the Gulf of Mexico and they do this parabolas at 45 degree angles over and over and over again. And, yeah, it can reek havoc for the uninitiated inner ear and it did for all of us, at one point or another. But you get accustomed to it. They have some medication that you can take to fight it, that doesn't feel real pleasant afterwards.

KING: And you're actually floating?

HANKS: You have about 25 second bursts of complete zero gravity. And if there's no turbulence in the sky that day, you actually can stretch it out to almost 27, closer to 30 seconds. And it's unbelievable.

KING: But you had to do it a lot, though.

HANKS: We did, we did, I'm so proud of these numbers, Larry. We did over 600, we did 628 parabolas, totalling just under 4 hours of complete zero-gravity time.

KING: From doing this, would you want to go up?

HANKS: Oh, yeah. Yeah. If they waived the math at NASA and said you, well, we have computers that can figure out all these things, you don't really, you just have to be tough enough and want to do it ...

KING: Push the button ...

HANKS: I'd do it. I'd do it. But then, I'd do anything that they asked me of. I think it's a select group of people who have seen the curvature of the earth from, you know, 200, 300 miles up.

KING: Are you good at memorizing lines?

HANKS: Yeah, I'm pretty good at it.

KING: This must have been difficult, where there's a lot of technical stuff.

HANKS: Well, you know, what, actually, it's not unlike, this is, you're going to think this is a very cheesy analogy, but it's the same. It's not unlike doing Shakespeare, because the images of Shakespeare are so vivid that it's not nearly as much effort to memorize a long passage of Shakespeare as it is just to memorize casual conversation in a scene.

KING: Really? HANKS: Because the images are so strong and they make themselves in your brain. Likewise, when we're talking about the technical aspects of the spacecraft and what we have to do, we were schooled enough to know what that really meant. When we're saying we're going to put quads A and B on main, on, you know, main bus C and stuff like, we actually knew what that meant vis-a-vis the spacecraft. So it actually wasn't hard and, as a matter of fact, I was trying to work in as much of it as possible.

KING: More now from our 1995 interview with two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks. One of the many things I asked about, the impact of super-star success.

HANKS: It changes your private life, without question. My family suffers in ways that other families don't have to because of my public persona. And you do have to figure that out. That takes awhile to figure out, when to go and where not to go and how to avoid it, but eventually it becomes second nature.

But it's important that you have to do it. I've been lucky because I didn't become, like, a huge national celebrity overnight. I was on "Bosom Buddies" for two years and, actually, we were getting our butt kicked by Tom Selleck on "Magnum PI" at the time, so I'd been just kind of a celebrity asterisk for quite sometime. And as time went by, it became bigger and bigger and now I think we a pretty good system of dealing with it.

I have achieved a degree of success greater than anything I could have ever possibly imagined. What I know about the level that I'm working at is that it all starts all over again as soon as one thing is finished and you have to take on another one. I feel lucky because I didn't go into this, really, for power. I became an actor because I couldn't imagine anything being more fun a job and I always was lucky enough in order to scrape together enough stuff, if not to make the rent, to qualify for the unemployment that would help me make my rent in the earlier days.

So, I feel as though, if it happens, if something happened right now and they torn my union cards up and weren't going to let me work again, I would think, well, I've had a pretty good run. It's been alright.

KING: Have you ever turned down anything you regretted?

HANKS: No, nothing that I've regretted.

KING: Nothing?

HANKS: No. Because, you know, it's hard, actually, this is the hardest thing to do. It's hard to say no. People think it's hard to say yes to doing something. In fact, that's the easiest decision you could make. I like this, let's do it. OK. I'll do this next. It's very hard to say no, because the people who are going to do it, you admire, the studio is going to be putting in -- you know it's going to be a big movie.

KING: You owe the producer a favor.

HANKS: Not necessarily that.

KING: But he gave you a job once ...

HANKS: But he gave me a job before, I have worked with him before.

KING: Hey, Tom. It's Phil.

HANKS: Yeah. That happens all the time. And if you read it and you don't get it, you -- sometimes you try to convince yourself that it's something that you could do. But I've been on the phone for, with incredibly talented filmmakers for movies that went off and became very, very successful without me. It's telling them, "I don't understand this and I think you need an actor who does."

KING: Anything you're sorry you did?

HANKS: Oh, no. No.

KING: Not even "Bonfire"?

HANKS: Not even "Bonfire of the Vanities." I learned ...

KING: You were wrong for that.

HANKS: That's right. That's right. Remember that? I stared it right down the barrel on that one.

KING: You did, boy. You hung in there.

HANKS: I lived up to my responsibilities. You learn more by getting your butt kicked than you do by getting it kissed. I think that's my quasi-philosophy.

KING: You learned from "Bonfire"?

HANKS: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. I learned what to do and what not to do. The same way, in a different ratio, than doing a successful film. You make a good movie and it comes out well, honestly -- I had lunch with Ron Howard today. I was, "How did we do this?" We have no real concept of how any of this happened. With a failure, you can go back over, and as bad a failure as "Bonfire of the Vanities" was, I think all of us involved can say, "OK. Here's where we made our mistakes on this. Let's put this onto the data disk so that we ..."

KING: Like the football coach who learns from losses.

HANKS: Yeah. I think it's better when you really get shellacked. It's not nearly as heartbreaking by losing as only two points.

KING: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

CALLER: Hi, Tom. Congratulations on your Oscars. HANKS: Thank you.

CALLER: I was just wondering if you ever plan to work with Rita Wilson again, your wife?

HANKS: Oh, my lovely bride, Rita. I'd love to work, I'd love to work with Rita again. We had a good time on "Sleepless in Seattle."

KING: What's it like to work with your wife?

HANKS: Oh, well, first of all ...

KING: You go to work together.

HANKS: It brings options to lunchtime that you don't have with a lot of other co-stars that you may be making movies with.

She is a delight. She is a great lady and she's my best friend. It would be hard, I think, to do, to do a movie where, somehow, our own relationship was kind of put on public display. I think -- I don't ever want to mine whatever it is we have at home for fodder for some sort of story that we would eventually cash in on it. I'd love to play it where -- I'd love to be in a movie where we have no knowledge of who we are against each other.

But at the same, now, this is interesting -- I think that something bleeds through on the screen that says the audience knows these people are married. Therefore, we cannot be involved in a story as to whether or not they're going to get ...

KING: You really believe that?

HANKS: I absolutely think that's true.

KING: Does she handle this fame well?

HANKS: Oh, unbelievably well. Well, she has a substantial degree of fame herself ...

KING: Yeah, but not ...

HANKS: That she has to deal with.

KING: Yeah, but you would be the most famous screen actor in the world today.

HANKS: Well ...

KING: You would be.

HANKS: Yeah, well, I'm doing OK. You know, we have a, we kind of, when we get to the point, we're discussing, you know, how we're going to deal with this, we always come around to the realization that this is our lives, you know, this is it. It's not fair to compare it to anything else. This is what we have to do and this is what we have to deal with and that means that for us, life is one damned thing after another. Just like everybody else.

KING: Is the friendship as important as the love?

HANKS: Oh, absolutely. Yeah.

KING: You are best friends?

HANKS: I think so. Yeah.

KING: Don't go away. We've got excerpts from another terrific interview with Tom Hanks coming up.

Our most recent interview with Tom Hanks was October of '96. As if winning the Oscar for Best Actor two years in a row wasn't enough, he turned his hand at directing. The film, which he also wrote and starred in was "That Thing You Do." I asked Tom what surprised him most about the directing experience.

HANKS: The physical beating your body takes. The mental beating, I was relatively prepared for. But the physical aspects of having to work as hard as you have to work for as long as you have to do it, and at every step of the way be making decisions that are going to effect your film through all eternity.

KING: And it is your baby, right? When you're the director? I mean, it's the director's art, the film.

HANKS: The, I think the rule of thumb is, the stage is definitely the actors medium ...

KING: Once the curtain opens.

HANKS: Television, I think, is the producer's medium because it is, it is so long-form and you are the guy, the producer is the guy that assembles the writing and the cast, but I think it's universally taken that film is the director's medium. The filmmaker makes the film, that's what Preston Sturgess (ph) said. The filmmaker makes the film. So, my name is on this probably in a few too many places.

KING: And you're also the writer?

HANKS: Yes.

KING: Was that a plus, do you think?

HANKS: It was a plus in shooting the movie, because there was just no middle-man.

KING: You knew what you wanted?

HANKS: Or, I also knew where there was free-reign to be given. I always said to the cast-members, look, if you don't want to say what's on the page, but at least have an idea of what you want to say. Don't come to me and say what should I say, I don't like this line. Make something up. Come up with something. To be able to be the guy who is responsible for that and have it as free-form as necessary, that speeds the process up.

KING: Was it always your concept that you would be in it?

HANKS: Yes. I wrote it from, I'm a shrewd businessman, Larry.

KING: Yes, Tom.

HANKS: I knew that ...

KING: That would help get the bank money.

HANKS: That when the time came and I would ask my good, close, personal friends over at 20th Century Fox if they would like to make this movie, actually, at first I said, "Do you think this is a movie?" and then they read it and they said, "Well, yeah, it could be, it might be ..."

KING: Who's in it?

HANKS: Yeah. And I said, "Well, first of all, then in that case, I would like director and I would also play Mr. White." And they said, "Oh, OK. Alright. Well, then let's talk."

KING: What's it like to direct yourself?

HANKS: Not as hard as one would imagine. Because I was able to actually impact the scene as we were doing it. I could just say, let's do it again ...

KING: And you stand there ...

HANKS: As opposed to take off the headphones and go over and talk to myself, now, if you could just ...

KING: But is there an assistant director doing all the camera movements and the ...

HANKS: By the, oh, by the time I was working on the movie, I had an alliance between my first A.D. and my producer and, really, my associate -- everybody was sort of gathered around the monitor, and so I trusted their judgment as to whether we had something good or bad.

KING: Will this make you a better actor, a different actor?

HANKS: Well, man ...

KING: Have you acted since? Have you started a movie?

HANKS: No, I haven't. It'll make me a much more cooperative actor. I had directed some short form things and I was able to learn the importance, the paramount importance of showing up on time and knowing, if not the words you want to say, the words you're going to say. And being ready to do whatever it is that is asked -- I have, for example, I did a -- this is my directing resume so far: this movie; "Tales from the Crypt", in which I was saved by the performances and the professionalism of Frances Sternhagen and the Treat Williams; an episode of "Fallen Angels", Sidney Pollack's Showtime film noir series, which Bruno Kirby and Dick Miller and Marge Helgenberger saved my life, because they were so good. So, I know that when you have good actors that are there on time and are ready to work and will do anything that you ask them, I know that you're only going to be able to have the footage in the editing room.

KING: So, you have new appreciation, as well?

HANKS: I do, indeed.

KING: For what a director has to go through.

HANKS: Oh, I'll never bother the man or woman again. I will always do exactly what they ask.

KING: A few more minutes with Tom Hanks when we return.

HANKS gained his initial fame as a funny guy. So, in our interview in 1996, I asked him if he was still very comfortable with comedy.

HANKS: Comedy is dangerous. It is, it causes anxiety ...

KING: It's serious business.

HANKS: And it makes you lose sleep at night, because you simply do not know if that is funny or not. Now, there's moments in "That Thing You Do" that are funny and I had no idea they were going to be. And there are moments in "That Thing You Do" that are not funny, and I had every plan that they were going to be funny and they didn't work out. It's, man, it's mayonnaise. It either is or it's not.

KING: What film, for you, was the hardest to do?

HANKS: Well, physically, emotionally, or a blend of the two?

KING: Blend.

HANKS: Oh, well, you know, this will sound very awfully goofy, but "Turner and Hooch" was an exhausting movie to make because I was acting opposite this dog, and we had to do this dog in a way that was going to be a new version of a guy and a dog in a movie. We did stuff like this. We would work, we worked in six day weeks on "Turner and Hooch" and we would set up, there's one scene in there, it's a stakeout scene. I'm staking out a scene of a crime with my dog Hooch. And we shot that scene for 16 hours with three different, they were always rotating. We had a car on the set that was surrounded by bungee-cams, literally cameras that were hanging from bungee-cords. And the whole thing was about, whatever this dog does, I react to. We will not ask the dog to do anything specifically, this dog will just do things.

KING: And you will react.

HANKS: And I will react. That was the hardest I've ever worked. That's "Turner and Hooch," ladies and gentlemen. KING: Harder than "Philadelphia." Harder than having AIDS.

HANKS: You got it out of me.

KING: Harder than "Forrest Gump."

HANKS: Well, those things are very, those have become more like things that deal with your soul. But as far as the actual grittiness of doing, of going and pounding out the footage, "Turner and Hooch" was very hard.

KING: What success surprised you? Of the films you've made?

HANKS: Oh, well ...

KING: Did you think "Sleepless in Seattle" would be as huge as it was?

HANKS: No. No. As a matter of fact, that's probably the best example. Well, "Forrest Gump" entering the national consciousness was a surprise.

KING: No, no one could have predicted that.

HANKS: No one could have predicted that. But as, you know, as far -- we were making this kind of like little movie. I mean, Nora is really smart and we had a great, I mean, it was all laughs when we were doing it. But we just thought we were making this ...

KING: Thinking it's a small, nice movie.

HANKS: We thought it was just going to land somewhere, you know, in the populace's mind. But for it to become like this, I mean, it's become a template for an awful lot of other movies that are being made that are like it.

KING: What's next?

HANKS: Next summer I'll be making a movie called "Saving Private Ryan" with Steven Spielberg. That is about, the backdrop of that is literally the Normandy Invasion, the D-Day. It takes place D-Day, literally, H-hour of D-Day and then ...

KING: And you're Private Ryan?

HANKS: No. I'm a -- it's another character that's in it. It's all about guys trying to find a guy so he can be sent home.

KING: It's an original script?

HANKS: Yeah. Yeah. Very.

KING: Spielberg will direct?

HANKS: Yes, he will, sir. That's what he says. I may have to ... KING: He'd better.

HANKS: I may have to put him in a hammerlock.

KING: Did you sign on by saying he must direct?

HANKS: No. We went into it at the, tandem. We just went to it and said, here we go, we'd like to make this.

KING: Oh, this is your baby?

HANKS: No, no, no, no. We found it and we both talked ...

KING: We being? Your group?

HANKS: Steven and myself. We had both read this thing, and somebody told each other that we had both read the thing, and then we talked on the phone and said, "Do you think this is great?", "Yeah, I do." "Do you think this is great?", "Yeah, I do." Oh, well, let's go, let's see if we can make it work.

KING: As every moviegoer knows, "Saving Private Ryan" very definitely worked. It truly was, and is, a great film on many different levels.

That's it for this roundup of our past interviews with Tom Hanks. Thanks for watching LARRY KING WEEKEND. Good night.

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