2009 April 28

The Great Tom Hanks

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Ron Howard, Tom Hanks, and Rita Wilson Ron Howard, Tom Hanks, and Rita Wilson
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(NEW YORK) “I feel like it’s my birthday!” cried Julia Roberts, entering Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center on Monday evening to a hail of cheers from onlookers. And though the superfans cheered and snapped photos of all the impressive figures arriving for the night, the man of the hour was clear. Tom Hanks was honored with the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s 36th annual Chaplin Award--named after the organization’s first honoree, Charlie Chaplin.

“What happened? There must be an anomaly in the vote-taking process,” laughed Hanks of the honor, arriving with his lovely Prada-clad wife, Rita Wilson. “I’m stunned, I’m honored, I’m humbled. Listen, I’m a lucky man. I’ll take a free dinner! The rest of it is some odd happening.” Wilson was effusive in her pride for her husband, sharing that the couple’s 21st wedding anniversary was just days away. “Years and years go by, and you realize, oh my gosh, I’m celebrating my 21st anniversary April 30! We’ve sort of marked our lives by what movies he was doing at the time--and by his facial hair! If it’s a very, very, hairy beard, well then that was Castaway. If it’s a little tiny moustache, that was Road to Perdition. His career is sort of like a big scrapbook for us.”

“He’s just a great quintessential actor,” raved Roberts. “He does the campy comedies, from Bosom Buddies--where I fell madly in love with him--to a movie like Castaway. It covers all the ground there is. He’s amazing, he’s just a great person. That’s the thing about Tom. Someone says, 'Oh, what is Tom like?' He’s exactly what you want him to be.” Between Christy Turlington and Ed Burns reminiscing about Burns’ turn in Saving Private Ryan with Hanks, Nora Ephron remembering her time working with him in Sleepless in Seattle, and Ron Howard pinpointing exactly where he met Hanks (“It was at this softball game, on the bus,” he said. “I was going with the Happy Days team to play at a celebrity softball game!”), stars like Sally Field, Steven Spielberg, Geoffrey Rush, Glenn Close, Christie Brinkley, John Leguizamo, and more were more than happy to support the actor.

“I just think it was an overall experience,” said Charlize Theron of her time on the set of 1996’s That Thing You Do!, which Hanks directed. “It was a dream to go to work every single day, and it was just one of those sets that you just didn’t want it to stop. Every day was just a blessing.” Adrien Brody, who admitted to having just woken up after flying in from L.A. and changing into his suit in the car, met the actor after working with Colin Hanks in King Kong. “His kindness and his spirit shine through,” he said. “He’s an impressive man.”

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