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“Do You Mind If I Try Out a New Accent for This?” Our Interview With Tom Hanks

To the surprise of everyone in the office, the other day Tom Hanks, two-time Academy Award winner and sweetheart to most Americans that aren’t convinced he’s a satanist, stopped by our offices, seemingly just to chat. Here’s our conversation with one of America’s biggest actors. 

Thanks for agreeing to meet with us, Mr. Hanks! We’re so excited to sit down with you.

Of course, and please, call me Tom. Say, do you mind if I try out a new accent for this? I just found out that they’re going to make a movie about the cop who shot the Nashville school shooter, and I really want that part.

Uh, sure. How do you learn about these parts?

I have a Google alert set up for “real American hero.” Usually it’s just some local guy teaching tai chi to seniors, but every now and then, you strike gold.

What attracts you to this type of role?

Oh, it’s hard to say. If I had to guess, it’s probably the universal public adoration.

Is there anything else you look for in a role?

Sure! As I said earlier, I love a good accent. If I can’t talk in a funny voice, then there’s no point in doing the movie. It wouldn’t be any fun.

But you’ve done plenty of movies in your own voice.

Sure, I used to. But ever since Forrest Gump, I’ve caught the accent bug. Cloud Atlas accelerated things by letting me speak in a variety of downright stupid dialects. Since then, I will walk away from any production that won’t let me at least put a little twang in my dialogue.

Okay, fine. What is your favorite movie you’ve ever starred in?

When I look back on everything, I think it has to be Dragnet. I think I lended a youthful energy to that film that really brought in a big teenage audience. I talked like a real youngster!

What’s your least favorite movie you’ve starred in?

Oh, boy. Have you watched Philadelphia recently? That city has one of the richest, goofiest-sounding accents in the entire world, and I totally blew it. What I wouldn’t give for another shot at that role.

You won an Oscar for Philadelphia. Are you saying you regret taking the role?

I regret the way I played it, certainly. You’re failing to recognize my Gump Oscar. I did it right, that time. It was another heartbreaking narrative about someone who fought against impossible odds, but this time I decided to talk like a total weirdo. I’m always happy to be recognized for my performances, but it’s most important that I am satisfied with my work on a personal level.

But you did all of those ‘Da Vinci Code’ movies! How could that have been satisfying to you?

Look at the hairline I had in those movies! It’s like an accent for your head.

Okay, we really need to pivot from this accent thing. What was your experience with COVID-19 like?

It was certainly a struggle, but I would like to think that I learned from it. I spent some time really getting to know my hoarse, gravelly register. I think it will really help me play a determined Nashville cop, hot on the scene of a school shooting, just in case any Hollywood producers are reading this interview.

What about your hobbies? Aren’t you into collecting typewriters?

Yes! I love those crazy machines. Each one you find has a slightly different action, the typeset is always fun to see, even the subtle way the letters don’t quite line up is charming. It’s almost like every typewriter has an —

Hey! How about Toy Story! You’ve done four of those films, not counting the animated shorts. Any thoughts on those movies?

I’m very proud of my work in the Toy Story films. I’ve heard plenty of people criticize the voice I use for Woody, since it’s not a stereotypical John Wayne-style cowboy voice. However, plenty of research backs up the idea that Western U.S. settlers of that era wouldn’t have sounded much different than you or I, with our neutral American accents. I tried to affect a hint of the cot-caught phoneme merger —

Of course, I couldn’t let you get away without discussing your rumored feud with Henry Winkler.

Sure. This is one of those things that has just been blown out of proportion. He was supposed to direct Turner and Hooch. He’s an accomplished artist, and he certainly had the chops to do it, but he kept insisting that I couldn’t do the movie entirely in canine dialect. He’d cut every scene as soon as I started barking. When Roger Spottiswoode came on, he let me perform more naturally.

But you spoke normally in ‘Turner and Hooch.’

Sure, in the final cut. They hired my brother Jim Hanks to re-record all of the dialogue. Ultimately, I think that gave us the best of both worlds. My performance was genuine, but the audience could still understand what I was saying.

Has your brother dubbed you in any other movies?

Frankly, there’s no way for me to know. The only reason I figured it out with Turner and Hooch is that I wasn’t literally barking in the movie. It’s possible that Jim snuck some dialogue at various points throughout my career.

Do you have any particular suspicions?

I’ve never told anyone this, but I have no memory of recording my lines for The Polar Express. The director claims I did it. My co-stars claim I did it. My wife and children claim I did it. But honestly? I think that movie was Jim.

How would your performance have differed from your brother’s?

Well, for one thing, I would have used more than one word for “snow.” Santa’s helpers might not exactly be Inuit, but you have to assume that residents of the North Pole would have some common language with them. They probably wouldn’t sound like someone who grew up speaking standard American English. Santa wouldn’t sound like he had a morning news show, you know?

Have you, like, gone to school for linguistics or something?

Excuse me, I’ll have you know that I am a student of the human condition. In other words, I am an actor.

So that means you only care about what people sound like?

Listen, if you want  meaning behind the words, ask a writer. If you want meaning beyond the words, ask an actor.

So saying something in a funny voice is more meaningful than if it’s just printed on the page?

You line up all the people who have read Forrest Gump the novel, and I’ll line up all the people who have seen Forrest Gump the film. Then you can tell me how much value a funny voice adds to a text.

Do you think you passed on your passion for accents to your son, Chet?

I claim no responsibility for Chet whatsoever.