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Tom Hanks Interview

Tom casts his magic again

Tom casts his magic again


Let's face it. Who hasn't at some point dreamed of living as a castaway on a tropical desert island, far from the daily grind of work, rotten weather and unreliable transport?

After all, the recent popular television documentary Castaway as well as the enduring and much loved radio series Desert Island Discs must surely be proof that deep down many of us would love to escape the rat race.

Well try telling actor Tom Hanks that. The Hollywood star reckons he'd be perfectly happy never to set foot on a desert island again after discovering just how terrifying being a castaway really can be.

The Oscar-winning actor spent months on a remote Fijian island for his new movie Cast Away and far from being an idyllic experience it proved to be something of a nightmare for the 44-year old star.

Not only did he have to lose 55lb in weight for the role and spend weeks up to his neck in water, the shoot almost turned to tragedy when he caught a serious infection.

"Just before we left the island I had a little sore on my knee and something got inside there. We left Fiji on the Friday and by the Sunday my leg was twice its normal size," explains Hanks, looking more than a little relieved to be in the urban surrounds of London.

"I had to go to the doctors and I thought I was going to get it cleaned and some antibiotics to take. The next thing I know there were five doctors running around in a panic trying to figure out what was inside my leg.

"I underwent surgery that night and was out for three weeks. We had to shut down the movie. I was very close to blood poisoning, which can kill you. If I'd really been a castaway on that island, doctors told me I would have been dead in five weeks."

But it wouldn't just be a physical illness which might finish off the normally robust star on a desert island.

Hanks, who is happily married to actress Rita Wilson and a dad of four, reckons sheer loneliness would mean he'd never make it as a real life castaway.

"There's a difference between solitude and loneliness," he ponders, "I can understand the concept of being a monk for a while.

"You take a vow of silence, of not saying anything, hearing anything or reading anything, but with my personality that would only last a few hours and then I'd probably go stark, raving nuts and probably start to do shadow puppets on the wall," he smiles.

"I have too many of the chromosomes of an actor and performer. I need some sort of stimulant and diversion."

But despite his reservations the versatile star makes for an extremely convincing castaway in the film.

He threw himself wholeheartedly into his role as a workaholic man, who escapes a plane crash only to be washed up on a deserted island, where he faces an even greater battle for survival for the next four years.

Hanks was so determined to make the part as realistic as possible that the film was shot in two stages over 16 months with a one-year break so that he could undergo a dramatic physical transformation.

He didn't shave or cut his hair for weeks and shed 55lb in four months with a diet and exercise regime which he admits was one of the toughest things he's ever had to undergo.

"The hardest thing was the time," he recalls. "I wish I could have just taken a pill and lost all the weight but the reality was that I had to start in October knowing that we were going to go back in February.

"The idea of looking at four months of constant vigilance as far as what I ate, as well as two hours a day in the gym doing nothing but a monotonous kind of work-out, that was formidable. You have to power yourself through it almost by some sort of meditation trickery. It's not glamorous."

It was, however, worth it, as Hollywood rumours abound that Cast Away could earn Hanks yet another Oscar.

If so, it'll be a hat trick for the star who can't seem to put a foot wrong. His impeccable track record includes a plethora of Oscar and Golden Globe nominated movies, including Saving Private Ryan, The Green Mile, Philadelphia and Sleepless In Seattle.

But if there's one thing his castaway experience has taught him it's never to take anything for granted. Even his glittering career.

"During the film all I did was catalogue the nature of things that can be taken away," he remembers. "That's everything from a cheeseburger to the feeling of cold air from the refrigerator door on you at night.

"I love what I do for a living, it's the greatest job in the world, but you have to survive an awful lot of attention that you don't truly deserve and you have to live up to your professional responsibilities and I'm always trying to balance that with what is really important.

"My kid could get a bad X-ray and I could get a call from the doctor saying I have something growing in my bum and that would change my perspective on everything instantaneously, on what is and what is not important," he adds with a grin.

"He'd probably still come in very handy on a desert island though."


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