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Nice Guy Tom Hanks Gets Honored, But Is He Always Nice on Screen? Let's Honor the Horrid Side of Hanks

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Photo: Brother/FilmMagic

Tom Hanks got gussied up last night in Manhattan to play guest of honor at the annual gala tribute put on by the chichi Film Society of Lincoln Center. Hanks, 52, bravely survived the brutal assault of compliments from the likes of Julia Roberts, Bruce Springsteen, Mike Nichols and Steven Spielberg, and is now resting comfortably. As ever in the career of Nice Guy Tom, the speakers emphasized his niceness. "Everybody fuckin' likes you," said Roberts, finally expressing how irritating that is. OK, Hanks is nice, but within reason.

How come no one talks about his way of faking you out? He calls it teasing. Yeah, right. When I met him a while back at his office in Los Angeles, he insulted my rental car (it was fire-engine red). Was that the last car left on the lot or did you pick the color?" he asked, raising a deadpan eyebrow. On the phone with his wife Rita Wilson he divulged that he was talking to me, paused and added, "yeah, that guy." He happily mentioned unflattering reviews I'd written about The Da Vinci Code and The Terminal, and his performances in them. I think he wanted to see me squirm. I did.

No mention of the frequent times I'd admired his acting in print. That's not Hanks. And it would have made me squirm more. My point here is that Hanks' career isn't all high points (Bonfire of the Vanities anyone?). And he doesn't go around helping old ladies cross streets. Ask him to do Elvis sneering his way through one of the worst of The King's movies, 1964's Roustabout. Nasty! OK, so Hanks won back-to-back Oscars for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump. And if he won a few more for Big, A League of Their Own, Apollo 13, Saving Private Ryan and Cast Away, you wouldn't hear me bitching. But where's the prize for the dark, loony side of Tom? Hanks told me one of his favorite movies was Punchline, the 1988 drama in which he played a rat bastard of a stand-up comic. "I didn't see me up there on screen," he said. I take his point. So in honor of Hanks' latest honor, how about picking your favorite Tom Hanks performance in a movie where you don't see him up there on screen. I could start with Road To Perdition and Joe Versus the Volcano. But it's you turn. Go for it.

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Peter Travers

Rolling Stone senior writer Peter Travers has reviewed movies for the magazine for more than 20 years. Send your comments and questions to him here.

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