Tom Hanks is known as the world’s most popular everyday actor.
His leading appearances in films such as Forrest Gump† Philadelphia† Saving Private Ryanand Put away were so powerful because he created an umbilical cord between the film and the audience. Hanks’ warmth, charm, and familiarity allowed viewers to see themselves as his characters and so might as well imagine themselves overcoming the obstacles Forrest, Andrew Beckett, Captain John H. Miller, and Chuck Noland faced.
I doubt most people will find anything recognizable – or interchangeable – about Colonel Tom Parker, Hanks’ character in Elvis† While he helped Elvis Presley’s popularity explode across the country and then the world, so much so that he became the best-selling solo artist in music history, Parker’s unethical management of the icon led him to lose at least half of Elvis’s earnings over his career. .
Elvis is unlike any of the movies Hanks has starred in before. Director Baz Luhrmann’s jukebox extravaganza is bizarre, laughable and compelling, often all at once. But while Austin Butler is destined to become a huge star thanks to his titular performance, it’s Hanks’ bloated but eye-catching Parker who symbolizes all that is right and wrong about the film.
Hanks’ thick suit, fake nose and hybrid double chin/turkey neck like Parker are what moviegoers are likely to notice first. Not only does he look like a cross between Gollum, a toad, and Mr. Burn out… The Simpsonsbut he also acts that way, because he manipulates Elvis’ career and fortune all for his own benefit.
The most horrifying thing about Hanks’ portrayal of Parker is his voice. Parker was born in Breda in the Netherlands on June 26, 1909 and immigrated illegally to the United States when he was 20 years old. Hanks gives the character a vaguely European twang that constantly distracts from what he’s actually saying.
We also hear a lot of that twang. Even though the film is a celebration of Presley’s music and talent, Elvis is told from Parker’s perspective. Hanks narrates the film in a voiceover so disturbing and Machiavellian that it sounds like a cartoon villain telling the world how he committed the perfect crime.
Many critics have criticized Hanks’ performance as Parker. It’s been called “creepy,” the “worst of his career,” and a “complete misstep.” He has even been compared to Austin Powers’ Goldmember.
But while all of these stances may be valid, Hanks also deserves some credit for taking a whimsical swing at a character who is the antithesis of his typical roles. If he had played Parker in a more traditional and conventional way, there’s a chance Hanks would be eyeing his next Oscar nomination right now. The Academy just can’t resist rewarding regular actors who transform themselves into real people, like Will Smith’s King RichardRami Maleks Bohemian Rhapsody, and Gary Oldman’s darkest hour Proving Oscar wins. Opponent Austin Butler, who himself plays Elvis, basks in the praises all alone instead.
With the two-time Best Actor winner turning 66 on July 9, Hanks seems less concerned about whether the roles he’s taking on are in line with the one the world has continually given him, as the nicest man. from Hollywood. Instead, he now seems to be only doing what entertains him most — whether critics or viewers agree or not.
Why else would someone like Tom Hanks choose to lower himself into a thankless, vile role as Colonel Tom Parker? As atrocious as the performance of both Hanks and Elvis Overall, it turned out he was allowed to play as a campy villain. If that didn’t lead to great acting, at least he had a lot of fun.
Looking back, the signs of Hanks’ shift in priorities, towards passion projects rather than awards or acclaim, have actually been there for a few years now.
in 2016, tarnish was a big, quintessential Hanks-ian hit, but Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson also found time to play the very silly, mostly forgotten My big fat Greek wedding 2† The following year ended with applause for his turn in Steven Spielberg’s The mailbut started yelling for his movie The circle† The Dave Eggers adaptation, starring Emma Watson, saw Hanks play a coolly manipulative Silicon Valley-type villain.
After a quiet 2018 and only two (very well-known) roles in 2019—in Toy Story 4the least essential entry in the Pixar franchise, and its well-known turn in A beautiful day in the neighborhood—2020 marked a shift.
That year, he wrote and starred in the World War II submarine action movie Greyhound, a film that had been almost ten years in the making. While it wasn’t badly received, it didn’t make much of an impression. The same goes for his other 2020 film, Western drama News from the worldand the dystopian story of 2021 Finch†
What Hanks has been getting the most press for lately is his self-mockery or just plain weird appearances. His buzzy cameo in Borat next movie movie, who made fun of his infamous COVID diagnosis, was considered one of the film’s best cameos. (Borat spits on Tom Hanks, which the film says gives the actor COVID.) It was a surprising, bold moment for the actor, especially since we’re still figuring out how to joke about COVID.
But most memorable was when Hanks made a rare podcast appearance last March. He had a charming, informative, and refreshingly honest discussion of his professional failures on comedian Connor Ratliff’s show Dead Eyes. The podcast’s premise is mostly self-effacing: Hanks allegedly fired Ratliff from the 2001 HBO miniseries Band of brothers for having “dead eyes”. Ratliff devoted the podcast to figuring out why — and ideally Hanks had explained it himself. That Ratliff landed his great white whale for the show was big news, because we’re not used to Hanks being a villain in someone else’s true story, nor admit it.
Hanks used this discussion to apologize to Ratliff. But even then, Hanks showed more acuity than usual, saying that the crew member who told Ratliff about his “dead eye” comment “should break their kneecaps.” Intense! This level of aggression may not have been a one-off either: Just two weeks ago, Hanks once again defied his image as a nice guy when he told a crowd of fans to “go the fuck back” after tripping his wife, Rita, Wilson.
There are still a few more chances for Hanks to shock, surprise, and even disgust viewers before the end of 2022.
In September, he will play the role of Geppetto in Robert Zemeckis’ live-action remake of Pinocchio. The film’s first trailer suggests that Hanks has gone big and daring with his performance, just like he did with Parker. He even resembles Lady Gaga and Jared Leto’s bizarre and borderline offensive Italian accents House of Gucci. Plus, the last time Zemeckis and Hanks teamed up for a movie, we got the very creepy Pool Express†
In A man named Otto, due out over Christmas, Hanks will play a misanthropic widower who judges everyone he sees. If that’s not unusually dark enough, Hanks’ character in the 2015 Swedish film it’s based on repeatedly attempts to commit suicide.
My dream is that Hanks becomes more and more extreme and Mr. Nice Guy let down. He could be inspired by Nicolas Cage and deliver a meta-take about his sympathy along the lines of: The unbearable weight of enormous talent. Or Hanks could even go the route of Keanu Reeves or Liam Neeson, and we’ll see him seek revenge in his own action movie, à la John Wick or Taken.
Whatever happens, even if the misses are as bad as Hanks’ Parker in Elvis, it’s still thrilling to see one of the most endearing actors of the past 40 years work without a safety net. Let’s hope the naysayers don’t convince him to return to normal anytime soon.