The Many Literary Roles of Tom Hanks

Posted by Danielle Mohlman

Photo by Monique Carrati on Unsplash

While we could wax poetic all day long about Tom Hanks and what a wonderful actor is — and the sneaky way he became America’s dad despite a romcom start. (You’ve Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle forever.) What we really want to talk about is just how literary his career is. And we’re not just talking about his book of short stories written on typewriters, Uncommon Type. Books pop up everywhere in Tom Hanks’ career. It’s almost like he’s a bookworm or something. We’re celebrating every literary role he’s ever taken, starting with the not-yet-released — and the rumors! — and working all the way back to Forrest Gump.


A Man Called Ove (announced)

It’s been announced that our favorite, the one and only Tom Hanks will be starring as Ove in the American remake of the 2015 Swedish film A Man Called Ove. But before it was ever a Swedish film — or the hint of an idea in the director’s eye — it was a novel by prolific Swedish novelist Fredrik Backman. For this role, Hanks will be taking on the cranky exterior of a lonely curmudgeon named (you guessed it) Ove. But what we’re most interested in is the master class that’s sure to ensue as Ove’s prickly exterior crumbles.



In the Garden of Beasts (rumored)

While a film adaptation of In the Garden of Beasts isn’t rumored, Tom Hanks’ participation sure is. According to IMDB, he’s slated to play William Dodd, America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Nazi Germany. It’s a role that feels perfect for him, chock full of moral quandaries about family, duty, and country. We won’t say too much about this anticipated adaptation, but this is a book you’ll definitely want to read before the movie comes out.



The Circle (2017)

Dave Eggers’ brilliant and terrifying novel about a social media company that knows our every move (ahem, Facebook) was practically prophesy when it was published in 2014, and eerily foretelling when the Tom Hanks and Emma Watson led film was released in 2017. In The Circle, Hanks plays the leader of this privacy averse tech giant — a cross between Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. And while it’s wonderful to see him break outside the father figure roles he’s often typecast into these days, power hungry isn’t a comforting on anyone.



Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011)

If you’re looking for a good cry, the film adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is just what you need. In this brilliantly executed adaptation, Tom Hanks plays Thomas Schell, the father of nine-year-old inventor, Shakespearean actor, and New Yorker Oskar Schell. And while you might be thinking, “Wonderful! A dad role for America’s dad.” think again. Because Thomas died tragically on September 11th. And Oskar is in search of answers.



The Da Vinci Code (2006)

In The Da Vinci Code — and the subsequent Angels & Demons (2009) and Inferno (2016) — Tom Hanks plays Harvard professor of symbology, Robert Langdon. It’s rare to see a movie franchise give this much room to breathe between sequels, so we can’t say for sure if Inferno is the last of the Dan Brown adaptations. But we know one thing for sure: Tom Hanks is excellent in this action-adventure meets professorial role. He’s a modern day Indiana Jones — only with fewer snakes.



The Polar Express (2004)

You’ve gotta hand it to Robert Zemeckis. When he wants to work with Tom Hanks, he really works with him. In this adaptation of the timeless children’s book The Polar Express, Tom Hanks plays not one, not two, but six roles! As he weaves between playing the Hero Boy, the Father, the Conductor, the Hobo, Scrooge, and Santa Claus himself, Hanks brings the spirit of Christmas to the absolute forefront. And isn’t that what we all truly want from a Tom Hanks movie?



Catch Me if You Can (2002)

In Catch Me if You Can, an adaptation of the Frank Abagnale memoir of the same name, Tom Hanks plays Carl Hanratty, the seasoned FBI agent who’s pursuing Frank Abagnale himself. For us, this role was a turning point in Tom Hanks’ career — an investment in authoritative roles. Even though The Green Mile cast Hanks in a similar role three years earlier — badge, title, the whole nine yards — Catch Me if You Can proved Hanks was here to stay.



The Green Mile (1999)

In this adaptation of Stephen King’s serial novel, The Green Mile casts Tom Hanks as corrections officer Paul Edgecomb, a man whose life is forever changed by a death row inmate with a mysterious gift. It’s a difficult movie to watch, and even more difficult to read, considering the circumstances of John Coffey’s crimes. But it’s a must see for any and all Stephen King fans.


Forrest Gump (1994)

Tom Hanks is perhaps most well known for his “Life is like a box of chocolates” performance as the titular character of Forrest Gump, an adaptation of the Winston Groom novel of the same name. There’s nothing to say about Forrest Gump that hasn’t already been said, but we’ll try: as lovers of the written word and fans of Tom Hanks’ illustrious career, we’re touched that his most famous role is rooted so deeply in the world of literature.


Thank you, Tom Hanks.