Tom Hanks' Road to the Cecil B. DeMille Award -- A Look Back at His Incomparable Career

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Tom Hanks is set to receive the coveted Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 77th Annual Golden Globes, where he will join an elite group of celebrated icons who have been honored with the award since its inception in 1952.

According to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the Cecil B. DeMille Award -- named after the esteemed director of Cleopatra, The Ten Commandments and The Greatest Show on Earth, who was also the first recipient of the eponymous honor -- celebrates a star's "outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment," and few people have contributed quite like Hanks.

The four-time Golden Globe winner -- as well as two-time Oscar winner and seven-time Emmy winner -- will be attending the Globes not just as an honoree, but as a nominee as well. Hanks is up for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Mister Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. It's just another example of how the man who's become known as "America's Dad" is leaving an indelible mark on the industry and has become one of the most beloved performers alive.

In celebration of his momentous achievement, we're taking a look back at the 63-year-old movie star's long and influential journey to earning the Cecil B. DeMille Award.

His Love for Acting Began in the Theater... High School Theater

Tom Hanks at Sardi's
Walter McBride/Corbis via Getty Images

Like many actors before him, Hanks' love for performing was sparked in high school, where he acted in several theatrical stage productions. He appeared in numerous musicals while attending Skyline High School in Oakland, California. His teacher, Rawley Farnsworth, inspired him to pursue his passion.

Hanks set his eyes on a full time career in film when he transferred to Cal State University, Sacramento, and began taking acting classes. Soon after, he appeared as Proteus in The Two Gentlemen of Verona and his performance earned him the Cleveland Critics Circle Award for Best Actor, essentially cementing his path into show business. In the late 1970s, he moved to New York and, after some small and largely forgettable screen roles, Hanks booked his breakthrough gig with the sitcom Bosom Buddies in 1980.

Even after building his monumental screen career, Hanks' love for the theater has remained strong. In 1998, Hanks donated a sizable sum to his high school's auditorium to update their lighting system, and in return asked that the theater be named not after him, but after his old teacher, Rawley Farnsworth. Then, in 2013, he made his Broadway debut in Nora Ephron's Lucky Guy.

He and Ron Howard Became a Dream Team and He Moved On to Films Almost Immediately

Bosom Buddies
Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives

Hanks' screen career began strong and quickly skyrocketed. After appearing in a small role in the forgettable slasher He Knows You're Alone and an episode of The Love Boat, Hanks landed a starring role in the farcical sitcom Bosom Buddies. The show was a big hit with critics, but failed to capture an audience and was off the air after two seasons. However, his charisma and screen presence were undeniable.

In 1982, the same year Bosom Buddies came to an end, Hanks appeared in a single episode of Happy Days, where he befriended and impressed director Ron Howard. At the time, Howard had only helmed two films -- Grand Theft Auto and Night Shift -- and a handful of TV movies, but was gearing up to make the inter-species romantic mermaid comedy Splash. Hanks ended up getting the part, starring opposite Daryl Hannah, and it launched him into a new stratosphere.

After Splash came out in 1984, Hanks starred in seven films over the next four years -- all admittedly lackluster in terms of box office success and critical reception. However, in 1988, the real star-making role came with Penny Marshall's iconic comedy Big. Hanks earned his first Oscar nomination for his performance, and cemented his place as a leading man.

Not one to forget where he came from or who helped him along the way, Hanks has maintained a fruitful relationship with Howard, working with him on Apollo 13, as well as the Da Vinci Code and its sequels. As for Marshall -- who died in December 2018 -- Hanks teamed up with her again for A League of Their Own, which Hanks has credited for essentially establishing him as a go-to leading man.

He Stays Close With His Family as Part of His Job

Tom Hanks and Colin Hanks
BILLY FARRELL/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Hanks has made his career something of a family affair, especially when it comes to his son, actor Colin Hanks -- from his first marriage to Samantha Lewes -- and his younger brother, Jim Hanks.

Colin, who has gone on to earn critical acclaim in his own right, made his acting debut with a bit part in his father's big screen directorial debut, That Thing You Do! in 1996. Their career paths crossed again in the 2008 dramedy The Great Buck Howard, in which the pair play a father and son.

Meanwhile, the Oscar winner has also maintained a close working relationship with his brother, Jim, who has worked alongside his older brother for years -- both benefiting from their notable likeness while at the same time forging his own acting path. 

Jim served as a body double on Forrest Gump, and has racked up dozens of acting credits in other films and TV shows unrelated to his older brother. However, one of the most interesting aspects of Jim's work is he appears to be the go-to actor to voice Sheriff Woody in nearly all Toy Story spinoffs, including direct-to-DVD specials and video games.

He's also been a devoted and supportive husband to his wife of 31 years, Rita Wilson. The pair, who first met on set in the 1980s, have been adorably inseparable throughout their marriage. The pair frequently come out to support one another at premieres and events and the love and support they've shown for each other's careers has set the standard for successful and inspirational Hollywood relationships.

He's One of a Select Few to Win Back-to-Back Oscars

Tom Hanks With His Oscar
John Barr/Liaison/Getty Images

After snagging his first Oscar nomination in 1989, Hanks had to wait another five years for the honor to come around again. This time, he was nominated for his performance in Philadelphia, in which he played a gay lawyer who is fired by his law firm after it's revealed that he has HIV.

After winning the award, Hanks delivered a profoundly moving acceptance speech in which he thanked his high school drama teacher, Rawley Farnsworth, and a former classmate, John Gilkerson. "I mention their names because they are two of the finest gay Americans, two wonderful men that I had the good fortune to be associated with, to fall under their inspiration at such a young age," Hanks said. 

Interestingly, the actor's speech made headlines for supposedly having "outed" Farnsworth, who had not previously disclosed his sexual orientation publicly. However, it was later revealed that Hanks had contacted him before the Oscars and asked permission to address his sexuality should he win the award. The speech, and subsequent undo sensationalism, inspired screenwriter Paul Rudnick to pen the Kevin Kline-led comedy In & Out.

The following year, Hanks starred as the titular hero of the acclaimed Forrest Gump, and earned his second Best Actor Oscar, making him only the second performer to win back-to-back Best Actor Oscars -- the other being Spencer Tracy, who won the award in 1938 and '39 for Captains Courageous and Boys Town.

In fact, there are only five actors in total who have won back-to-back Oscars. Luise Rainer won Best Actress Oscars in '36 and '37, Katharine Hepburn -- who holds the record for most Oscars overall with four -- won Best Actress in '68 and '69, and Jason Robards won Best Supporting Actor Oscars in '76 and '77.

Hanks has been nominated twice since his second win -- in 1999 for Saving Private Ryan and 2001 for Cast Away -- and has somehow not earned a single nom since, over the past 18 years -- despite earning four Golden Globe noms in that same time span. Perhaps his performance as Mister Rogers will change that when the 2020 Oscar noms are announced on Jan. 13.

He Raised the Bar When It Comes to Playing Real-Life People

Tom Hanks Movies
Universal Pictures/Warner Bros./Sony Pictures Releasing

Hanks has taken the art form of playing a real person on the big screen to a new level throughout his career, beginning with his turn in Philadelphia. While he technically played a fictional character named Andy Beckett, the role was inspired and heavily modeled after the real-life attorney Geoffrey Bowers, who battled discrimination and homophobia after being fired from his job.

Additionally, Hanks has played many historical and political figures, including astronaut Jim Lovell in Apollo 13, FBI agent Cal Hanratty in Catch Me If You Can (a character directly based on the real-life agent Joseph Shea, who asked for his name to be changed in the film), U.S. Congressman Charlie Wilson in Charlie Wilson's War, merchant marine Richard Phillips in Captain Phillips, hero pilot Chesley Sullenberger in Sully, lawyer and diplomat James B. Donovan in Bridge of Spies and the legendary newspaper man Ben Bradlee in The Post.

He's also played two of the most iconic and influential pop culture figures in American history -- first when he played Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks, and his recent portrayal of Mister Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.

And, according to reports, Hanks doesn't plan on slowing down when it comes to adapting people's lives for the big screen. He will reportedly play ambassador William Dodd in the upcoming WWII drama In the Garden of Beasts, as well as Colonel Tom Parker in director Baz Luhrmann's planned Elvis Presley biopic.

Through his emotional, nuanced performances and his empathic, thoughtful approach to presenting these figures' life stories, Hanks has elevated the art of portraying real people on the big screen.

Steven Spielberg, Barack Obama and Others Have Presented Him With Top-Tier Awards 

Tom Hanks and Barack Obama
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Back in 2002 -- after Hanks had already delivered some of his most timeless performances but before the slew of acclaimed roles that have come since -- he was honored with the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award, which was presented to him by director Steven Spielberg.

By the time he was 45, Hanks' body of work was so well-regarded and beloved, and his contributions to the world of film and television so ingrained in Hollywood, that he was presented with an honor given to the most revered tier of celebrities, entertainers and show business luminaries.

Among his many additional accolades, Hanks was also presented with a coveted Kennedy Center Honor in 2014, then was awarded the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2016.

However, his honors aren't exclusively from organizations linked to Hollywood and the arts. His body of work that focused on the U.S. moon landings and NASA programs -- including the HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon and his performance in Apollo 13 -- led to him being honored with the Douglas S. Morrow Public Outreach Award for promoting awareness of U.S. space programs. Additionally, he was inducted as an honorary member of the United States Army Rangers Hall of Fame for his accurate and powerful portrayal of a Ranger during World War II in Saving Private Ryan

He's Branched Out Into Many Other Aspects of Entertainment

Tom Hanks With His Book
Jim Spellman/Getty Images

When it comes to Hanks' contributions to entertainment, they certainly aren't exclusively in front of the camera. While he's obviously best known for being a versatile and powerful movie star, he's established himself as an equally formidable producer -- beginning in 1998, when he produced the HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon.

Since then, he's produced numerous other projects -- including Big Love, The Pacific, and John Adams, to name a few -- as well as several films and TV movies. 

Hanks has also made numerous efforts behind the lens as a director, helming two feature films -- That Thing You Do! and Larry Crowne -- as well as several episodes of TV, including one episode of the WWII drama Band of Brothers, on which Hanks also served as an executive producer.

In 2017, Hanks also ventured into the world of literature when he became a published author with his short story collection, Uncommon Type. The book is loosely based on and framed around the actor's own famous collection of vintage typewriters.

With successful and formative forays into Broadway and fiction writing, along with his undeniable status as a class-act, A-list movie star and pioneering producer, the Cecil B. DeMille Award is definitely an honor not only due, but very well deserved.

The 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards, hosted by Ricky Gervais, will air live from The Beverly Hilton on Sunday, Jan. 5 at 8:00 p.m. ET / 5:00 p.m. PT on NBC.


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