I was worn down over the next few weeks as I spent hours on the phone with people who knew him well. The things they said about him were both remarkable and unremarkable: Heller called him “a human” who “treats everyone like people.” Meg Ryan, who starred with him in “Sleepless in Seattle” and other movies said he has an “astronomical” curiosity. Peter Scolari, who co-starred with him on the sitcom “Bosom Buddies” and then “Lucky Guy” on Broadway, called him “this very special man who is touched by God.” Sally Field told me that Tom Hanks is so good that it actually makes her feel bad. She calls him “Once in a lifetime Tom.”
Hearing that made me think of something Tom Junod said to me in Toronto, how he went into the Mister Rogers story looking for who Fred was but came out knowing only what he did. He stared at all his reporting for a long time before he realized that the doing is actually the thing we should be paying attention to. “I don’t know if Fred was the mask or the mask was Fred,” he said. “But in the end does it even matter?”
I’m not sure where we got the concept of an Everyman, but Tom Hanks isn’t really it. I don’t know people with hundreds of typewriters. He is the Platonic ideal of a man, a projection of what we wish we were, or, more worrisome, a theory of what we actually are, and, well: Have you read the other pages of this newspaper?
I am too old for Mister Rogers. My children are too old for Mister Rogers, too. So instead I showed them “Splash,” then “Forrest Gump,” then “Big,” then “A League of Their Own.” I showed them “That Thing You Do!” and parts of “Cast Away.” I told them about the man who heard I wasn’t feeling well and adjusted his schedule for me. I told them that it doesn’t matter why you do nice things; all that matters is that you do them. And one day, something changed. I had just finished “Toy Story 4,” and suddenly all my algorithms were recommending openhearted movies with heroes and good values, and I realized that I had begun to feel a little better. My heart was never a spike; it was always an umbrella but sometimes it would invert against a storm. That day I recalibrated, and suddenly my umbrella was upright, once again able to shield me from the weather. It was enough. It was more than enough. This is an accurate reflection of the time Tom Hanks spent with a journalist.
Tom Hanks is exactly as nice as you think he is. No surprises there. So maybe this could just be a story that makes you feel better. https://t.co/tMBLXGYS5W
— The New York Times (@nytimes) November 14, 2019