Currently starring in the long-awaited ‘Cloud Atlas’, Tom Hanks proves that at 56 he is still one of the most popular actors around. Looking back over his multi-Oscar winning career, it would be easy to imagine that someone with such a pedigree would have an outsized ego. Think again. In the realms of Hollywood, the former hero of the ‘Da Vinci Code’ and ‘Saving Private Ryan’ is still a down-to-earth, accessible guy with a lot of common sense who loves talking about the real enjoyment he gets out of drinking wine.
‘Cloud Atlas’, your new film, is a complex story that takes place both in the past and the future. If you were given the opportunity of travelling through time, which period would you stop in?
Well, maybe the 18th century when America was in its infancy. I would love to have known Lincoln, shaken his hand, told him how much of a blessing he was for the United States. On the other hand, living conditions were not great at that time. You have to admit, nowadays we live in an awesome-ish century. We have eradicated loads of diseases and significantly extended our life expectancy. Ok, in some parts of the world people are still at each others’ throats and we have permanently messed up our planet with our energy-intensive industries and our CO2 emissions but looking at the wider picture, things aren’t that bad are they?
Do you have a cellar at home?
Yes I do! It’s a kind of wine cabinet that I had to put a padlock on because my children – who are grown up – had a tendency to pinch the odd bottle when they were invited to parties. Shameful! (laughs)
What does it feel like to be one of the most powerful men in the American film industry?
That’s all in the past! My Oscars sit on a shelf amongst my children’s soccer and swimming trophies! Anyway, what does being powerful mean? I’m just an ordinary guy who lives extraordinary adventures vicariously. And who gets paid a fortune for doing it! A guy like anybody else who queues up to renew his driving license, who suffers when the dentist gets the drill out and who curses when the so-called great bottle of wine he’s just bought turns out to be corked or taste like vintage vinegar!
During the filming of the ‘Da Vinci Code’ in Paris did your knowledge of wines improve?
Shooting in the Louvre, the most beautiful museum in the world, was incredible! Especially as I’m a avid art lover off-screen. It was a pity we had such little time to shoot inside the museum. The schedule was so tight that we had to work by night. I remember a meal we had in a wine bar in Saint-Germain des Prés. The manager served us what he called the house wine – it was absolutely sensational! When I asked him who his supplier was, he answered: “In America you have a culture of secrecy. The French have theirs too and it often involves food and wine. I don’t mind telling you them, but then I’ll have to kill you!”
Before he died, the icon of hippie culture, Timothy Leary, asked for his ashes be launched into space (in a phial). Would you be tempted to do the same, when the time comes?!
No! I don’t want to add to the pollution in space. There’s already so much debris up there. So that’s a definite no. But having my ashes spread over the vineyards of Bordeaux, now that’s something I’d like. I’ve always enjoyed Bordeaux. Do you think I’d make good fertiliser?
Tom Hanks was interviewed by Frank Rousseau, our correspondent in Los Angeles.