Gump-tion: Hanks Plays Hit Man in New Movie

Is nothing sacred? Tom Hanks, Hollywood's good-guy poster boy is playing a hit man called "the Angel of Death" in his new film, Road to Perdition.

Known for feel-good roles in movies such as Forrest Gump, Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail, the two-time Oscar winner has a film resume that lets him risk playing against type. 

Perdition not only does that, it gave Hanks the chance to work with legend Paul Newman. 

He plays Hanks' adoptive father in the film, directed by Sam American Beauty Mendes and set in Depression-era gangland Chicago. 

Q: Were your advisers against you doing this movie? 

A: My advisers don't operate that way. They aren't guys with big cigars, who say, "Tom, you're going to really love this thing." 

Q: But this is a radical departure for you isn't it? 

A: It's not love and puppy dogs. 

Q: There's a lot of silence in the movie — is that an acting challenge? 

A: It's the best acting there is — purely cinematic. This movie was made with the same technology as the silents. I just saw the movie for the first time last night and you'd be amazed at how much can be incorporated in a performance by taking out the lines and relying on the shots that the cinematographer comes up with. 

Q: You have a remarkable batting average since way back to A League of Their Own. Do you have an instinct for good material? 

A: Obviously. 

Q: But is it more than luck? 

A: Since League of Their Own, I've always thought, "I can't believe they're letting me do this in a movie." 

There's so much money involved and so much pressure to find a hit. 

Q: Do you ever think about quitting while you're ahead? 

A: No, that won't happen until the big disaster comes along. That's when I'll say, "I should have quit while I was ahead." 

Q: Tell us about working with Paul Newman? 

A: You've gotta make your peace with that. He's much more relaxed than you think he's going to be, much leaner than you think possible. His eyes are bluer than you think. But he's such a regular, easygoing fellow. He just knows how it all works. He knows that the concentration comes at this time and you shouldn't let anything get in the way of that. He was always giving me radical left-wing newsletters. 

Q: In your next film, Catch Me If You Can, it's you and Steven Spielberg together again. Are you two joined at the hip? 

A: We went through a kind of metaphysical experience doing Saving Private Ryan. That was a life-altering thing for the two of us. The thing I like about Steven is you become part of his coterie. He makes movies, literally, the way John Ford or William Wellman did. He has the same team and they all finish his sentences for him. A lot of things are unsaid. So all you do is play. It's an express train and you're in the first class cabin. 

Q: Would you encourage your children to go into the movies? 

A: It's the most wonderful life if you can make it stick. You just hope that all your kids — from the oldest to the youngest — land on something they so totally enjoy. It's not like working. If it's show business like it is with my son Colin, then God bless him. 

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