NAUGHTY GOSSIP caught up with Tom Hanks at THE AMERICAN SPIRIT AWARD, that he was presenting to Tom Brokaw:
Not to sound cheesy but do you feel like the two of you have raised the profile of WWII. Not to pat yourselves on the back.?
No, no here’s what I think happened. Prior to Steven Spielberg deciding to make ‘Private Ryan’ the whole concept of WWII, a movie about WWII or even a story about WWII, either of two things. It was either a very heavy scholastic heavy tome of facts and figures and analysis of long-held policies and strategies, or it was a caper movie, it was a genre movie, it was essentially an action-adventure movie that might have some sex and a robbery and some anti-authoritarian posturing. When Steven wanted to make ‘Saving Private Ryan’ so much time had gone by since I don’t know a kind of examination of what it meant to be alive at that time, so much time had gone past. And with his knowledge of how to tell a story and his cinematic understanding of how to tell that story, the language that he speaks, the tools at his disposal to capture something like the Invasion of Normandy, it was all brand new, so it was all going to be able to happen in a very fresh, very immediate kind of way that literally it took cinema that long in order to capture, when that happened and there were enough actual veterans alive at the time, it opened up a floodgate of reminisce and understanding and I think a very, very personal connection to it.
I can’t tell you how many times I have come across somebody who has told me that their Dad or Grandfather never said a word about what they did from 1941-1945 until they saw ‘Saving Private Ryan.’ And that’s when those kids or those grandkids found out that there Dad or Grandpa were on the third wave at Utah Beach. Now that’s a long time to go without those stories being told to people that you love and people that would love to hear you.
So I think it was this timing thing which enough understanding had begun of the country that had been through so many things like The Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights of the 60’s and 70’s, we’d had gone through enough time so that WWII was no longer just, ‘I was in the army and I hated it,’ or ‘And then we saved the world!’ And that’s the great thing about all art, that it has to lay fallow, a subject has to lay fallow for a while until a new interpretation can come along and put it back up.
And they you know he (Tom Brokaw) got on the cash cow and wrote all those books and now it would seem there’s been an ongoing sort of like eh… I still read the stuff because I keep finding brand new stories, I keep finding brand new moments of human experience, not historical experience of what people did that make me slap my head and wonder. ‘You know I’m reading a story about a guy who did amazing things, saved lives, took chances, didn’t know if he was going to survive, was part of history and he was 22 years old. Or he was 19 years old. If you were 24 years old do you know what they called you in the army or the air force or the navy? They called you Pops because you were old, they called you Pops if you were 25, 26 years old. I think that what has come around, in some ways like I know I’m going on, I’m sure the Post and the Daily News will get all of this! You’ll make room, you’ll give me the inches. It’s not unlike what Ken Burns did with The Civil War in 1990 when so much time had gone by that it could be examined by way of all, every possible angle but the ones that were key and the ones that really made it exceptional for television and story telling were the stories of the individuals.
At 22, what were you doing smoking pot and chasing girls?
>No actually at 22 I had a kid already which was one of the best… I was grappling with stuff that I thought was a big deal and ‘oh poor me how will I ever figure this out?’ but I didn’t have no Nazis shooting at me. So it all worked out pretty good.