Actor Tom Hanks Plays Not My Job
CARL KASELL: From NPR and WBEZ-Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME, the NPR News quiz. I'm Carl Kasell, and here's your host, at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Peter Sagal.
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
Thank you everybody. Thank you, Carl. Man, have we got a show for you today. It is guaranteed to be the best and most interesting interviews with celebrities we have ever done. How do we know?
KASELL: We already did them.
SAGAL: That's right.
SAGAL: Today, we're reaching deep, deep into the WAIT WAIT vault to bring out some of the best interviews we've ever done, some of what you're going to hear has been down there in the archives, buried for years.
KASELL: We begin with perhaps the most famous and universally beloved figure ever to appear on our show, that is, other than me.
SAGAL: Actor Tom Hanks, along with panelists Paula Poundstone, Roy Blount, Jr., and Adam Felber, in May in 2006, right around the time his move, "The Da Vinci Code," was being released. We started out by asking him about his nice guy image.
One of the reasons that this controversy over the movie is a little surprising to me is because, well, frankly, you're in it, and everybody knows that you're the nicest guy in Hollywood and would never mean anybody harm.
TOM HANKS: OK. Well, a lot of times that's what people say just as the patrol cars are leaving the neighborhood.
HANKS: He was such a nice guy.
ADAM FELBER: That dungeon in the basement comes as such a shock.
SAGAL: He was always so nice to Meg Ryan; I don't understand this.
SAGAL: But I was wondering, does that image ever get in your way? Did you ever, like, "I would get up and dance naked on that table right now, if I wasn't the nicest guy in Hollywood?"
HANKS: Well, when presented with scripts where I do dance naked on the tops of tables, I have one simple credo: I don't do horror movies.
HANKS: That would just be - the U.N. would ban it.
FELBER: Let alone the Vatican.
SAGAL: But that leads me to another question, which is you generally, there have been some exceptions, play good guys. Do you ever, since presumably you would have your choice of projects, do you ever want to just break out and play an absolutely stone cold, evil kind of character, somebody who'd get killed at the end and you'd have to be happy for that because he was so bad? Do you ever want to do that one?
HANKS: Well, I made a film in Chicago called "Road to Perdition" in which I counted up the people that I killed...
HANKS: They are applauding, I hope, the city of Chicago.
SAGAL: Yes, they are.
SAGAL: Although, I think there are some people here who think the fat guy at the desk deserved it but that's another question.
HANKS: In which I believe I assassinated, like, into the double digits. I lost count at 13 or 14.
SAGAL: But they had it coming, come on.
FELBER: Yeah, you did it in a kind of likable way.
HANKS: Well, let me tell you, you can't stop the charm monster from coming...
HANKS: No matter how mad you get, it's...
SAGAL: You know...
HANKS: A man's got to do what a man's got to...
SAGAL: You know...
ROY BLOUNT JR: A man's got to exude what a man's got to exude.
SAGAL: Before we play this game, I wanted to ask you about something that you mentioned to me earlier, which is - and this surprised me, again, having to go to your nice guy image. You're very competitive.
HANKS: Well, when it comes to games, yes, I must - yeah, I blame my siblings when I was younger.
SAGAL: Really? So you're a cutthroat guy?
HANKS: In my family, if you lose, you are ridiculed for losing. You're literally called things like: loser drooly head. "You lost. You've got drool in your head."
HANKS: And it's much better to be the ridiculer than the ridiculee.
HANKS: So having been scarred over games of, say, you know, animal twister, I refuse to lose. I refuse, dammit.
SAGAL: I always wondered what the source of your rage was, Tom Hanks.
SAGAL: And now we know.
JR: Speaking of drooly head, I liked "Turner and Hooch."
JR: Except that dog did slobber a lot, didn't he?
HANKS: Oh, that dear dog. I loved that dog.
HANKS: I know, he was a good dog. We got along well. You know, when you make a movie with a dog, you have to work with the dog for weeks prior to shooting it. Otherwise, he won't take his eye off the trainer. So, I would go off and play with I think actually three dogs that portrayed "Turner and Hooch." It was a part too big for one dog.
FELBER: Oh yeah, yeah.
SAGAL: So you had to go and, like, hang out on a regular basis a dog, preparing to do this film.
HANKS: I had to go and wrestle with the dogs and play with the dogs.
PAULA POUNDSTONE: That couldn't have been easy, given your competitive streak.
SAGAL: Anyway, I was interested in your competitive streak because Tom Hanks, we have invited you here to play a game, and we are going to call it?
KASELL: You're the meanest, cruelest, nastiest, drunkest lout in Hollywood.
SAGAL: This is the first time anybody has ever said that to you, which is why we wanted to do it.
SAGAL: Now, as we've been going on about, you do have this reputation as the nicest guy in the film business. So, in keeping with the theme of the game...
HANKS: All right.
SAGAL: ...we're going to ask you three questions about some actors who had the opposite reputation.
SAGAL: Answer two of these three questions about some of the film colony's legendary bad boys; you will win our prize for our listener, Carl's voice on their home answering machine.
HANKS: I pray they are no longer with us.
SAGAL: Yes. We actually...
HANKS: They are stars in the firmaments.
SAGAL: They are.
SAGAL: They have ascended to the actual constellations, because we know you might have to work with these people, so that's fine.
SAGAL: All right. Carl, who is Tom Hanks playing for?
KASELL: Peter, Tom is playing for Ellen Heineger of Springfield, Vermont.
SAGAL: All right, ready to go? Are you focused?
HANKS: Let's go.
SAGAL: All right. First up, Marlon Brando. His appetite, of course, was uncontrollable, so much so that he caused the 1962 remake of "Mutiny on the Bounty" to go way over budget. How? A: he demanded that they hire a personal assistant just to dip all his fresh fruit in melted chocolate?
SAGAL: B: he ate so much on the set that he split 52 pairs of pants?
SAGAL: Or C: he insisted that Paramount reserve every table at the nearby Nickodell restaurant all day every day in case he got a little peckish.
HANKS: I'm going to say C, the Nickodells.
SAGAL: No, I'm afraid it was the pants.
POUNDSTONE: Oh, wow.
HANKS: Can I just say one thing?
SAGAL: You may.
HANKS: Damn you to hell.
FELBER: So it was the pants?
HANKS: No, the number 52 has got to be a scurrilous rumor.
SAGAL: No. The number comes, at least as far as we could track it down, from the costume designer on the film. He ate hugely. He misbehaved terribly. "Mutiny on the Bounty," as you might know, because the "Heaven's Gate" of its day. It went wildly over budget.
POUNDSTONE: Yeah. Now we're not going to be able to focus though, because everybody is going to be waiting for his pants to go in every scene.
JR: Seemed like the costume designer could have made a bigger pair of pants.
SAGAL: Well, it was a costume...
FELBER: At some point, you've got to call an audible and get bigger pants.
POUNDSTONE: The term sansabelt comes to my mind.
HANKS: By the way.
HANKS: He's still quite riveting in "Mutiny on the Bounty." You can't take your...
JR: Oh yeah.
FELBER: That is true.
SAGAL: He is. Next question: Errol Flynn, famous womanizer, was married three times. Now, his third wife at least, had to know what she was in for, because he met her how?
Was it A: she was selling refreshments in the courthouse where he was being tried for statutory rape? B: she was the nurse who was working in the ER the night he came in with, shall we say, a social disease complaint? Or C: one night, he landed in her gardenias, after he got drunk and fell out of a second-story window?
HANKS: These are all so reminiscent of my wooing of Rita that...
HANKS: Which oddly enough has never come up, say doing Letterman.
HANKS: But, now, do they sell refreshments at a courthouse?
SAGAL: Apparently, they do, a little snack bar, I can see that.
HANKS: Based on that alone, I'm going with the refreshments at the courthouse.
SAGAL: You're right, Tom. Yay.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: That's exactly what happened. This, of course, was the trial of the century of 1942. Errol Flynn, being tried for statutory rape. He was acquitted, by the way, which led to the universal adoption of the phrase "in like Flynn." That's where it comes from.
SAGAL: So this is very exciting, if you get this last one correct...
HANKS: This is the rubber match.
SAGAL: As it were.
POUNDSTONE: I think "Good job drooly head" will come from tonight.
SAGAL: Richard Burton, one of Hollywood's greatest drinkers.
SAGAL: He said he worked drunk all the time, except in one rare situation. He would never show up drunk if he had to do what? A: kiss a particularly attractive actress, because he didn't want to miss anything? B: do a nude scene because, quote, "liquor has the same effect on little Richard as a cold bath," unquote.
SAGAL: Or C: act drunk, because, quote, "I didn't know how to play drunks when I was drunk."
HANKS: Wow. You know, I'm going to go with C. That has a ring of - air of authenticity to it. He could not fake being drunk when he was actually drunk. I'm going to say C.
SAGAL: Well given what we have seen of your anger, I say this with some relief, you're right, sir. Yes.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
HANKS: Oh, you know what I get to do?
SAGAL: What do you get to do?
HANKS: I get to bottle up all that rage...
FELBER: Save it for next...
HANKS: Keep it inside for another week.
SAGAL: Keep it hidden. You know, if you keep it hidden long enough, you might win another Academy Award before people find out. Carl, how did Tom Hanks do on our show?
KASELL: Tom did very well, Peter. He had two correct answers. So Tom, you win our prize for Ellen Heineger of Springfield, Vermont.
SAGAL: Tom Hanks, thank you so much for being with us today. Ladies and gentlemen, Tom Hanks.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.