Tom Hanks: COVID-19 Survivor, Writer-Star of Greyhound

Interview with Tom Hanks, Two-Time Oscar Winner (Philadelphia, 1993, Forrest Gump, 1994), COVID-19 Survivor, and Writer-Star of Greyhound.

By Emanuel Levy

Tom Hanks wrote and stars in Greyhound, based on C. S. Forester’s 1955 novel The Good Shepherd. The 90-minute movie centers on US Navy Commander during his first war-time assignment in command of a multi-national escort group, defending merchant ship convoy under attack by submarines in 1942 during the Battle of the Atlantic, just months after the U.S. entered WWII.

Greyhound was scheduled to be theatrically released on June 12, 2020 by Sony, but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Distribution rights were then sold to Apple TV+, which released the film digitally on July 10, 2020.

Current Mood: Keeping Sanity

Tom Hanks: We are all in this together.  Everybody is suffering to a much greater extent than I am.  The reality is is that this is a great equalizer and that no one is safe, no one is void of where the danger goes. I wake up every day and consider myself extremely blessed that I have a level of security and safety that other people don’t enjoy, that not a lot of people can count on.

I was the canary in the coalmine for some of this, but that was then, and this is now.  We are once again at the place where there is no guarantee of the immunity. From the information that I have read, we are not done with this, we are right smack dab in the middle of this.  I am paying attention to the reality of  ‘Do Your Part.’ And my part is to understand my blessings and where I can help out.  You write some checks to food banks and everything else–you live up to your altruistic responsibilities, and not only do you take part in the collective effort, you also do your part individually.

Film as Self Examination

TH: There are certain types of films that call for for you to remove yourself from the reality of what is happening on screen.  That’s one of the great wonderful aspects of going to the cinema that you don’t even have to think about yourself, you just throw into whatever adventure that is going up there.  I am drawn and I have always have been to movie experiences, of going and coming away thinking what would I have done in those circumstances” Would I be as collective, would I be able to clamp down the fear of the unknown? Would I be able to trust my own instincts to see me through? And that’s the material that I am drawn to as an actor and as a guy that is invited into the moviemaking process.  I go to the theater, I read a book, I look at a piece of art, I listen to music, I go to the movies, as some ay of some examination.  And what’s great is that the older I get–I’m 64–I still find myself tested by the movies that I make and that I see.


TH: With COVID-19 my wife and I were down there, we found we are positive.  There are the two phases of it was like, the two phases of any kind of challenge that anybody is going to take.  Here’s the facts, here’s the reason why you have got to be careful and here’s the reason why it’s very important that you do your part, you take part in the collective.  The reasons we were isolated for three days, one was of course to keep an eye on our health, our lungs and our breath and our blood levels, our oxygenation, our heart rates, everything. The other reason was so that we would not give the COVID-19 virus to anybody else.  So there are twin responsibilities. You have to have some faith in yourself, and faith in serendipity, being in the right place at the right time.

Greyhound Movie

TH: The fact that our movie is not in theaters, being exhibited the way all movies have been, is heartbreaking.  It absolutely broke our hearts that we had a film, it was actually going to be coming out on June 8, it was going to be a week after “Wonder Woman” and a week before “Top Gun 2,” so we were in the thick of things.  It’s only 88 minutes long, we could have, looking at it from a financial perspective, perhaps the quality of the movie and the exhibition schedule would have counterbalanced the added expense of prints and advertising, but there was a financial reality of wanting to be in theaters.   When you are in a movie theater it is big, it looks perfect, it sounds perfect and you are sharing the experience with strangers.  And when the movie is over, you will all have something in common.  Everybody who comes out who liked the movie will say aw, I remember where I was and what I was doing and what theater I was in and what day it was and even what time it was, when I saw it.  In March, when the COVID-19 started becoming pandemic, we began to think how fast can we get our movie in front of an audience, so that it’s not just a museum piece about 1942, but it’s about 2020?

Fine and Dandy

There is a financial question that the studio faces about selling it to a steaming service, I get that, everybody made a nice chunk of change, not as perhaps as lucrative it could have been if it had become something of a phenomenon, but the movie made a decent enough profit and I don’t have any complaints about anytime I get paid more than 300 bucks a week, so I did fine and dandy, I got remunerated for my labors.

Donald Trump: the President We Deserve?

TH: We are looking at circumstances where we have to do our part.  There is a quote by the great, I think it was by, hold on, I write this stuff down and I want to make sure that when the time comes, I am saying all of this stuff right.  Wait for it, here it is. Edmund Burke.  I am not sure who that is.  Somebody listening to this, quickly Google Edmund Burke (philosopher) so we can know who he is.  He said “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing.” I don’t necessarily want to use the word evil, which is necessarily in this circumstance, but I think periodically the United States gets the Government that it deserves, it gets the leaders that it chooses and then we have to judge them by their track record.

Reckoning Is Coming

We have an opportunity in a very short period of time for all Americans to weigh in on their place, weigh in on whether or not we have had a President of the US who has lived up to the oath of protecting and defending the Constitution.  I have views to the contrary, but that’s me.  The great thing about America is that every 4 years, we do have a reckoning, we do a balancing out.  Everybody must understand that the most important election of our lifetimes is always the next one.  In an impressive book on the shelves behind me, you will find a quote that says, “he who sews the wind shall reap the whirlwind.”  Well I think the whirlwind is coming.

Personal Movie

I am thrilled that I had the opportunity to do this movie. I began adapting the C.S. Forrester novel more than 7 years ago.  It was a solitary effort, a labor of love, it came about because I had this three-dimensional image in my head of the movie as a whole, this kind of Gestalt concept of it. In talking to other people and trying to get them involved, no one saw it the same way I did, they didn’t see the possibilities that I saw.  When I wrote it for the first time, I wrote a draft that was nothing but candy.  It was exactly the unhealthy and probably yet delicious satisfying meal that I loved more than anything else. And the worst beginning to any picture process is an actor who has written something for himself, that is disaster.  It is always self-serving, they are always too precious about it.  And when we found, when I was talking to my crack team of showbusiness experts about this, I said there has to be somebody out there who is a shooter that wants to sink their teeth into something, that they get to bring their ideas to.

Between Wonder Woman and Top Gun 2

We were going to be on whatever screens were left over from “Wonder Woman” that was going to come out the week before us.  And we are going to remain ours in the face of “Top Gun 2.” So there would have been a chance that our movie would have come out and it would have just been a nice after-run and everyone would have seen it farther on down the line on some streaming service anyway.   But I am thrilled and whatever disappointments I have that it is not playing on huge screen, is bordered by the news that I am glad that a broader audience is going to see it.  If I had my way, this thing would have been on the “CBS Sunday Night Movie,” so everybody could have seen it, but those finances just don’t exist.




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