Saturday, February 27, 2010

How to get Tom Hanks to star in your movie

This is a true “Hollywood” story of how my writing partner and I got Tom Hanks to star in our 1985 movie, VOLUNTEERS.

We wrote the first draft five years earlier (so far this is a typical Hollywood story). The movie centers around a preppy Yalie who ducks a gambling debt and winds up in the Peace Corps. Hilarity ensues (at least on the page). Sergeant Shriver, then the head of the Peace Corp, read it and said it was like spiting on the flag. I knew we were onto something.

The producer asked whom we thought might be good to star and we suggested this guy who at the time was in BOSOM BUDDIES on ABC – Tom Hanks. The producer scoffed. Tom Hanks couldn’t get a movie made.

We were at the same agency as Tom so for grins and giggles we sent him the script anyway. He loved it but reluctantly agreed the producer was right.

Flash forward a few years. VOLUNTEERS has gone through two studios, two directors, and nine drafts. HBO/Tristar greenlights it. Time to look for stars.

Tom had just done SPLASH. It was a huge hit. He was the Will Ferrell-of-the-month. Offered every project in town. He couldn’t find anything he liked (even BACHELOR PARTY II). So he said to his agent he had read a project about the Peace Corps several years back. What about that one? The agent said he would try to track it down but without even knowing the title it would be like finding a needle in a haystack.

ONE HOUR LATER the agent gets a call from our producer. Would Tom be interested in a Peace Corps movie? The agent almost fell on the floor. He said to messenger it right away. We did. Tom skimmed it, recognized a Margaret Dumont joke we had in there, said “Yep, this is the one” and a half hour later the deal was closed.

Pretty cool, huh?

The person really responsible for making this deal happen was Cupid because it was on VOLUNTEERS that Tom met his wife, Rita Wilson.

Hey, wait a minute. Maybe THAT should be a movie!!

17 comments:

YEKIMI said...

Did Tom ever thank you for that?

Pedantic Pete said...

Am I crazy, or was Rita Wilson on an episode of "Bosom Buddies" years before the movie was filmed? They may have gotten to know each other better filming over months of a major film then they would have filming a weekly episode of a sitcom, but I would wager they had met before.

Doug Thompson said...

According to IMDB, Rita Wilson played a character called Cindy in a 1981 episode of "Bosum Buddies" titled "All You Need Is Love", four years BEFORE "Volunteers".

Rita also played Nurse Lacy on 2 episodes of "M*A*S*H" in 1982.

Ger Apeldoorn said...

I don't know about the Cupid thing as a movie, but wouldn't it make a great tv series?

rob! said...

So, whatever happened to this Hanks guy?

Michael Tassone said...

got any good john candy stories?

blogward said...

Off topic - sorry, but if you want another very interesting link, try this: http://www.shorpy.com/node/7798

Karen in California said...

It's the journalist in me but I'm pretty sure that Hanks was already married to his first wife when he made Volunteers and met Rita Wilson whom he married after divorcing wife no. 1.

I'm just sayin'.

Simon H. said...

Blogward: Interesting link. I always wondered what the history of those pictures in the Cheers open were and where they came from.

VW: Coner
Definition: The name of the mistake NBC made by getting rid of Conan.

Roger Owen Green said...

Great story. BUT the Kennedy brother-in-law was SARGENT Shriver.

Anonymous said...

Yes that IS a movie premise...

te said...

"Great story. BUT the Kennedy brother-in-law was SARGENT Shriver."

Just remember: people who can spell are a lot easier to find than people who can write.

Lairbo said...

While serving in the army, he was "Sergeant, Sargent Shriver."

Mary Stella said...

I have no comment, but my word verification is whorson. All it needs to be perfect is the e you no longer need in Sergeant.

5kidswdisabilities said...

Isn't it a "small world"? Funny how things work! And that was a GREAT movie!!!!

Anonymous said...

I love this movie, but I wonder if he'd do it today. I wonder where his character is today?

Pat Quinn said...

Great story. Volunteers is still my favorite Tom Hanks movie. So well written: "Ah yes...Thailand..." "Tom Tuttle from Tacoma" sheesh, it might be my favorite John Candy movie (ironically, not my favorite Gedde Watanabe movie).

Any movie that can include "bridge over the river kwai" AND "margaret dumont" references deserves praise.

I've got to get the DVD to share this movie with my family today.