Analysis & Comment

Opinion | Tom Hanks on the Stories America Tells About Itself

Produced by ‘The Ezra Klein Show’

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There are few actors as widely beloved as Tom Hanks. Hanks has acted in over 75 films in his 46-year career, winning the best actor Academy Award two years in a row, for “Philadelphia” and “Forrest Gump.” And more recently, he’s the author of the short story collection “Uncommon Type” and the novel “The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece.”

What is the source of Hanks’s near-universal admiration? In playing roles including Chesley Sullenberger, Mister Rogers and World War II heroes, Hanks reflects back to audiences what we could be at our very best. He’s an uncannily wise interpreter of America: what our country has been, and what it could be if we activated our potential to be kind, compassionate, even heroic toward one another.

[You can listen to this episode of “The Ezra Klein Show” on Apple, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.]

That’s just one of many topics we traverse in this truly delightful conversation. We also discuss how working on typewriters helps fuel Hanks’s creativity, why there’s such a huge global appetite for superhero stories, why America has become so cynical and how Hanks endeavors to defy that cynicism, how Hanks’s complicated family upbringing influences how he approaches his film roles, what America learned about itself — and didn’t — through Vietnam, Watergate and other historical events, how Hanks understands the complexity of heroic figures he’s played, why he views kindness as an active practice and more.

You can listen to our whole conversation by following “The Ezra Klein Show” on Apple, Spotify, Google or wherever you get your podcasts. View a list of book recommendations from our guests here.

(A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)

This episode of “The Ezra Klein Show” was produced by Annie Galvin. Fact-checking by Michelle Harris with Mary Marge Locker. Our senior audio engineer is Jeff Geld. Our senior editor is Rogé Karma. The show’s production team also includes Emefa Agawu and Kristin Lin. Original music by Isaac Jones. Audience strategy by Kristina Samulewski and Shannon Busta. The executive producer of New York Times Opinion Audio is Annie-Rose Strasser. And special thanks to Pat McCusker.

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