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"I am a nobody," and other endearing thoughts from 18-year-old Tom Hanks

Does Tom Hanks still shout "BANGO!" all the time now that he's a famous, Oscar-winning actor? The world may never know.
Does Tom Hanks still shout "BANGO!" all the time now that he's a famous, Oscar-winning actor? The world may never know.
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

For every actor who breaks out thanks to wacky pratfalls or bursting through walls firing a gun (or five) in action movies, there are 20 other would-be thespians saving up for new headshots just around the corner. Breaking into Hollywood is a rough business, one that usually brings out the worst in people, so it makes sense that the person who figured out how to have a sense of humor about the whole thing was Tom Hanks.

Susan Stamberg of NPR was poking around the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Library in Los Angeles when she came across a letter an 18-year-old Hanks sent to director George Roy Hill (The Sting) in 1974. Stamberg describes his "labored teenage writing" to give the full picture, but the actual text of the letter has plenty of teenage boy tells.

For one, Hanks uses such hip slang as "BANGO!" for emphasis. For another, he signs off with "Respectfully submitted, your pal forever," which is endearing in an eager-to-please, puppy dog kind of way. Finally, the letter (which you can read in full at the Guardian) is self-deprecating in a way that circles back around to cocky, a teenage boy staple:

"Now, right away I know what you are thinking: ‘Who is this kid?’ and I can understand your apprehensions. I am a nobody. No one outside of Skyline High School has heard of me ... My looks are not stunning. I am not built like a Greek God, and I can’t even grow a mustache, but I figure if people will pay to see certain films ... they will pay to see me."

Thomas J. Hanks of Alameda, California, ends his plea for relevance with some managed expectations, which, in retrospect, were pretty spot-on for how movie star Tom Hanks approached his career and public persona:

Mr. Hill, I do not want to be some bigtime, Hollywood superstar with girls crawling all over me, just a hometown American boy who has hit the big-time, owns a Porsche, and calls Robert Redford "Bob".

If there's a more succinct description of Tom Hanks than "hometown American boy who has hit the big-time," we haven't heard it. BANGO!