Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson appear to have the perfect Hollywood partnership; their long-lasting romance is both cute and very touching in places. But underneath the glamor of an A-list lifestyle, the couple are both just fairly ordinary people. Furthermore, their marriage has weathered some serious ups and downs over the years.
Believe it or not, Hanks apparently had a crush on Wilson long before they met. In the 1970s she was starring on TV show The Brady Bunch as Pat Conway. The teenage Hanks happened to see her and was very much taken. The star probably never imagined, though, that eventually he’d end up marrying her.
But Hanks and Wilson didn’t meet until 1981. That year both of them were cast in an ABC sitcom called Bosom Buddies, and sparks flew. Though at that point, Hanks was already married and a father. In 1977 his son Colin was born, and not long after that Hanks wed Colin’s mother: Samantha Lewes.
Hanks was also still married when he and Wilson co-starred again – this time in the 1985 film Volunteers. But that didn’t stop them feeling an attraction to each other. Twenty years later the actor told Entertainment Tonight, “When we first looked at each other there was definitely a kind of like, ‘Hey, this is the place!’ I felt that, anyway.”
By the end of 1986 Hanks and Wilson were dating and had appeared in public together in front of photographers to boot. The former was still technically married to Lewes, but they had separated. Hanks apparently had some anxieties about this, especially since the children he’d had with Lewes were still quite young.
In 2013 Hanks told the Daily Express newspaper, “… A broken marriage meant I was sentencing my own kids to the sort of feelings I had at their age. I was just too young and insecure for marriage. I was 23 and my son Colin was already two when I married for the first time. I was not really ready to take on those responsibilities.”
Meanwhile, the divorce between Hanks and Lewes was eventually finalized in 1987. The two of them reportedly remained more or less friends right up until Lewes’ death from bone cancer in 2002, and the latter never remarried. The two children from their relationship also seemed to easily accept Wilson as a stepmother.
In April 1988 Wilson and Hanks tied the knot, and everything seemed ideal for a while. While accepting a Golden Globe award in the following January, Hanks declared, “I married a Greek babe. She was born right here in California, right here in Hollywood, but her folks are great, she’s marvelous, Rita Wilson – thank you, babe, for marrying me.”
In August 1990 the couple had their first child together: Chet Hanks. And for the next few years, the actor continued to gush over his wife during award ceremonies. When accepting his Oscar for Forrest Gump in 1995, for example, Hanks said, “I am standing here because the woman I share my life with has taught me and demonstrates for me every day just what love is.”
Not long afterwards Wilson gave birth to their second child – Truman Theodore Hanks – who was born the day after Christmas in 1995. Meanwhile, by this point the married pair had established themselves as a true Hollywood power couple. Two years earlier they had appeared together in the hit film Sleepless in Seattle – albeit playing brother and sister.
And Hanks continued to credit Wilson for his success as time went on. Speaking to Oprah in 2001, he said, “I was able to construct a number of things in Philadelphia because of my relationship with [Wilson]. The way my character felt about his lover is the way I feel about mine. The same was true when I played Forrest Gump, who loved Jenny. Without my connection with [Wilson], I don’t know how I would’ve been able to connect with what [Gump] was going through.”
Oprah told Hanks, “I’ve never heard one negative thing about your marriage. What keeps it so real?” The star then answered, “That it is real. But let’s not pretend there isn’t a huge industry driven by the choices made by editors and writers who decide what a story is. [Wilson] and I are not fodder for a lot of those stories because we’re not glamorous targets who warrant that kind of attention.”
Hanks went on, “Everyone says, ‘You have to work at relationships.’ Sometimes you’ve got to work, but if you’re working 60 percent of the time and only enjoying it 40 percent… We deal with what has to be dealt with, but there is something natural to the foundation of our marriage. I am now at the point where I can’t imagine it any other way.”
Then Oprah asked, “If [Wilson] had been the first person you were with, would you have been ready for this?” And Hanks answered, “No. The success of our relationship was a matter of timing, maturity, and our willingness to have an intimate connection. When I married [Wilson], I thought, ‘This is going to require some change on my part.’”
Hanks explained, “I won’t deny that providence was part of us finding each other, but our relationship isn’t magic – the way it’s shown in movies. In real life, our connection is as concrete as me sitting here. Not that marriage doesn’t come close to being hell in a handbasket sometimes. But we both know that no matter what, we’ll be with each other – and we’ll get through it.”
For the next few years things went very well for Wilson and Hanks. They got into the producing game and made the very popular My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Mamma Mia! together. At the same time, Hanks built up his resume even more with films such as Catch Me If You Can and Road to Perdition.
In 2013 The Guardian newspaper asked Hanks how he’d managed to balance family life with his career. He answered, “Well, I was lucky in that it didn’t happen overnight and so I was used to this whole dog and pony show. And, you know, we had some of the greatest family vacations during that time – waterskiing in Seattle during Sleepless in Seattle, hanging out in Indiana during A League of Their Own…”
But matters of health became a concern as time went on. In July 2014 Hanks told The Talk magazine that he had to structure some of his life around his diabetes. He said, “Never mind [that] I make movies for a living and I’ve got grandkids [who] I want to see in the future. I now have to start to take better care of myself…”
And then suddenly a major blow came in 2015; Wilson was diagnosed with breast cancer. The talented producer then released a statement to People magazine in April explaining what had happened. She said, “Last week, with my husband by my side, and with the love and support of family and friends, I underwent a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction for breast cancer after a diagnosis of invasive lobular carcinoma.”
However, Wilson said that she was “expected to make a full recovery.” The star continued, “I feel blessed to have a loving, supportive husband, family, friends and doctors and that I am the beneficiary of advances in the field of breast cancer and reconstruction. I am getting better every day and look forward to renewed health.”
In May 2015 Wilson spoke about her experience with cancer in an interview with the New York Times newspaper. She said Hanks had helped her immensely, adding, “You never know how your spouse is going to react in a situation like this. I was so amazed, so blown away by the care my husband gave me. It was such a normal, intimate time.”
But that year was difficult in other ways, too. In October the couple’s oldest son Chet Hanks released a series of videos apologizing for past behavior and admitting that he had been taking cocaine. He’d had issues with substance abuse for a while, and at one point Instagram had deactivated his account after he said the n-word.
Chet – who had been embarking on a rap career under the name Chet Haze – said he was in rehab and doing well. In another video, he said, “It’s been a long journey for me discovering who I am because of all the pressures that I’ve dealt with in my life, you know, being the son of my dad and everything, and just trying to find where I fit in.”
But things soon improved for Hanks; in March 2017 he appeared on the podcast Sooo Many White Guys and sang the praises of his wife once more. He remembered, “I will say that right from the get-go, I thought there was something crazy great about her.” And he also said, “We learned the secret of happiness with each other a long time ago and that’s always telling the truth.”
Interestingly, it seems that Hanks and Wilson have a lot of secrets to maintaining their marriage. In 2019 the latter told Us Weekly magazine, “We got married, we committed to each other, we love each other and we work hard at our relationship. … Not only do we love each other, we really like each other, and we like being together, and we support each other and we keep the communication channels open. That’s always important.”
Wilson was talking to the magazine because she had just received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And for the ceremony, her beloved husband was, of course, there to give a speech. Hanks told the audience, “The roles in stage and film and television just kept finding her, and she inhabited characters and charmed audiences and stole scenes from those of the stars in the movies, and [she] has a highlight reel that any of us would envy.”
Later in 2019 Hanks played famous children’s television host Mr. Rogers in the biopic A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. And he revealed to Entertainment Tonight that doing this had strengthened his marriage. During times when tempers were strained, the actor explained, he fell back on the teachings of Rogers.
Hanks told Kevin Frazier, “When my wife and I are going at it on those rare occasions, when she is letting me know that I’m not really listening to her and I’m trying to establish what the ground rules are [for the argument], when we’re going at it like that, one of us will say, ‘Well, you know what? You know what, honey? It’s good to talk. It’s good to say the things we feel.’”
In the beginning of 2020, Hanks hit audiences right in the feels when he thanked his wife and family in his acceptance speech for a Cecil B. DeMille Award. Indeed, he was in tears not long after starting to speak. Through them, he said, “These are the people I am most blessed by in this life. I can’t tell you how much your love means to me.”
But unfortunately, 2020 had some other things in store. On March 12 Hanks wrote on Instagram alongside a mysterious photo, “We felt a bit tired, like we had colds, and some body aches. [Wilson] had some chills that came and went. Slight fevers too. To play things right, as is needed in the world right now, we were tested for coronavirus and were found to be positive.”
Hanks continued on, “Well, now. What to do next? The medical officials have protocols that must be followed. We Hanks will be tested, observed, and isolated for as long as public health and safety requires. Not much more to it than a one-day-at-a-time approach, no? We’ll keep the world posted and updated. Take care of yourselves!”
Wilson and Hanks ended up spending two weeks in quarantine in Australia before being cleared and heading home. On March 29 Hanks tweeted out, “Many, many thanks to everyone in Australia who looked after us. Their care and guidance made possible our return to the U.S.A. And many thanks to all of you who reached out with well wishes. [Wilson] and I so appreciate it.”
Meanwhile, people were curious to learn about how Hanks and Wilson had coped in such a situation. On April 17 the latter spoke to The Guardian newspaper about what it had been like. She said, “We both had a high fever and were extremely achey. I lost my sense of taste and smell, had stomach issues and [was] shivering like you wouldn’t believe. Yeah, I was scared.”
The interviewer then brought up something that’d happened during Wilson’s earlier health scare. In 2019 the actress had written on Instagram, “Four years ago when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I had so many different thoughts. You’re scared, anxious, you think about your own mortality. So, I had a serious discussion with my husband that if anything happens, I wanted him to be super sad for a very long time and I’d also like a party, a celebration.”
Wilson was asked if she’d had a similar conversation with her husband in quarantine. The star then answered, “No, but we did have a different conversation before we were diagnosed. Before I had cancer, I would hear about other people having cancer. I said to him before all this, ‘Once you’ve had cancer you understand you are other people. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t get coronavirus – we could get it.’ And we got it.”
“I think that having the virus at the same time made it that little bit easier,” Wilson went on. “We were taking care of each other instead of having the pressure of taking care of one person and no one taking care of you or understanding that the person at home needs a break. We were fortunate we were in a place where we understood what the other was going through.”
The subject of Chet also came up in the interview. During the course of his parents being in quarantine, he had kept their fans updated with videos explaining what was going on. Asked about her feelings on this, Wilson said, “It was very sweet of him. Of course, our entire family was concerned about us.”
During the same month, Hanks also talked about what it had been like in lockdown. He told The National Defense Radio Show, “[Wilson] went through a tougher time than I did. She had a much higher fever. She had lost her sense of taste and sense of smell. She got absolutely no joy from food for a better part of three weeks.”
Meanwhile, Hanks and Wilson both ended up helping the fight against coronavirus. At the end of April Hanks said on the Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me! podcast, “We have not only been approached, we have said, ‘Do you want our blood? Can we give plasma?’ And in fact, we will be giving it now to the places that hope to work on what I would like to call the ‘Hank-ccine.’”
Before the quarantine, Hanks had been working on an untitled film about Elvis Presley – he was set to play the singer’s famous manager Colonel Tom Parker. And when it does eventually hit theaters, there’s little doubt that he and Wilson will be at the premiere together. Their trials seem to have only made them stronger.