American leading actor Tom Hanks has become one of the most popular stars in contemporary American cinema. Born July 9, 1956, in Concord, CA, Hanks spent much of his childhood moving about with his father, an itinerant cook, and continually attempting to cope with constantly changing schools, religions, and stepmothers. After settling in Oakland, CA, he began performing in high-school plays. He continued acting while attending Cal State, Sacramento, and left to pursue his vocation full-time. In 1978, Hanks went to find work in New York; while there he married actress/producer Samantha Lewes, whom he later divorced.
Hanks debuted onscreen in the low-budget slasher movie He Knows You're Alone (1979). Shortly afterward he moved to Los Angeles and landed a co-starring role in the TV sitcom Bosom Buddies; he also worked occasionally in other TV series such as Taxi and Family Ties, as well as in the TV movie Mazes and Monsters. Hanks finally became prominent when he starred opposite Daryl Hannah in the Disney comedy Splash!, which became the sleeper hit of 1984. Audiences were drawn to the lanky, curly headed actor's amiable, laid-back style and keen sense of comic timing. He went on to appear in a string of mostly unsuccessful comedies before starring in Big (1988), in which he gave a delightful performance as a child in a grown man's body. His 1990 film Bonfire of the Vanities was one of the biggest bombs of the year, but audiences seemed to forgive his lapse. In 1992, Hanks' star again rose when he played the outwardly disgusting, inwardly warm-hearted coach in Penny Marshall's A League of Their Own. This led to a starring role in the smash hit romantic comedy Sleepless in Seattle (1993).