Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson: Three Decades of a Marriage Made in Heaven

We’ve seen lots of drama in most Hollywood couples’ relationships. For an industry with marriages as short as 14 days, four days, and even Britney Spears’ 55-hour-long marriage to Jason Alexander, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson’s relationship is nothing but special.

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The couple has been married for over three decades, and they’re stronger today than they were the moment they said I do. Hanks, an American cultural icon, was previously married to Samantha Lewes for nine years. But how has he kept his marriage to Rita Wilson alive for so many years?

Hanks Grew Up on a Houseboat

Let’s start from the beginning. Tom Hanks is not a stranger to the fast life. In fact, he has learned to adapt easily to whatever life throws at him. And that may be largely due to living in 10 houses by the time he was 10 years old.

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That is because his father worked as an itinerate cook, so they had to move often. One of those houses was one that floats. In the early to mid-1970s, Hanks and his family lived on a two-story houseboat that sold for $600,000 in 2018.

He Wasn’t Always Mr. Popular

Thomas Jeffrey Hanks was born on July 9, 1956, in California to his father, a cook named Amos “Bud” Hanks, and his mother, a Portuguese hospital worker named Janet Marylyn. He grew up with several siblings, and unlike who he is now, he wasn’t Mr. Popular in school.

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In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Hanks explained, “I was a geek, a spaz. I was horribly, painfully, terribly shy.” It’s incredible how much things and people can change over the years. Now, the shy kid is an A-list actor and one of the most popular names in Tinseltown!

He Came from a Religious Background

Hanks grew up in a religious background with a mix of some Catholicism and Mormonism. And he was really into it. In fact, Hanks was an actual Bible-toting evangelical and used to carry his Bible around with him. Hallelujah! But he’s now a Greek Orthodox Church member.

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Despite the success of his marriage and how it has endured for more than three decades, Hanks’ parents weren’t as lucky. His parents split when he was very young, and he and some of his siblings went their father’s way while his youngest brother, Jim, went their mother’s way.

It All Began in 1956

Tom Hanks was born in July 1956, but it was going to be more special to him because his future wife, Rita Wilson, entered the world later in October that same year, just a few miles away from him in Hollywood, California. This is real romance right here, right?

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Born Margarita Ibrahimoff, Wilson was raised in a Greek Orthodox family and still attends the Greek Orthodox Church. Her mother, Dorothea Tzigkou, was raised close to the Greek border in Bulgaria. Isn’t it interesting how Tom and Rita were born so close to each other in time and space?

She Has Bulgarian Ties

Rita’s father and Tom Hanks’ father-in-law, Hassan Halilov Ibrahimoff, was born in Oraio, Greece, near the border with Bulgaria. He grew up as a Muslim in Bulgaria but converted after marrying Rita’s mother. At that time, he changed his name to Alan Wilson. He could speak several different languages, including Turkish, Greek, Polish, and Russian.

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He had some influence on Hanks’ movie career. According to Hanks, he modeled his role as Viktor in Steven Spielberg’s film The Terminal on Hassan, and also learned some of the Bulgarian phrases he used in the movie from him.

Playing the Head Cheerleader

Although Rita Wilson’s future husband, Tom Hanks, began his career in 1979, Wilson made her debut seven years earlier in 1972. She made a guest appearance on an episode of The Brady Bunch where she played Marcia’s rival, competing against her to be the head cheerleader.

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It was while playing that role that she caught Tom Hanks’ eye. The actor was already longing after her before they even met, but she wouldn’t know that until further down the road. After her role in The Brady Bunch, it was several years before she appeared on screen again.

Tom Always Knew He Would Be a Thespian

Ever since he was young (and yes, even before he saw his future wife on screen), Tom Hanks always knew he would be involved with theater. And that’s why he studied at Chatbot College in Hayward. Just two years into the program, Hanks wound up moving to California State.

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But that didn’t stop him from continuing his dream. He continued studying theater and even met the head of a major theater festival who gave him an internship opportunity that prepared him for the entertainment industry. Hanks has revealed that he enjoyed the few years he spent at Chatbot.

He Made Some Sacrifices

Hanks enjoyed the internship because it gave him a great opportunity to know the industry more. But when it started taking a lot of his time, he knew he had to make some sacrifices. That was when he decided to drop out of college to focus on his passion full-time.

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It was a huge and scary decision at the time, but it certainly paid off for him in the end. And around the time that he dropped out of school, Hanks had a wonderful performance in a Shakespeare production, which led to the Cleveland Critics Circle Award for Best Actor.

Not a Bad Debut

Hanks wasn’t done, and in 1979, he moved to New York City. The following year, the actor made his film debut in the low-budget slasher film He Knows You’re Alone. The movie was written by Scott Parker and to this day remains an iconic movie.

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The movie is popular for being one of the first horror films inspired by that era’s hit film Halloween. He Knows You’re Alone went on to gross more than $5 million at the box office. It wasn’t a bad start for Tom Hanks. There was more to come.

Minor Roles on the Big Screen

In another world but in the same industry, Rita Wilson was moving her career forward. Around that same time, she was signing a deal to play a minor role in the 1980s Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie. That was eight years after appearing on the series The Brady Bunch.

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In Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie, Wilson is seen in a film within a film as an actress when one of the stoner stars accidentally crashes the set she’s on. They were filming a movie called Wamba’s Angels, which was similar to the Charlie’s Angels style film.

Hanks’ Role as Kip Wilson

Although Wilson chose to take a few years break from being on screen after appearing on Cheech and Chong, Tom Hanks, on the other hand, continued to appear in multiple productions and advance his career. And in 1980, he appeared on ABC’s show Bosom Buddies.

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Hanks played Kip Wilson. The producers knew he wouldn’t be taking many television roles. “The first day I saw him on set, I thought, ‘too bad he won’t be in television for long.’ I knew he’d be a movie star in two years,” movie producer Ian Praiser said.

Hanks Meets His Future Wife

Tom Hanks met his future wife, Rita Wilson, for the first time in 1982 while on the set of Bosom Buddies. She managed to snag a guest role on the show while Hanks played one of the lead roles, Kip Wilson. The love story was about to begin.

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Wilson played a cuckoo theistic satanist who was dating Henry. At that time, Hanks was still married to his wife Samantha Lewes, and he wasn’t going to do anything to jeopardize his marriage. So Tom and Rita remained friends for the time being. But they both knew there was a chemistry between them.

He Married His High School Sweetheart

Now, let’s talk about his marriage to Samantha Lewes. We all fancy a high school sweetheart love story, and it was the same for Hanks. In 1978, Hanks walked down the aisle with his high school heartthrob to make a life-long commitment. Hanks was just 21 years old.

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That same year, they had a son, Colin. Speaking to BBC, Hanks said, “By then, I thought I was rolling along with the natural order of things. . . . I didn’t smoke pot. I didn’t do drugs, I was not a party boy . . . I’m not a cheater. I like to play by the rules.”

Time to Make a Splash

After his guest appearance on Happy Days in 1982, Tom Hanks got a call from Academy Award–winning filmmaker Ron Howard. The director wanted to know if Hanks would be interested in appearing in the film he was working on called Splash. Howard initially wanted Hanks to play a minor role.

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But Howard ended up giving him the lead role, playing a human who falls in love with a mermaid. It turned out to be a good decision to give him the lead because the movie was surprisingly a box office hit, grossing nearly $70 million. Splash snowballed Hanks to fame.

The Hilarious Bachelor Party

Although he was already making a splash in the industry, Hanks was definitely just starting. Can anyone forget the hysterical, epic film Bachelor Party? The 1984 comedy portrays the antics of a group of friends trying to throw their buddy the best bachelor party before marrying his future wife.

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The sex comedy was another sizable hit in Hanks’ career, and it came after a recent box office blockbuster, Splash. But at that point, he was already having problems with Samantha and was trying to make it work. They already had another child, a daughter named Elizabeth.

Another Meeting on the Big Screen

As fate would have it, Hanks and Wilson would once again meet on screen. The same year Bachelor Party debuted, the couple was hired to co-star in the 1985 film Volunteers. From the movie, you could almost tell the two were fond of each other. Even a co-star mentioned the connection.

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In an interview with People magazine, co-star Xander Berkeley said, “You could tell they were fond of each other.” Hanks already had a crush on Wilson when he saw her on The Brady Bunch in 1972. But the first time they met on set, they knew there was something there.

Their Roles in Volunteers

In the film Volunteers, Hanks portrays an arrogant, womanizing Ivy Leaguer who falls on hard times after gambling himself into a big debt that his wealthy father won’t help him get out of. Directed by Nicholas Meyer, the 1985 comedy film also starred John Candy.

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Hanks played Lawrence Bourne III, the spoiled rich kid who decided to run away from his problems by jumping on a Peace Corps flight to Thailand as he fled the country. It was on the plane that he met Rita’s character, the beautiful and down-to-earth Beth Wexler, whose heart he eventually won.

They Were Just Friends

Although Tom and Rita undeniably had a spark between them and there was already a chemistry building, Hanks was still married and thus unavailable at the time. So the pair did the honorable thing and didn’t take their chemistry further, remaining as nothing more than friends.

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But although Rita resisted her advances for Tom at first in Volunteers, Hanks would eventually win her just as he did in the movie. The pair couldn’t hide their feelings much longer, and just after separating from his wife briefly, Hanks and Wilson started dating.

First Time in the Open

By 1986, Tom and Rita were already head over heels in love with each other and decided to officially announce their relationship to the public. As we all know how it’s done in Hollywood, you just show up hand-in-hand at an event! And so they did.

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Hanks and Wilson appeared arm-in-arm and smiling at the premiere of Three Amigos. Although Hanks was still technically married to Lewes on paper, they were already separated and had started the process of divorce. Hanks’ son, Colin, was seven at the time, while Elizabeth was three.

They All Have at Least One Flop

Well, this happens to the best of us. There’s always one or more films that flop, and for Hanks, it was Three Amigos. Hanks worked behind the scenes of the 1986 production as a producer. The Western comedy stars Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, and Randy Newman.

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Newman also wrote the movie’s songs. Unfortunately for Hanks, the film wasn’t as well-received as he hoped it would be. However, the only positive part of it was going to the premiere with Wilson. It was the beginning of a 30-year-long relationship, which is a big deal even outside of Hollywood.

There’s Always That One

Hanks finalized his divorce with Samantha Lewes the year after he and Wilson made their relationship official at the premiere of Three Amigos. Hanks told Entertainment Tonight that he knew Rita was the one the moment he met her for the first time.

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However, the actor admitted he wasn’t sure if she felt the same way. Sounds like the Volunteers plot! “When we first looked at each other, there was definitely a kind of, ‘hey, this is the place!’ I felt that way, anyway.” And the lovebirds made things official the following year.

Walking Down the Aisle a Second Time

On April 30, 1988, Hanks walked down the aisle a second time. This time, he was doing it with someone who he was sure was the one. The picture of him beaming alongside the stunning Wilson tells the whole story. And 34 years later, he’s still in love.

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Hanks shared their wedding day photo to celebrate their anniversary. He wore a typical black tuxedo with a matching boutonniere, and she wore an almost traditional white gown with lace accents and a veil. But since she wore a short bodycon dress, her dress only looked conventional from the thighs up.

Everything Was Going Well

During that time, things were going really well for Hanks. In 1988, he was walking down the aisle with the love of his life and enjoying celebrity status due to his burgeoning popularity as an on-screen talent. But it was Big that established Hanks as a major Hollywood talent.

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Big came out that same year. In this fantasy comedy-drama, Hanks plays the kid who makes a wish to grow up, and it comes true. The movie received wide critical acclaim from both critics and audiences. He won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor and got several other nominations.

The Couple’s Private Honeymoon

Immediately after their wedding, the happy couple did what almost any young couple would do—they traveled somewhere luxurious to have a memorable honeymoon. For Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, their honeymoon destination took them to Saint Paul de Vence in the region of Southeastern France.

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There isn’t a lot of information available about how the trip went because the two prefer to keep their private life quiet. We can see that they had a very joyful celebratory vacation simply because they haven’t stopped being the adorable and deeply in love couple that they are.

First of Many Oscars Together

Well, life continued after the honeymoon. It was time for the two to experience yet another first after they got married and were beginning to adjust to life as a newlywed couple. In March 1989, Rita accompanied Hanks to the first of many Oscar ceremonies.

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With his new wife on his arm, Tom Hanks had a memorable night. The couple was all smiles throughout the awards. And as we’ve seen for more than 30 years, it wasn’t just because they were newlyweds. They would be together again on the red carpet at the 2020 Oscars.

Thank You for Marrying Me

Since their first awards ceremony, these lovebirds have knocked every other award show out of the park. Whether in their stunning outfits or how they always look so in love, they’ve always starred arm-in-arm at every ceremony since then. Hanks was thrilled at the 1989 Golden Globes.

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And he made sure everyone present knew how much he was excited as he accepted his award for the Best Actor – Motion Picture – Musical/Comedy for his performance in Big. He said, “I married a Greek babe . . . Rita Wilson – thank you, babe, for marrying me. You made my year already.”

The Couple’s First Son

From there on, things just kept getting better and better for the Hollywood stars. The year after Hanks’ big win for Big, they welcomed their first son, Chester “Chet” Hanks, into the world. He was Tom Hanks’ second son and third child from his two marriages.

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But the couple wouldn’t have guessed that their son would end up following in their footsteps later in life. In fact, he wasn’t the only member of the Hanks family who ended up catching the acting bug. With two big Hollywood stars as parents, we didn’t expect any less.

Building a Beautiful Family

With their newborn son, Chet, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson had started a beautiful, blended family with Tom’s two children from his previous marriage, Elizabeth and Colin. Tom knew he had to work even harder than before to provide for his growing clan. But it was difficult.

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Hanks suffered a run of box office flops, including Joe Versus the Volcano and The Bonfire of the Vanities where he played a greedy Wall Street figure. It took a couple of years before he appeared on screen again—in 1992 in A League of Their Own and Radio Flyer.

Siblings in Sleepless in Seattle

In 1993, Hanks and Wilson had their first chance after Volunteer to work in a film together. The lovebirds were cast in Sleepless in Seattle. But this time, it wasn’t as lovers as we would expect, but as siblings. This was a new and unfamiliar challenge for them.

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The film was directed by Nora Ephron and starred Meg Ryan, who played Hanks’ love interest. And after a few years of underperforming movies, Sleepless in Seattle was another launchpad to stardom for the burgeoning Hollywood star. The movie was a hit, grossing over $227 million at the box office.

Breaking New Ground in the Industry

Just a year after that, Hanks signed on to appear in Philadelphia, a groundbreaking movie that touched on some important societal topics. The movie went deep into the topic of homosexuality and homophobia as well as HIV and AIDS. Hanks played the role of Andrew Beckett.

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In the movie, Beckett is a senior lawyer at one of the biggest law firms in Philadelphia. He is gay and has AIDS, but he tries to hide it as best as he can until he can’t anymore. Denzel Washington co-starred in the film, which won many prestigious awards.

More Awards in the Bag

Philadelphia not only won several high-rated awards but the individual actors also bagged many prestigious awards. Hanks’ performance in the film earned him the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Actor. Can you guess what he did immediately after his name was called to accept the Oscar?

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Yep, you got it right! The lover boy thought of his wife first! It didn’t take him a second before he turned to his side and kissed the woman of his dreams, Rita Wilson. The actress also tried to return the kiss but was grinning from ear to ear.

Heaven Right Here on Earth

Only people who have truly been in love would understand Hanks’ speech while receiving the Oscar. It wasn’t the greatest speech ever to grace the event (we’ve seen quite a lot), but it was a testament to how much love this couple has for one another.

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Hanks said, “Here’s what I know. I could not be standing here without that undying love that was just sung about by, not Bruce Springsteen, but by Neil Young. And I have that in a lover that is so close to fine we should all be able to experience such heaven right here on earth.”

Next Up: Forrest Gump

It turned out that the best was still yet to come for Tom Hanks. The following year, Hanks found himself preparing to deliver another award acceptance speech. He became only the second actor to win back-to-back Oscars after Spencer Tracy. Hanks’ win came for his spectacular performance in Forrest Gump.

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The actor played the titular character of the film. Receiving his second consecutive award, Hanks again thanked his wife as the reason behind his win. “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.”

A Personal Connection with Forrest Gump

Although many may have forgotten that speech, it was, indeed, Wilson who helped Hanks have a stunning performance. He revealed later in an interview for The Oprah Magazine that “without my connection to Rita, I don’t know how I would’ve been able to connect with what Forrest was going through.”

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It sounds like a butterfly effect, doesn’t it? We can’t imagine a world where Tom Hanks never played Forrest Gump. He’s so synonymous with the role that no one could’ve played it better! The film became an instant classic. Behind every successful man, there is a woman.

They’re Always There for Each Other

When people get married, they go on a honeymoon, and it’s straight back to business after that. But even after returning from Saint Paul de Vence, Hanks and Wilson never left the honeymoon phase everyone seems to talk about. The couple is secretive about their private life.

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And we didn’t get many pictures of them during the 1990s. But the ones we’ve seen are just adorable. The two were reportedly spotted laughing and smiling even after he (jokingly) threatened to wipe his unclean hands on her during the handprint ceremony outside Mann’s Chinese Theater in 1998.

A New Kid on the Block

In 1995, the couple had another son, Truman Theodore Hanks. As is their way of keeping things private, the couple tried their best to keep their children out of the media. They wanted their kids to have as close to a “normal” life as possible.

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So the children were rarely seen in public as kids. But trust the media to always get pictures. There are a couple of times when pictures of the entire family have been taken. For example, the family was spotted together at the 2004 Cardinals vs. Dodgers baseball game.

The Big Fat Greek Wedding

Just two years before that game, the couple experienced another first. They partnered to co-produce My Big Fat Greek Wedding, a film that spawned an entire franchise and has since won and also been nominated for many awards, including a nomination for Best Original Screenplay at the 75th Academy Awards.

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Since Rita Wilson had Greek blood, she was super-excited to get the chance to be part of this major project, and she convinced her husband to also join in. A sleeper hit, My Big Fat Greek Wedding became the highest-grossing romantic comedy in history with over $368 million.

Meeting Queen Elizabeth II

At this point, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson had already established themselves as Hollywood stars. As such, they have had the opportunity to make many famous friends and got really close to a few. It doesn’t get better than being friends with members of the Royal Family.

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The couple got the opportunity to hang out with members of the Royal Family when they chatted with Prince William and Kate Middleton. That was before the 2011 BAFTA Awards. A few months after, they also met Queen Elizabeth II during a state dinner at Buckingham Palace with President Obama present.

A Big Health Scare

With all these wins in their personal life and career, tragedy was lurking in the corners. Something happened in 2015 that would shake the couple and their family, turning everything upside down. Wilson was unfortunately diagnosed with breast cancer (invasive lobular carcinoma). It was a difficult time for the family.

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Wilson had been misdiagnosed initially when she was told she didn’t have cancer. But it wasn’t until she got a second opinion that she learned the heart-breaking news. Hanks stood by his wife’s side as she had a bilateral mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.

Through Thick and Thin Together

It was undoubtedly a difficult time for the couple and their children. Wilson shared her feelings about the new implants after the first surgery. She revealed that she was concerned about how she wanted to look good in a bathing suit, especially with the summer vacation fast approaching.

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When she had nothing to do on her vacation, she was sitting peacefully by herself in a hammock by the water. “What I’d gone through hit me. And I was scared,” she admitted to Harper’s Bazaar. To overcome her anxiety, she began speaking with a cognitive-behavioral therapist.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

A year after Rita was diagnosed with cancer, the couple was back doing what they loved best. They got to co-produce the sequel to their 2002 My Big Fat Greek Wedding. The high-grossing rom-com was written by Nia Vardalos, Michael Constantine, Andrea Martin, and John Corbett.

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All of them also star in the movie. Vardalos revealed that she was writing the movie in a 2009 interview she gave for her work on My Life in Ruins. In a subsequent interview, Hanks recalled Rita saying, “I think this is a movie,” and then adding, “and it was.”

From 1988 to 2018

The year 2018 marked 30 years of the couple’s marriage, and the pair celebrated it lavishly. Not many people get to stay in a marriage that long, especially in an industry like Hollywood. Hanks felt the same way when he posted on Instagram, “’88 to ’18. Magic numbers.”

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Of course, we also agree it’s a big deal! Oprah Winfrey, Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, and Kate Hudson were among the famous people they invited to the spectacular dinner they hosted at their home. Additionally, they received life-sized cardboard cutouts of their wedding day as decorations. Adorable.

A Star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame

You know you’re a legend when you get a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Wilson had made her mark on the industry, and in 2019, she joined her husband in getting her own star on the renowned Hollywood sidewalk. Hanks had achieved that decades earlier in 1992.

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And just like she had always been there for him, Hanks was there to return the favor. He joined his wife at the ceremony, talking her up and smiling ear to ear. She was praised for being an amazing actress, singer, and songwriter and for having “pitch-perfect taste.”

The Hanks Kids Follow in Their Parents’ Footsteps

Colin, Tom’s oldest son with his ex-wife, Samantha Lewes, is perhaps his most popular son. Colin followed in his father’s footsteps and has appeared in many high-profile movies, including Jumanji (as the Adult Alex Vreeke) and The House Bunny (as Oliver).

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He has also appeared in TV shows such as Fargo, Roswell, and Dexter. He’s a director too. Colin’s younger half-brother Chet also has some acting credits to his name. His best-known roles are in Project X, Larry Crowne, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

The Youngest Son, Truman Hanks

The Hanks clan looks like they love the moviemaking industry. Hanks and Wilson’s youngest son, Truman, who is still in his mid-20s, loves the industry just as much but prefers going behind the scenes. He’s not a stranger to being around the production of big films.

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Truman graduated from Stanford University in 2018 and entered Hollywood as a production assistant. He has worked on several major movies, including Charlie’s Angels remake in 2019 and The Cloverfield Paradox. He most recently worked on Black Widow, Wrath of Man, West Side Story, and Asteroid City.

Rita Wilson Is Multi-Talented

Wilson has had a long and accomplished career, performing various roles both on and off screen. She has written several of her own songs that were recorded on many albums. One of them, “Heart Unknown,” was featured in the 2018 independent movie Simple Wedding.

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In 2019, Wilson released her fourth album, Halfway to Home. She has performed her songs on many shows such as Today, Ellen, and Jimmy Kimmel Live, and her hubby has been by her side every step of the way, rooting for her. She deserves her accolades.

A Couple That Gives Back Together Stays Together

Whenever they’re not busy with one of their multiple creative talents, the couple loves advocating for several social causes. Hanks and Wilson have served as honorary co-chairs for the Women’s Cancer Research fund for over 20 years. They are also proponents of environmentalism.

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Their contributions to society have been rewarded with the USC Shoah Foundation’s Ambassador for Humanity Award. It was for their “long-standing commitment to humanitarian causes and veterans’ support.” They also helped those in Greece who were affected by the Mati fire, which led Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos to honor them.

Not Just a US Citizen

While we can all agree that Tom Hanks is an American treasure, he’s no longer just a US citizen. The couple officially became Greek citizens in July 2020, and the country’s prime minister posted a picture on social media of him and the couple holding up their new passports.

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The year before that, the couple was named honorary citizens after their incredible efforts helping those in Greece who were affected by the devastating Mati fire in 2018. The Hanks family owns property on Antiparos Island, and they regularly visit there for vacation.

Going through 2020 Together

It was undoubtedly a rough year for many of us in 2020. Some still suffer from the effects of the pandemic to this day. Tom and Rita were no different. They faced a new battle during the pandemic in 2020, but as they’ve always done, they knew they could face anything together.

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The couple stuck together, and the extra time they had together also helped make them stronger (if that was even possible). They weren’t going to let anything slow them down and get between them as their list of works and productions continued to grow, well after the pandemic.

Starring in Elvis 2021

Hanks was cast to play the role of Colonel Tom Parker in the 2022 film Elvis. The movie had been scheduled to be released in 2021, but production was halted. It premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 25, 2022.

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Austin Butler plays the titular role of Elvis, the King of Rock n’ Roll. Elvis follows the life of Elvis Presley from the perspective of his manager, Colonel Tom Parker (played by Tom Hanks). The movie has grossed over $121 million at the box office.