Marriage and kids at 21 and a rom-com love story: Inside Tom Hanks' family life.


On Monday, Hollywood actor Tom Hanks was honoured at the 77th Golden Globe Awards with the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award.

Arguably one of the most prolific actors of the last 50 years, Hanks could’ve used his acceptance speech to lament any number of his iconic roles in classics like Forrest Gump, Castaway, Sleepless in Seattle, Toy Story and his most recently Golden Globes-nominated film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.

But standing on the 2020 Golden Globes stage, award in hand, his voice faltered talking about his family. (You can watch part of Tom Hanks’ Golden Globes speech below, post continues after video.)

Video by ETYouTube

“A man is blessed with a family sitting down front like that,” Hanks said, holding back tears looking out at his wife, Rita Wilson, and four children, Colin, Elizabeth, Chet and Truman.

“A wife who is fantastic in every way. Who has taught me what love is and… kids who are braver and wiser than their old man is.”

Although Hanks is best known for his on-screen roles, his personal history reads like a screenplay for a Hollywood movie. From his rom-com-like romance with Wilson to his little-known first marriage and becoming a dad at 21, here’s a look at the family life of Tom Hanks.


Tom Hanks had a lonely childhood.

Long before we knew him as a leading man, Tom Hanks admits he had a lonely childhood.

In a 2016 interview on the BBC Radio 4 show Desert Island Discs, the now-63-year-old spoke of being a nomadic child, living in 10 houses around California in five years with his chef father and a succession of step-families.

“[When I was a teen] I started asking myself: ‘How do I find the vocabulary for what’s rattling around in my head?,'” Hanks said.

“What it was, it was the vocabulary of loneliness.”

This feeling of loneliness and the need for a sense of belonging is what Hanks says drew him to his first relationship.

Before Rita Wilson, Tom Hanks married young.

tom hanks Samantha Lewes
Samantha Lewes was Tom Hanks' college sweetheart and first wife. Image: Getty.

In 1978, Hanks, then a 21-year-old aspiring actor, married his college sweetheart Samantha Lewes. They already had one child together, Colin Hanks, and four years later, they welcomed their second, Elizabeth Hanks.

At 25, Hanks was married with two young children. In the same BBC interview, he described his relationship with Lewes as a way to "quell the loneliness", but becoming a dad in his early twenties was "the greatest thing" that ever happened to him.

Hanks and Lewes were married for almost 10 years and for most of that time, Hanks remained a struggling actor. They divorced in 1987, several years after Hanks first met his now-wife of 31 years, Rita Wilson.

Divorce was something Hanks never wanted for himself, having watched his parents go through it at a young age. Speaking to The Express in 2013, Hanks said his "broken marriage meant I was sentencing my own kids to the sort of feelings I had at their age."

"I was looking for something I had not found as a kid... 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. I made all my mistakes, out of public view before I was known."


Lewes passed away in 2002 after being diagnosed with bone cancer.

How Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson met.

When Hanks and Wilson first met on the set of the sitcom Bosom Buddies in 1981, Hanks was still married to Lewes. But in 2016, Hanks shared he'd actually first seen his future-wife on TV a decade before that.

People reports Hanks was at the premiere of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 in 2016 when he recalled watching Wilson on The Brady Bunch in 1972, saying, "I was actually at a friend of mine’s house when it aired and I remember thinking 'that girl’s cute.'"

Hanks and Wilson crossed paths again in 1984 while working on the movie Volunteers. He later told GQ the attraction was instant.

"Rita and I just looked at each other and — kaboing — that was that,” Hanks said.

“I asked Rita if it was the real thing for her, and it just couldn’t be denied.”

He also told the BBC in 2016, "I don't think I'll ever be lonely any more... that's how I felt when I met my wife."

tom hanks rita wilson
Tom and Rita on the set of Volunteers in 1984. Image: Getty.
Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks
An iconic 80s couple. Image: Getty.
Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks
Tom and Rita on their wedding day in 1988. Image: Getty.
Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks
The couple have been married for 31 years. Image: Getty.

Hanks and Wilson made their relationship public on the red carpet at the 1986 premiere of Nothing in Common, before attending the 1987 Oscars together. The couple married in April 1988, and had two children together - Chester "Chet" Hanks and Truman Theodore Hanks.

In 1993, they played best friends in the classic rom-com Sleepless in Seattle before Hanks went on to star in Forrest Gump, Toy Story, Saving Private Ryan and Castaway.

When asked for the secret to their decades-long romance, Hanks told Oprah Winfrey, "The success of our relationship was a matter of timing, maturity and our willingness to have an intimate connection."


"When I married Rita, I thought, ‘This is going to require some change on my part.’ 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."

Tom Hanks' kids experienced different sides of their dad.

tom hanks family
Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson at the 2020 Golden Globes with their family: (L-R) Samantha Bryant and Colin Hanks, Elizabeth Hanks, Chet Hanks and Theodore Hanks. Image: Getty.

So much of Hanks' life has been about being a father to his four children, the eldest of whom, Colin, is now a successful actor in his own right.

But in the 2016 BBC interview, Hanks shared his two children with his first wife grew up with a different version of 'dad' than his two younger children with Wilson.

"I had kids very young. My son Colin was born when I was 21 and my daughter Elizabeth was born four and a half years later. It was the greatest thing that ever happened to me," he said.

"I didn't smoke pot. I didn't do drugs, I was not a party boy. I didn't drink too much, I went to bed at 10 minutes after 10 p.m. The rules were in place."

In an in-depth profile with The New York Times, Hanks added: "We have this gestalt understanding because [Colin and Elizabeth] remember when their dad was just a guy trying to, you know, make the rent. My other kids, they were born after I had established a beachhead in every way. And so their lives were just different."

Of Hanks' four kids, three have featured in films and/or TV shows. Most notably, Colin Hanks was nominated for an Emmy and Golden Globe for his role in the TV series Fargo.


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Elizabeth Hanks appeared in two of her dad’s most famous films, Forrest Gump and That Thing You Do!. She is also a writer and has written for various publications including Buzzfeed and The New York Times.


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Chet Hanks also acts - he's appeared in TV shows like Shameless, Empire and Curb Your Enthusiasm. He is currently a recovering addict after going to rehab in 2015 for cocaine addiction.


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Unlike his older siblings, the youngest Hank child, Truman Theodore Hanks, doesn't act and lives a fairly private life.

Looking back on his early days of fatherhood, Hanks believes any mistakes he made with his kids came down to "not being there for them or being so preoccupied with other things that are going on in our adult world," he told The New York Times. In the same profile, he also shared a nugget of universal parenting wisdom.

“Somewhere along the line, I figured out, the only thing really, I think, eventually a parent can do is say, ‘I love you, there’s nothing you can do wrong, you cannot hurt my feelings, I hope you will forgive me on occasion, and what do you need me to do?’

“You offer up that to them. 'I will do anything I can possibly do in order to keep you safe.’ That’s it. Offer that up and then just love them."

Feature image: Getty.