Tom Hanks & Rita Wilson: A Decades-Long Match Made in Heaven

There’s a lot of drama when it comes to most Hollywood couples, but Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson’s relationship is one of a kind. The two have been married for more than 30 years, and they’re stronger today than they’ve ever been.
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Hanks, who is regarded as an American cultural icon, has been married to his wife for more than three decades, which is a feat on its own, but it’s awe-inspiring in Hollywood. So, how have these two stars managed to keep their happily ever after alive for so many years?

Growing Up on a Houseboat

Tom Hanks is no stranger to the fast life, and he’s learned to adapt easily to new situations. That may be largely due to the fact that as a kid, he’d lived in ten houses by the time he turned ten years old, thanks to his father’s job as a cook.

 

One such house was the kind that floats. In the early to mid-’70s, he lived with his family on a two-story houseboat, which sold for $600,000 in 2018.

Far From Mr. Popular

The actor was born in California in the mid-1950s to his mother, a Portuguese hospital worker named Janet, and his father, the cook, named Amos. He had several siblings and wasn’t exactly Mr. Popular with the kids at school.

 

In his own words, as he puts it, “I was a geek, a spaz. I was horribly, painfully, terribly shy.” It’s amazing how much things (and people) can change. Just look at the A-list actor, he’s one of the most famous and popular names in Tinseltown!

A Religious Background

Hanks grew up in a religious family, with some Catholicism and Mormonism mixed in. He used to carry his Bible around with him and called himself an actual Bible-toting evangelical.

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His parents split up when he was still very young, and when that happened, Tom and some of his siblings went with his father, while their youngest brother, Jim, went with their mother.

1956 Is When It All Began

In 1956, the very same year Tom Hanks entered the world, his future wife, Rita Wilson, was being born just miles away from him in Hollywood, California.

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Wilson was born under the name Margarita Ibrahimoff and was raised in a Greek Orthodox family, as her mother, Dorothea Tzigkou, was raised near the Greek border in Bulgaria. Interesting that they would be born so close to each other, in both time and space!

Bulgarian Roots

Hanks’ father-in-law, Rita’s father, Hassan, grew up in the Islamic faith in Bulgaria but converted when he married Rita’s mother. He can speak several different languages, including Russian, Turkish, Polish, and Greek.

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Hanks has said that he’s modeled his role as Viktor in “The Terminal” on his father-in-law and even learned some of his Bulgarian phrases in the movie from him beforehand. Rita’s father has since changed his name to Alan Wilson.

Head Cheerleader

Wilson’s acting career began a few years before her future hubby when she made a guest appearance on a 1972 episode of “The Brady Bunch,” She played Marcia’s rival, who she was competing against to become the head cheerleader.

 

It was that role that would first catch the attention of her future husband, as well, even if she wouldn’t realize it until further down the road. Afterward, however, several more years would pass before we’d see her reappear on-screen.

Thespian at Heart

Hanks knew from a young age that he wanted to be involved with the theater. So, he studied it when he attended Chabot College in Hayward. He wound up transferring to California State two years into his program, but he continued studying theatre.

 

Because of that, he met the head of a major theatre festival, who gave him an internship that prepared him for his entertainment life. Later, he said he’d really enjoyed the couple of years he spent studying at Chabot.

The Sacrifices He Made

But once the internship started taking up a lot of his time, he knew he had to make some sacrifices. Hanks dropped out of college to pursue his passion full-time, a decision that may have been scary to make but definitely paid off for him in the end.

 

Around the same time that he dropped out of school, he won the Cleveland Critics Circle Award for Best Actor, thanks to a stellar performance he gave in a Shakespeare production.

The Big Apple

The actor made his move to NYC in 1979 and made his film debut in a B-slasher film called “He Knows You’re Alone.”

 

The slasher was written by Scott Parker and is known for being one of the first horror flicks inspired by that era’s hit film, “Halloween.” It wasn’t bad for Hanks’ debut and went on to gross over $5 million at the box office.

Small Roles on the Big Screen

Around that same time, Rita Wilson was signing on to play a small role in the 1980’s “Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie.”

 

In it, she can be seen in a film within a film, when one of the stoner stars accidentally crashes the set she’s on, filming a “Charlie’s Angels” style film called “Wamba’s Angels.”

Kip Wilson

While Rita went on to take a few-year hiatus from being on-screen after her adventures on “Cheech and Chong,” Hanks continued to appear in various productions. Also, in 1980, he picked up the role of Kip Wilson on ABC’s show, “Bosom Buddies.”

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The producers knew he wouldn’t be around for long. “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,” said Ian Praiser.

Tom Meets Rita

The very first time Tom Hanks met his future wife, Rita, was on the set of “Bosom Buddies” in 1982. He was still playing the star, and she snagged a guest role, playing a (kind of cuckoo) theistic Satanist who’s dating Henry.

 

At the time, however, the actor was still married to Samantha Lewes, and there was no way he would do anything to jeopardize his marriage. So, for the time being, the two remained friends. Though there was no denying there was a spark between them.

Marrying His High School Sweetheart

In 1978, Hanks watched as his high school sweetheart, actress Samantha Lewes, walked down the aisle towards him, ready to make a life-long commitment. At the time, the actor was just 21-years old. That same year, the couple had a son, Colin.

 

“By then, I thought I was rolling along with the natural order of things,” he told BBC. But fate had something else in store for him. “I didn’t smoke pot. I didn’t do drugs, I was not a party boy,” he said of the times, “I’m not a cheater. I like to play by the rules.”

Making a Splash

After Hanks’ 1982 guest role on “Happy Days,” Ron Howard called him up and asked him if he’d be interested in playing in the film he was working on called “Splash.” The director first wanted him for a smaller role but ended up giving him the lead.

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The film, in which he plays a human who falls in love with a mermaid, grossed nearly $70 million at the box office. After that, it was like a snowball to fame.

Bachelor Party

Who could forget the hilarious epic film, “Bachelor Party”? The 1984 comedy shows the antics of friends trying to throw their buddy the best possible party before he ties the knot to his future wife.

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Still, at that point, he was trying to make things work with Samantha, with whom he’d had another child, a daughter named Elizabeth.

Coming Together On-Screen

The same year “Bachelor Party” debuted, Hanks and Wilson would come together again when they were both hired to costar in the 1985 film, “Volunteers.” “You could tell they were fond of each other,” their costar Xander Berkeley said during an interview with “People” magazine.

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Hanks had had a crush on her since he first saw her on that episode of the “Brady Bunch” in 1972, but when they locked eyes on set, they knew there was something there.

Volunteering For Love

In “Volunteers,” Hanks plays a snobby, womanizing Ivy leaguer who finds himself down on his luck after he gambles himself into a serious debt, which his wealthy father refuses to help him out of.

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While trying to run away from his problems by fleeing the country, he meets Rita’s character and falls head over heels. She doesn’t exactly feel the same way about him, though he eventually wins her over.

Just Friends

Although there was no denying that the two shared a certain kind of chemistry, Hanks was still unavailable at the time, so the two did the honorable thing and remained as nothing more than friends.

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But they wouldn’t be able to hide their feelings for long, and just a short while after, he separated from his wife, and he and Wilson started dating.

Officially Out in the Open

By 1986, the pair decided to announce their relationship to the public. While Hanks and Lewes were still technically married on paper, they were separated and began the process of divorce.

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His son, Colin, was seven-years-old at the time, and his daughter Elizabeth was three. He and Rita showed up arm in arm, a smiling, happy couple at the premiere of “Three Amigos.”

His First Flop

“Three Amigos” is a 1986 production that Hanks worked on behind-the-scenes as a producer. The western comedy film stars Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Randy Newman, who also wrote the picture’s songs. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as well-received as Hanks had hoped it might be.

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Still, heading to the premiere with Wilson in tow was just the beginning of what would become a 30-year-long relationship, which is something even outside of Hollywood, but it’s really something in Hollywood.

She Was Always the One

The year after they revealed their relationship to the world, Hanks’ divorce with his ex-wife was finalized. He told “Entertainment Tonight” that from the very first moment he’d met Rita, he knew she was the one – though admittedly, he wasn’t sure if she felt the same.

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“When we first looked at each other, there was definitely a kind of, ‘hey, this is the place!’ I felt that way, anyway.” And by the next year, they would make things official.

Their Big Day

On April 30th, 1988, Wilson walked down the aisle to marry a beaming Hanks. 30 years later, he shared a photo of their wedding day on social media to honor the three-decades-long commitment.

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She wore an almost- traditional white gown with lace detailing and a veil, and he wore a classic black suit with a matching boutonnière. But her dress only appeared to be traditional from the thighs up since she chose a short bodycon style dress.

Big

Things were going incredibly well for Hanks during those times. In 1988, he was marrying the love of his life, and enjoying star status, thanks to his rising popularity on-screen.

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“Big” also came out that year, a fantasy comedy-drama where he plays a kid who makes a wish to grow up, and it comes true. Critics and audiences loved it, so he won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor and was nominated for several other prestigious awards that year.

A Private Honeymoon

The happy new couple did what most young couples do immediately after their wedding – they went somewhere tropical and luxurious for a fabulous honeymoon. For Tom and Rita, this meant traveling to St. Paul de Vence.

 

As the two like to keep their private lives private, there isn’t very much info out there as to how the trip went down, but there’s a single picture posted of Tom with one Greek family who happened to run into them while they were there. “My mother didn’t want to impose, so we only took one picture,” said one of the girls.

Oscar’s Night 1989

After they’d finally gotten married and were finding their footing as a newly married couple, it was time for another first for the two. Rita accompanied Hanks to what would be the first of many Oscar’s ceremonies in March of 1989.

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The actor had a pretty incredible night with his new wife on his arm, and they were all smiles throughout the show. A few months ago, the two walked the red-carpet arm and arm again at the 2020 Oscars.

Thanking His “Babe”

Since their first, these two just knocked every award show out of the park for several reasons. They’d attended the Golden Globes in January of 1989, where Hanks was thrilled to be freshly married, and he made sure everyone knew it as he accepted his award for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy for his work in “Big.”

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“I married a Greek babe,” he said, “Rita Wilson – thank you, babe, for marrying me. You made my year already.”

Their First Son Together

Things just seemed to keep getting better for the stars who, in 1990, the year after Hanks’ win for “Big,” the couple welcomed a son, Chester, “Chet,” Hanks, into the world. Little did they know that their son would wind up following along in their footsteps later on in his life.

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And he wasn’t the only one of their children who would wind up catching the acting bug.

A Beautiful Blended Family

Tom and Rita had now started this beautiful, blended family, which consisted of their newborn son, Chet, and Tom’s two children from his first marriage, Elizabeth and Colin. And he felt the need to work even harder so that he could provide for his growing clan.

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In 1990, this meant working in “Joe Versus the Volcano,” along with “The Bonfire of the Vanities.” Afterward, it would be a couple of years until he popped back up on screen in 1992 in “Radio Flyer” and “A League of Their Own.”

On-Screen Siblings?

The following year, in 1993, the couple would get the chance to work together on film once again, when they were cast in “Sleepless in Seattle” – but not as a romantic couple. In the movie, Hanks and Wilson played siblings, a new type of challenge for them.

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The film, directed by Nora Ephron, and starring Meg Ryan as Hanks’ love interest, acted as a launchpad to stardom for an already rising star.

Breaking Barriers in the Industry

A year after, Hanks accepted a role in “Philadelphia,” which was one of the first major films to really dig into the topic of HIV and AIDS alongside homosexuality and homophobia. The actor played the role of Andrew Beckett, a senior associate in one of the biggest law firms in Philly.

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He’s gay and has AIDS, but he works to hide it as best as he can until he’s unable to anymore. Denzel Washington co-starred in the film, which won several prestigious film awards, as did the individuals involved.

Award-Winning Actor

“Philadelphia” went on to win several awards for everything from its music to its actors. For Hanks’ role in the film, he won the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Actor. When his name was called to accept the Oscar, what do you think his first reaction was?

 

It didn’t even take him a full second to turn to his side and kiss his wife, who tried to return the smooch, but was smiling from ear to ear.

Heaven on Earth

When he walked up to accept the gold statue for Best Actor, he decided to thank those closest to him, namely, his wife, who was beaming back at him from the audience.

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“Here’s what I know,” he said, “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.”

Forrest Gump

The next year, he found himself getting ready to deliver another award acceptance speech when he became the second actor in existence to win back-to-back Oscars. The win came for his brilliant performance as the title role in the acclaimed film “Forrest Gump.”

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Again, he thanked his wife for being the reason for the 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.”

His Deep Connection With Forrest Gump

He didn’t lose sight of that reasoning, either. Later, during an interview for “Oprah Magazine,” he said 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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Talk about a butterfly effect! Can you imagine a world in which Tom Hanks never played Forrest Gump? I, for one, certainly don’t want to. It was an instant classic, and that’s one powerful “thank you.”

Always There For Each Other

The couple never seemed to come out of the honeymoon phase that everyone’s always talking about. Although there aren’t many images out there, the ones that are of the two during the entirety of the 1990s are just too cute.

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In 1998, Wilson accompanied him to his handprint ceremony outside of Mann’s Chinese Theatre, where the two can be seen smiling and laughing – even after he (jokingly) threatened to wipe his dirty hands on her.”

Their Youngest Son

The couple’s youngest son, Truman Theodore Hanks, was born in 1995. The actors tried as hard as possible to keep their private life out of the media, especially when it came to their children. They wanted them to have as close to “normal” life as possible, and as kids, they were very rarely seen in public.

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There were a few times, however, that a photo got snapped of the whole bunch, including baseball games, like a 2004 Cardinals vs. Dodgers game that the family enjoyed together.

Their Big Fat Greek Wedding

A few years before, in 2002, the couple got to experience another first, when they partnered up to co-produce “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” The film, which spawned a whole franchise, won and was nominated for several awards, including a nomination for Best Original Screenplay at the 75th Academy Awards.

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As Rita has a lot of Greek in her blood, she was very excited about getting the chance to take part in this major project, which she convinced her husband to join in on.

Practically Royal

There’s no doubt that the stars have plenty of other famous friends in their circle, but they’ve also gotten the chance to hang out with the royals when they chatted up Prince William and Kate Middleton before the 2011 BAFTA Awards.

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A few months later, they met Queen Elizabeth II when they attended a state dinner at Buckingham Palace during a visit from President Obama.

A Major Health Scare

In 2015, something would happen that would shake the couple up, turning their world completely upside down. Rita was diagnosed with breast cancer, specifically invasive lobular carcinoma.

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But her husband stuck by her side as she underwent a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction surgery. Initially, she’d actually been misdiagnosed, told she didn’t have cancer. It wasn’t until she got a second opinion that she learned the harsh truth.

Working Through It

After the first surgery, Wilson spoke out about her feelings on the new implants. She said that, with summer vacation approaching, she thought about how she wanted to look okay in a bathing suit.

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It was when she was sitting quietly alone in a hammock by the ocean on her vacation, when she had nothing to do, that “what I’d gone through hit me. And I was scared,” she told “Harper’s Bazaar.” She started talking to a cognitive behavioral therapist to help her through the anxiety.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

In 2016, the couple was back at it again when they got the chance to co-produce the long-awaited sequel to 2002’s “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” The rom-com was written by (and stars) Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Michael Constantine, and Andrea Martin.

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Vardalos let on that she was writing the film in a 2009 interview that she was giving for her work on My Life in Ruins. Hanks later said that Rita had come home saying, “I think this is a movie,” and followed with, “and it was.”

’88 to ’18

The pair celebrated their 30th anniversary in 2018 and spared no expense. After all, as Hanks put it on his Instagram, “’88 to ’18. Magic numbers.” Yeah, we’d agree, that’s a big deal – especially in Hollywood!

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They threw a lavish party at their home and invited a star-studded list of names to the event, including Oprah Winfrey, Goldie Hawn, and Kurt Russell, along with their daughter, Kate Hudson. And, as part of the decorations, they got life-sized cardboard cutouts of the day of their wedding photo. Adorable.

Her Own Claim to Fame

In 2019, Rita joined her husband in getting her very own star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, which he’d done several decades earlier in ’92. And just like she’d done for him, he joined her at the ceremony, talking her up and smiling from ear to ear.

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Among the compliments were how much of an incredible actress, singer, and songwriter, she happens to be, and how she has “pitch-perfect taste.”

Colin & Chet Hanks

Tom’s oldest son, Colin, whom he had with Samantha Lewes, followed along in his father’s footsteps, and is perhaps his most well-known son, acting in such films as “The House Bunny” and “Jumanji,” along with some major TV shows like “Roswell,” “Fargo,” and “Dexter.”

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Seeing how successful his parents and older sibling was in the industry, Colin’s younger half-brother, Chet, accumulated several acting credits to his name as well. Chet’s best known for his roles in “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” “Project X,” and “Larry Crowne.”

Truman Hanks

Their youngest son, Truman, who’s in his mid-20s, prefers to remain behind the scenes, though he’s no stranger to being around the production of major films.

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After graduating from Stanford University in 2018, he entered the world of Hollywood as a production assistant on major movies, including “The Cloverfield Paradox” and the “Charlie’s Angels” remake in 2019.

Multi-Talent

Wilson has had quite an extensive career in the industry, playing several roles, both on-screen and off. She’s written many pieces, including her own songs, which she recorded on several albums. One of her songs, “Heart Unknown,” was recently used in an indie film called “Simple Wedding,” released in 2018.

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She released her fourth album, “Halfway to Home,” in 2019. She’s performed her songs on some shows, including “Today,” “Ellen,” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” and her husband’s been there to support her every step of the way!

A Couple That Gives Back Together, Stays Together

The couple, when they’re not busy with one of their many creative talents, likes to spend their time advocating for several causes. They have been honorary co-chairs of the Women’s Cancer Research Fund for more than 20 years.

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In 2018, they were granted the USC Shoah Foundation’s Ambassadors for Humanity Award for their “long-standing commitment to humanitarian causes and veterans’ support.” They have also contributed to helping those who suffered from the Mati fire in Greece, prompting them to be honored by Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos.

Greek Citizens

Although Tom Hanks is an American treasure, he’s not just a U.S citizen anymore. In July, the couple officially became Greek citizens, with the country’s prime minister posting a picture on social media with them holding up their new passports.

 

The year before, they’d been named honorary citizens. The family owns property on Antiparos Island, where they often like to vacation.

Conquering 2020 Together

Although their battles were far from over when they faced a new battle in the midst of the pandemic in 2020, they knew they could face anything together. They remained together, and the extra time together without work only served to make them stronger – if that were even possible!

 

And they weren’t about to let anything slow them down, as the list of their productions continues to grow, with several titles on the way for next year.

Elvis 2021

Hanks was cast into the role of the upcoming 2021 film, “Elvis.” In it, he plays the part of Colonel Tom Parker.

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Although production was halted it is scheduled to be released hopefully at the end of 2021. Austin Butler will play the title role of The King of Rock n’ Roll.