Tom Hanks opened up in a sprawling interview with The New York Times about what becoming a father was like at 21, and why he can never play a villain. Hanks, of course, is appearing as the ultimate nice guy Fred Rogers in the upcoming biopic A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.
Hanks, 63, first became a dad at age 21, and he says his four kids were raised completely differently, because their age span is so large. He is father to Colin, 41, and Elizabeth, 37, from his first marriage to Samantha Lewes, and Chet, 29, and Truman, 23, whom he had after marrying Rita Wilson in 1988.
"I start thinking about mistakes I made with my own kids and not explaining things or not being there for them. Or being so preoccupied with other things that are going on in our adult world," the star says of his early days of fatherhood.
"My son Colin Hanks was born when I was very young. As well as my daughter Elizabeth Hanks," he adds.
"We have this gestalt understanding because Colin and Elizabeth remember when their dad was just a guy trying to, you know, make the rent," Hanks continues. "My other kids, they were born after I had established a beachhead in every way. And so their lives were just different."
Still, he admits that even after 40+ years, he's still figuring the whole parenthood thing out.
"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?' " Hanks tells the NYT.
"You offer up that to them," continues the Forrest Gump actor. " ‘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."
Hanks admits that niceness is his trademark, and that he has been known to use it to his advantage.
He says: "I realize, and I used over and over again, the ability to seduce a room, seduce a group of people, and that it started off when I was very young as a self-defense mechanism but then turned into a manipulative kind of thing, because I didn't realize that I was as good at it as I was."
Hanks adds: "And part of that is I am not malevolent. I'm not mysterious. You're not going to get a huge amount of anger out of me or anything like that. I'm not coming in to dominate a room, but I am coming in to seduce it somehow."
That does mean one thing though: no roles as a villain.
He says: "I recognized in myself a long time ago that I don't instill fear in anybody. Now, that's different than being nice, you know? I think I have a cache of mystery. But it's not one of malevolence. It's because I never get them, because bad guys, by and large, require some degree of malevolence that I don't think I can fake."
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood opens in U.S. theaters on Nov. 22.