“I feel 110 percent Greek,” Tom Hanks told Greek Reporter ten years ago. Well, it was time to become a Greek citizen too, and that happened on Friday when President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos signed the official papers marking the honorary naturalization of the famous American actor and philhellene.
So now, we no longer need to call Hanks a philhellene, but plain Hellene. “I am more Greek than a Greek is because I had the good sense to marry a Greek…It’s joyful being married to a Greek…it’s fantastic!” he had said about his Greek-American wife Rita Wilson during that interview.
But what exactly does being a Greek mean? What is it that makes an international star feel so passionately about being married to a Greek woman and be so proud of feeling Greek himself?
The first thing all Greeks feel so proud about is that they live – or their roots are – on land that is the cradle of Western Civilization. A rather small piece of land in the Mediterranean where Philosophy, Medicine, Theater, Democracy, Pedagogy, Mathematics, Philanthropy, Freedom, the Olympic Games, and other sciences, arts, and noble notions were born.
Greece’s influence in the world is everywhere. Six thousand Greek words are used internationally, even in non-Latin based languages. Greek cuisine is popular all over the world with olive oil becoming a staple in millions of households and Greek yogurt enjoying mass popularity.
More importantly, though, the idea that man is the center of all things comes from the golden age of Ancient Greece. Greeks invented their gods out of their own human nature; their traits, whims, nobleness, ambitions, even their own weaknesses. They were the first to create statues that depicted ordinary men, women, and children, instead of deities, animals or pagan symbols.
After the liberation from the Ottomans, Greeks embraced Christian Orthodoxy from Byzantium. Greek Orthodoxy and the notion of the strong, devoted family stemming from it was the glue that kept modern Greeks together.
Today Greeks are among the most passionate people in the world. They laugh with their hearts, they weep desperately, they love a good time, they can be hard-working or languid according to the situation, they are hospitable, hard-headed when it comes to their political beliefs or soccer team, they live for today, they are expressive and loudmouthed and, above all, they are lively people.
Tom Hanks is essentially Greek because he is embracing many of these qualities, both in his personal life and prolific work in movies and documentaries. He became Greek Orthodox before he married Rita Wilson. They are married for 31 years and, unlike most Hollywood couples, not once have they found themselves close to a divorce.
The Hanks-Wilson family is as tight as the couple themselves and they are supportive of each other, like a true Greek family.
The actor himself has not once acted like the typical arrogant Hollywood star with several weddings, extramarital affairs, and extravagant whims. He has always been low-key in his career, while his work in directing and producing movies shows clearly that he is not in it just for the money.
Tom Hanks’ “Greekness” does not lie exclusively in the Greek-themed films he produced (Mamma Mia!, My Life in Ruins, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2). It is evident in his philanthropy work in crisis-stricken Greece, especially in the Mati fire tragedy that left more than 100 Greeks dead. And when it comes to showing his solidarity to the Greek people, his charity acts always away from the publicity lens.
It is also evident in the summer-house he owns on Antiparos Island, where he spends time every single summer, and in the villa he recently acquired on Patmos.
Finally, what makes Tom Hanks a true Greek is the passion with which he approaches almost all his production projects. From the magnificent Pacific mini series to the documentary The Assassination of President Kennedy and the related Parkland movie; and from Ithaca to Charlie Wilson’s War, in the past twelve years alone, he shows that he takes film-making very seriously, and with great artistic success.
Like a Greek.