As a journalist, I don’t typically blink at the opportunity to talk to high-profile types. I’ve done the party reporting thing, and my old gig often meant dealing with the hassle of tracking down disinterested PR-types to wrangle five minutes of their time. But finding out that I could chat with Tom Hanks, and that everything was being arranged without issue? Well that was a gift. And truly, Hanks is as nice as he seems. We spoke for 15 minutes on the phone about Beyond All Boundaries, the film he produced for the new theater at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, which just opened this month. And he was gracious, charming, funny, and passionate about the work he’s done to tell the story of the war. Here’s one excerpt about how he’s visited Normandy and why it’s important to revisit the sites where history happened.
I’ve actually gone through the footsteps of individual battles we brought to life in Band of Brothers, the piece we did for HBO. You walk through a farmer’s field and they say, “we dug a trench here.” And you know what’s there? A trench. It’s still an impression in the farmland—it never goes away. It brings a human dimension to the people who were walking a really long way when they were very tired on a day when their job was to kill people on the other side. That to me just takes it out of any mythical storytelling atmosphere and turns it into a human one. Of human beings doing things one step at a time, one day at a time, one damn thing at a time. That’s the type of connection that it brings to you and that makes me think that’s what 18-, 19-, and 20-year-old kids are doing today in places like Afghanistan.