Tom Hanks Interview: ‘No One Wanted to Work for Disney’ in the 1980s

“It looked like a Greyhound bus station in Selma, Alabama,” Hanks said of the studio behind his 1984 film “Splash.”

Tom Hanks is making a splashy statement about Walt Disney Studios.

The Oscar winner revealed that “no one wanted to work for Disney” in the 1980s, and that’s how he was eventually cast in Ron Howard’s 1984 film “Splash” after guest starring on the TV series “Happy Days.”

“Ron Howard had already left the show, and he was directing, and they had written this movie called ‘Splash,’” Hanks said during SiriusXM’s “The Jess Cagle Show” podcast. “And it was at Disney, and no one wanted to work for Disney, and no one would take the job. And eventually they said, ‘Hey, this guy who kicked Fonzie through a plate-glass window might be good.’ And so I ended up auditioning for that.”

Hanks continued, “I remember going over to the Disney studios and it had not been refurbished. They had built it in like 1958 and it hadn’t changed a bit. It looked like a Greyhound bus station in Selma, Alabama. It kind of looked like that. But Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, they had just hung up their shingle.”

The “Forrest Gump” icon added, “They were looking to make a partnership, and they were making this relatively low-budget movie about a mermaid. I went in for a couple of auditions, thinking I was auditioning for the wisecracking brother or something like that. And I got a call from Opie Cunningham, Ron Howard, holy cow. ‘Hey, listen, I want to ask you something. Well, you have the job. That’s one thing. I want you to audition for the lead. Listen, I’m getting static from the studio because I really want Daryl Hannah to play Madison the Mermaid.’ And I knew who Daryl Hannah was because she had already been in ‘Blade Runner,’ she had already been in a couple of really, really great movies. She was already quite formidable.”

Hanks noted, “And for some reason, the geniuses that ran Disney at that time were saying, ‘Oh, we don’t know. Is she funny?’ blah blah blah.”

Hanks eventually screen tested with Hannah but was still nervous that the lead in “Splash” wasn’t officially his.

“I wanted to make him guarantee that I could not screw up this opportunity,” Hanks said. “I still had this….feeling that said, ‘Well, we love her, but who’s that guy with the squeaky voice and the big hair? Do we need him?’ But it all worked out.”

“Splash” also starred John Candy and Eugene Levy, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Decades later, after the film was available for streaming on Disney+, fans pointed out that Disney digitally added CGI hair to cover Hannah’s naked rear end in the PG-rated feature and censor the original film. (To note, PG-13 did not exist with the MPAA until four months after “Splash” was released in March 1984.)

Hanks previously admitted that he believes he has only starred in “four pretty good” movies across his legendary career, and can’t even rewatch his biggest hits.

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