Tom Hanks (born July 9, 1956) is an American actor who did the voice and motion-capture for the Conductor, the Hobo, Santa Claus, and Hero Boy's father, the motion-capture for Hero Boy, and the voice for Hero Boy as an adult in the 2004 film, The Polar Express. This is a total of five characters, more characters than any other actor in the film. He was also one of the film's executive producers along with Chris Van Allsburg and Jack Rapke.
Tom Hanks performed the songs, "The Polar Express" and "Hot Chocolate", both times in character as the Conductor and accompanied by the children and waiters respectively as background singers. In the former song, his vocals are only heard in the version featured on the soundtrack and not the film.
Behind the scenes
Tom Hanks optioned the book in 1999 with the hopes of playing the Conductor and Santa Claus. One of the conditions was for the film to be live-action instead of animated, but Robert Zemeckis thought it would be too expensive and lack the look, feel, and magic of the illustrations from the book he felt was important to the story. Hanks would eventually understand what the director desired and agreed to have the film be motion-captured. Robert Zemeckis initially wanted Hanks to play every character, but this proved to be too exhausting for Hanks, so his roles were cut down to five.
While on set, since the actors were not wearing costumes, Tom Hanks would wear different shoes matching the character he played to help imagine himself in the role. He would wear sneakers when Hero Boy and different types of boots for his adult characters. Whenever two of his characters interacted, a stand-in would take his place not wearing a motion-capture suit, then Tom would switch to the other character.
His voice for Hero Boy would later be dubbed over by Daryl Sabara, who woulc mimic Hanks' voice while playing the role. His brother Jim voiced his characters for The Polar Express: The Video Game, though dialogue recorded by Tom is kept whenever scenes from the film are used.
- The Hobo is the only character in the film Tom Hanks played who does not appear in the book.
- The credits list Tom Hanks for playing the Ebenezer Scrooge puppet, even though its voice is really the Hobo's and it was not animated through motion-capture.
- He starred in two other films directed by Robert Zemeckis: Forrest Gump in 1994 and Cast Away in 2000. He is also set to appear in the live-action adaptation of Disney's Pinocchio.
- He was the founder of Playtone, one of the production companies that worked on The Polar Express.
- He and Michael Jeter both played roles in the 1986 film The Money Pit and the 2000 film The Green Mile.
- He was the first choice to play Alan Parrish in the 1995 film Jumanji, another film based on a book by Chris Van Allsburg. The role would go to Robin Williams. However, Hanks' son, Colin would play Alex Vreeke in its two sequels, Welcome to the Jungle in 2017 and The Next Level in 2019.
- He was the executive producer for the 2007 film Evan Almighty, a film in which Jimmy Bennett plays a role.
- He and Peter Scolari both played roles in Bosom Buddies and From the Earth to the Moon.
- He was born in the same year as Roberta Greganti, Don Burgess, and Roger Storm.
- Cotta Vaz, Mark. Starkey, Steve. (November 4, 2004) The Art of the Polar Express, Chronicle Books. p. 8-10, 27-28. ISBN 978-0811846592.
- "Riding the Polar Express" Wired.
- Behind The Scenes with Tom Hanks
- Van de Wall, Virginia (December 4, 2014). "8 Mindblowing Facts About the 'Polar Express' Movie". J-14.
- Schaub, David (November 23, 2004). "'The Polar Express' Diary: Part 1 -- Testing and Prepping". Animation World Network.