Tom Hanks is one of Hollywood’s most cherished talents. He’s loved by all, not only for his countless iconic performances, but also because he’s a funny, humble, cool dude (the kind who’s game to reenact all of his roles in six minutes for a great late-night TV bit). He’s been around far longer than you millennials, so we understand you might not truly understand his greatness. To get you up to speed with the rest of the world so you can properly celebrate him on his 59th birthday today, here’s what all you need to know about the legend.
He’s been in 53 films.
His first movie was the 1980 slasher film He Knows You’re Alone, but he soon became Hollywood’s it-boy after starring in hit comedies like Splash (1984), Bachelor Party (1984), The Money Pit (1986), and Big (1988). His great comedic work continued but he also displayed impressive dramatic ability, tackling topics like homophobia and HIV/AIDS discrimination, mental handicaps, and the trauma of war, in Philadelphia (1993), Forrest Gump (check out his audition) (1994), and Saving Private Ryan (1998), respectively. And for anyone who has ever been a child—so, all of us—he will forever be Woody, the talking cowboy doll from the Toy Story series.
He wasn’t always happily married.Getty
Many admire his happy marriage with actress Rita Wilson (pictured above); they’ve been together for 28 years, which is like a century in Hollywood years. But before that, he was married to his college sweetheart Samantha Lewes from 1978–1987 (she later passed away in 2002 of bone cancer), and was involved in a messy divorce. He has four kids, two from each marriage. Let’s put it this way: If he and Rita broke up, the world would immediately stop turning and wouldn’t start back up again.
He’s the gay rights pioneer you didn’t even know about.
In 1993, he won the Best Actor Oscar for playing a gay, HIV-positive lawyer fighting discrimination in Philadelphia. In his speech, he tearfully honored the fallen victims of HIV/AIDS and personally thanked his gay high school drama teacher and a fellow classmate. “They are two of the finest gay Americans, two wonderful men that I had the good fortune to be associated with, to fall under their inspiration at such a young age,” he said. “I wish my babies could have the same sort of teacher, the same sort of friends.” The speech inspired the 1997 film In & Out, where an Oscar winner mistakenly outs his high school teacher in his acceptance speech.
He’s a veteran SNL host.Getty
In fact, during a sketch in his fifth episode hosting, he coined the term “The Fivers’ Club,” for fellow SNL bosses like Steve Martin and Chevy Chase, who hosted five or more times. To date, he’s hosted the iconic show eight times, so NBD.
You’re going to start following him on Twitter today (if you don’t already).
This dad is low-key as hell on Twitter. Just look at his bio: “I’m that actor in some of the movies you liked and some you didn’t. Sometimes I’m in pretty good shape, other times I’m not. Hey, you gotta live, you know?” He’s the chillest and his selfies are even chiller. I can’t.
He was nominated for the most Oscars in a 10-year span.Getty
Between 1994 and 2004, Tom beat out every actor in the game with his four Best Actor Oscar noms (two of which he won: for 1993’s Philadelphia and 1994’s Forrest Gump). This made him the second actor to win the award back-to-back years after Spencer Tracy. He cried both times when accepting them. The humblest bae of all.
He publicly announced he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
In October 2013, the private star made his matter public on The Late Show with David Letterman. He made light of the situation with his story: “I went to the doctor, and he said, ’You know those high blood sugar numbers you’ve been dealing with since you were 36? Well, you’ve graduated! You’ve got Type 2 diabetes, young man.'”
Tom proves the slay knows no age.Getty
In 2002, he was the youngest actor ever (45 at the time) to receive the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award, which honors careers in motion pictures, presented by Steven Spielberg.
He produces great movies.Getty
In addition to his on-screen work, he toils behind the scenes to make great movies happen. A few of his impressive production credits: Cast Away (2000), My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002), The Polar Express (2004), Charlie Wilson’s War (2007), Mamma Mia! (2008), and Where the Wild Things Are (2009).
He also passed on some of your favorites movies.Columbia
He has an asteroid named after him.Getty
Yes, Tom’s legacy extends to outer space. Asteroid 12818 Tomhanks became official in April 1996. See the legit NASA details here. It’s not the one pictured above, but you get the point.
He puts his body through hell for roles.Columbia
He gained 30 pounds to play a hard-drinking baseball manager in 1992’s A League of Their Own and a year later lost 50 to play a man stranded on an island in Cast Away.
He is the third cousin, four times removed of Abraham Lincoln.Getty
Seriously. The connection is by Honest Abe’s mom Nancy Hanks. Legends just run in the fam.
He was awarded with the U.S. Navy’s highest civilian honor.Getty
In 1999, Tom received the Distinguished Public Service Award on Veterans Day for his work in Saving Private Ryan. See? America <3s Tom.
No matter his success, he always keeps it real and his on-point fan photos prove it.
There will never be another you, TH.