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Film

Tom Hanks' wholesome obsession with typewriters

@Russellisation

It’s difficult to even pin down what makes a beloved Hollywood celebrity, with the likes of Christopher Walken and Tom Hanks managing to pierce through the glitz of the industry to appear like a normal, humble human. Well known for his loveable personality accentuated by roles in such films as Forrest Gump, Toy Story, Cast Away and The Green Mile from author Stephen King, Hanks has enjoyed 41 flourishing years in the industry, providing audiences with a consistent string of compelling characters and stories. 

Feeding into this loveable persona is the actor’s niche personality quirks, the most curious of which is his obsession with typewriters that he has explained to enthusiasts around the world. 

Owning around 250 typewriters in total, Hanks’ obsession is no joke, telling the London Literature Festival in 2017: “What thrills me about typewriters, is that they are meant to do one thing and one thing only and with the tiniest amount of effort, maintenance, it will last a thousand years”. 

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This idiosyncratic interest started when Hanks was given a typewriter by a friend when he was young, later taking it to a maintenance shop to get the machine serviced. “He explained to me that I was in possession of a toy. It was a thing that looked like a typewriter but it was made of plastic,” Hanks told WBEZ, adding: “It was a hunk of junk. It was badly designed, poorly manufactured. And then he showed me a wall of his portable typewriters and I ended up walking out of his store with a Hermes 2000 which he sold me for $45”. 

Sparking a deep appreciation for the humble machines, the actor now regularly uses typewriters as part of his everyday chores, outlining his working day in an extensive article about his own collection in an article written by himself in The New York Times.

Expressing his joy about working with the outdated machines, Hanks emotively describes, “Everything you type on a typewriter sounds grand, the words forming in mini-explosions of SHOOK SHOOK SHOOK. A thank-you note resonates with the same heft as a literary masterpiece”. 

It’s not just the sound of the typewriters that makes Hanks excited, however, adding, “There is the sheer physical pleasure of typing; it feels as good as it sounds, the muscles in your hands control the volume and cadence of the aural assault so that the room echoes with the staccato beat of your synapses”. 

Tom Hanks’ typewriter obsession is something that only works to elevate the actor in the public eye as one of the most wholesome Hollywood celebrities. His passion for the humble mechanical writing machines was proven when he appeared in the 2016 documentary California Typewriter alongside John Mayer, Sam Shepard and Jeremy Mayer, with the film exploring the modern boom of the 19th century invention. 

“Close your eyes as you touch-type and you are a blacksmith shaping sentences hot out of the forge of your mind,” Hanks lovingly describes, with the thrill of typing well articulated in the trailer for California Typewriter, below.