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Tom Hanks Has Written the Least Interesting Novel Ever About Making a Movie

By Dustin Rowles | Books | May 17, 2023 |

By Dustin Rowles | Books | May 17, 2023 |


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I love Tom Hanks - he’s a great actor, the nicest guy in Hollywood, and America’s Dad. I was excited when I put his fiction book, The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece, on my Audible wish list months ago. Tom Hanks writing a novel about making a movie? What could possibly go wrong?

You have no idea.

Before starting The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece last week, I skimmed through a few reviews, and they were all disappointingly mediocre. I brushed them off, because it’s Tom Hanks we’re talking about! Plus, he narrates the audiobook himself, along with Rita Wilson and some former SNL cast members, and I know Hanks is a fantastic audiobook narrator from listening to Ann Patchett’s amazing The Dutch House. The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece is far from amazing. For anyone who thought they could listen to Tom Hanks read the phonebook and still be entertained, this book will prove them wrong. The phonebook is probably better. Or at least shorter.

The mediocre reviews I skimmed were clearly deferential to Hanks’ nice-guy reputation. No one wants to criticize Tom Hanks. And that’s the problem with The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece. No one apparently had the courage to say ‘no’ to the man, not the publisher, and certainly not the editor, who must have thrown her hands in the air and eventually gave up.

There’s a sitcom joke that goes like this: One character says, “Tell me everything. Start from the beginning,” and the other character responds with something like, “I was a 7 lb bouncing baby born on a Wednesday in March of 1987,” and the original character has to interject, “No! Not that far back!” No one told Tom Hanks not to go that far back in his book. That’s why The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece, which is essentially a novelized documentary about the making of a movie released in 2022, starts with World War II and a Marine named Bob Falls, who inspired his nephew, Robby Andersen, to write a comic that would later be adapted into the movie depicted in the novel. In audiobook terms, the section on the source material and its origins is two-and-a-half hours long, followed by another 2 hours on the film’s development struggles, and over an hour on “Prep.” It takes five-and-a-half hours before the book even reaches the casting stage, which itself lasts nearly three hours.

This would be tolerable if the content of those chapters were remotely interesting. Unfortunately, they are not. I understand Hanks’ intentions - he wanted to write a book about the overlooked people who work on films, like the dedicated assistant who gets promoted from a hotel front desk or the transportation person who used to be a cleaning person at the same hotel but now arranges for Ubers. We get to know these individuals, and they are honest, hard-working people who excel at their jobs, even if it means fetching coffee, a task that Hanks spends an unnecessary amount of time explaining in excruciating detail.

God help us if Hanks finds an excuse - and he finds many - to talk about his real-life passion for typewriters. There’s a subplot involving a woman who owns a typewriter store and sells one to the film’s director. They occasionally engage in sexual encounters, and she becomes involved in the movie’s production until she tragically dies of cancer. Hanks meticulously takes us through every detail. She is just one of many characters. The audiobook spends a whopping 90 minutes solely on the post-war life of the Marine who inspired the comic book. He’s an average guy who struggled with alcoholism, moving from town to town until he finally found a job washing dishes at a Chinese restaurant in Arizona. He fell in love with the owner and years later sent his nephew a heartfelt letter, the contents of which are read in their entirety, expressing his regrets for not staying in touch.

It’s one of those novels that leaves the reader wondering about its purpose and where it’s headed, only to realize that there is no clear purpose and it never quite takes off. Hanks seems to acknowledge this when he writes about the movie’s screenwriter, who initially produces a 279-page script with no conflict, eventually requiring seven rewrites to refine it. Unfortunately, Tom Hanks himself had no such requirement. To be honest, though, even if Hanks had edited down The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece, it would have been shorter but no more engaging. There is simply no conflict. It’s a series of mundane anecdotes about the people involved in the film production, their routine tasks, and the cups of coffee they either drink or fetch for others to drink.

The book can best be described as the Larry Crowne of novels (if Larry Crowne were 15 hours long). It’s not that Hanks is incapable of writing well - thank goodness he is, or else the novel would have been even more tediously intolerable. And it’s not that he lacks a captivating writing voice (it’s the voice of Tom Hanks, after all). The issue lies in the fact that The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece lacks anything of interest to say. In fact, I’m not entirely certain that isn’t the point. Hanks not only demystifies the filmmaking process but he also drains it of all its intriguing elements by droning on about every minute detail. If you happen to be a makeup artist, caterer, driver, or extra, The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece might make you feel seen. However, for everyone else, the “enchantment” of moviemaking is best left behind the scenes.