He’s the son of the nicest guy in Hollywood, Tom Hanks, but Colin Hanks has carved out a distinctive niche of his own in the movie business. He made his debut in That Thing You Do! and broke out as a star in his own right in 2002’s Orange County. He’s worked steadily in film and television, including gigs on Roswell, The Good Guys, Dexter, and Fargo, and he can currently be seen on the sitcom Life In Pieces. After directing a documentary short last year, Hanks’ first documentary feature film, All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records, opens this Friday. We spoke with Hanks about his Five Favorite Films and the allure of Tower Records.
Let’s start with The Big Lebowski. I remember seeing this film. I was studying in Germany at the time, and I remember loving Fargo so much — that was my first introduction to the Coen brothers — and I was so excited that they had a new movie out. So I went to some German cinema to go see The Big Lebowski. It was in English, but with German subtitles. I remember watching the movie and just being incredibly disappointed. I really did not like the movie. Probably about four years later, I rewatched it and I instantly said, “I’ve never been so wrong in my entire life.This is one of the funniest films I’ve ever seen.” It’s incredibly well-written, the characters are hilarious, the performances are so nuanced and so deep it’s almost mind-boggling. A lot of the times you do scenes and you just sort of come up with these happy accidents and it just seems like almost everything in there could not have been a happy accident; surely it must have been thought out. I just think it is such an original, fun film and it is quite honestly one of the most quotable films of the last fifty years in my opinion. I think there are so many quotes in there that I realized how foolish I was that first time. I think maybe I was just so excited that I was drinking a beer in a movie theater; maybe that’s why.
Pulp Fiction was a very big deal for me. That was the first film I remember seeing where I felt compelled to have a conversation afterwards with anyone who saw it. Prior to that, I was still a young kid; I was still in high school, and I would see movies and I would be like, “Oh that was great,” and move on. But that was one that stuck with me for so long; the performances and the dialogue were just so memorable. I just wanted to talk to whoever had seen it. I just felt like it was something you needed to talk about. And obviously that was a film that really changed the direction of film history for a great many people, myself included.
I really, genuinely don’t like favorite lists because you always leave stuff out. So there are a lot of important films I could put in like The Godfather Part II, perhaps, or The Godfather Part I, but I’m going to go with The Empire Strikes Back for number three only because it’s Empire Strikes Back! I don’t think I need to say why. It’s so good. It takes what arguably could be just a simple science fiction movie and really takes it to this other place that is just so engaging and so believable and dramatic as well. Not overly dramatic, but dramatic. I love that film a great deal.
Number four would be Dazed and Confused. That was the movie that you saw and you wished it were your life. [laughs] That was a movie that I would watch all the time. I had it on VHS and whenever I was lonely, I’d throw it on. Whenever I wished I was out and about with friends from school, I would just throw that on and felt like I knew [the characters]. That was just one of those films that I just related to at that time. It was incredibly important and it’s another quotable film. I love it.
The last film I’m going to list is a documentary about Red Hot Chili Peppers recording Blood Sugar Sex Magik that was called Funky Monks. It’s about an hour long, it’s shot in black and white, and it’s about them recording Blood Sugar Sex Magik in this house in Beverly Hills. Blood Sugar Sex Magik was arguably the most important album of my young adult life. It sort of put me on my musical path. I guess now, looking back on it, it’s not at all ironic that Funky Monks was the first documentary that I ever watched. It sort of set me on a documentary path, where it wasn’t just narrative movies that interested me, but also real-life stories told in documentary form were now available to me. It greatly influenced me, not only in the Tower Records documentary, but also in all the documentary work that I’ve done. It is, I find, an incredibly engaging film about a subject that I am very passionate about, which is that particular record, and that particular time, not only for that band, but for music in general.
Marya E. Gates for Rotten Tomatoes: What is it about Tower Records that moved you to make a documentary on the company?
Colin Hanks: I spent a lot of time at Tower Records. I bought the Red Hot Chili Peppers doc there. I bought albums there. It was very instrumental for me growing up. I didn’t have a sweet tooth, so I spent all my money at the record shop, not at the candy store. So Tower was one of those places where you could really discover yourself and decide who you wanted to be. I was able to do that at Tower Records, and although I have a deep connection to the store, there was a lot about it’s history that I didn’t know and I saw an opportunity here in which here’s this incredibly beloved company, that everyone sort of thinks they know what the history is, and chances are they don’t. Chances are, there’s a lot about its history that people are not aware of, that is not only engaging storytelling, but also the characters that worked at Tower, the people that shopped at Tower, the people that spent 30, 40 years of their life working at this company, they’re all incredibly engaging, fun people to speak with. I hope that when people see the film, they not only learn a little bit about a company that they thought they knew a lot about, but hopefully they realize that Tower closing its doors wasn’t just a big company, some faceless corporation, but it was actually people that had spent 30, 40 years of their lives getting to know each other, getting married, having kids, getting divorced, going through all of the big moments of their lives and then all having to fire each other, and how difficult that was. Hopefully it puts a little personal perspective onto a company that a lot of people have a great affinity for.
All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records opens this weekend in limited release.
Life in Pieces airs on CBS at 8:30/7:30c on Mondays.