The Right Chemistry
These days, a lengthy Hollywood romance is counted in months, not years. And then there’s Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson. With a marriage more than two decades long and still going strong, they are thought of by many as the celebrity world’s perfect couple.
The pair appear to have been destined to meet. Both Tom and Rita were born in California in 1956—he in Concord and her in L.A. They shared early aspirations for acting, with Tom studying theater at California State University, Sacramento, while Rita earned a guest spot as a cheerleader on an episode of The Brady Bunch when she was only 16 years old.
However, neither had much success in the 1970s, and they were only beginning to establish themselves when they were paired in the 1985 movie Volunteers. It’s there that they fell in love—but it wasn’t actually the first time they met.
Their paths had actually crossed four years earlier on the set of the ABC sitcom Bosom Buddies, in which Tom starred as a cross-dressing advertising agent. Rita appeared on an episode about a video dating service, but alas … it was not Tom’s character that she ended up with, but rather that of his co-star Peter Scolari.
When their on-set affair began, Tom was actually married to his college sweetheart, the late Samantha Lewes. Tom wasn’t proud of this, but felt his chemistry with Rita was just too strong to ignore, telling GQ magazine, “Rita and I just looked at each other and — kaboing — that was that. I asked Rita if it was the real thing for her, and it just couldn’t be denied.” Tom and Samantha divorced in 1987, and a year later he married Rita.
Their love blossomed along with Tom’s career, which garnered him back-to-back Oscars for Philadelphia and Forest Gump. In an interview with Oprah, Tom said, “I view my wife as my lover, and we have a bond that goes beyond words like wife or girlfriend or mother. For example, I was able to construct a number of things in Philadelphia  because of my relationship with Rita. The way my character felt about his lover is the way I feel about mine. The same was true when I played Forrest Gump, who loved Jenny. Without my connection with Rita, I don’t know how I would’ve been able to connect with what Forrest was going through.”
Rita’s career may not have shined as brightly as her husband’s, but she has worked steadily, including a recurring role on TV’s The Good Wife. Her biggest success came as a co-producer (alongside husband Tom, naturally) of the wildly popular indie film My Big Fat Greek Wedding. She has also found a second career as a singer, releasing an album of classic love songs, AM/FM.
Tom and Rita have two sons, Chester and Truman, as well as Tom’s two children from his first marriage, Elizabeth and actor Colin (who guest starred on Showtime’s Dexter last season).
The couple continue to occasionally share screen billing, appearing alongside each other in the hit film Sleepless in Seattle, and most recently in the romantic comedy Larry Crowne.
Is love still in bloom for the couple? It sure looks like it. In a recent interview with Piers Morgan, Rita said, “Ill never forget, we were standing on the corner of 57th and 5th in New York, or 58th and 5th. We were holding hands, and we were waiting for the traffic light to change. And he looked at me and he said, ‘You know, I just want you to know, that you never have to change anything about who you are in order to be with me.’ Literally, a wave of — if love is a feeling, or a cellular thing that happens to your body, it went through me, and that’s pretty much who he is, and how he’s been.”