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An ode to moviemaking

BOOKS | Tom Hanks’ novel radiates enthusiasm for his art form

An ode to moviemaking
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When it comes to Tom Hanks, it can be difficult to separate the man—the personality who loves typewriters, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Greatest Generation, and liberal Democratic causes—from the characters he portrays. Where does the actor end and the performance begin?

Perhaps more even than Forrest Gump or Woody from Toy Story or an island-bound castaway, Hanks is known today for being a delighted enthusiast who simply wants to share what he loves—and who spends his time and money accordingly. In the past it’s been documentaries about small typewriter repair shops and dramas about World War II heroes. Now it’s in the form of his first novel, an enthusiastic ode to the art form that allowed him to reveal himself in the first place.

The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece (Knopf 2023) chronicles the creation of a big-­budget, Marvel-style epic, featuring a female lead and directed by an aging but creatively astute director who wants to elevate the genre. Jumping from 1947 to COVID-era present day, Hanks delves into the childhood of the comic book writer whose work inspires the film, moves into the creative highs of preproduction, through the weary days of shooting, and (briefly) into the possibilities of postproduction.

Naturally, the story focuses on the major forces behind the project—the director and superstar actors—yet the most compelling characters are instead the regular people who make movies happen. The movie stars are interesting, sure, but the heartbeat of the book is found in the producers, assistants, and guild workers who do their jobs behind the scenes—who don’t receive the glory or fanfare of their on-screen counterparts, but who are nonetheless pursuing their dreams and goals.

It’s clear Hanks has great affection for the production assistants, camera operators, gaffers, grips, makeup artists, and all the other craftspeople who ­create the space for someone like him to become a star.

Hanks loves his art form, he cares about the process of making a film, and he wants his readers to understand the challenges and thrills of his industry. He has a gift for rendering the specificity of filmmaking—the monotonous day-to-day work that makes up most of a production—in intricate detail. But in the end, Hanks’ enthusiasms are worn a little too freely and the book begins to buckle in its lack of subtlety. It’s an ode to moviemaking stated so directly that the magic of the process begins to be diminished.

But one can pardon him for that. After all, being an enthusiast is part of the Hanks brand, and that doesn’t sound so bad in an age of cynicism. His novel may be most interesting to people who genuinely love cinema, but The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece is a worthy addition to Hanks’ recipe for joyful living.

David Kern

David Kern and his wife, Bethany, own Goldberry Books in Concord, N.C., an indie bookstore that focuses on selling new and used books that are True, Good, and Beautiful. He’s also the co-host of Close Reads and Withywindle, two bookish podcasts, the latter of which is for kids.


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