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The other side of Tom Hanks.

For almost a decade, Tom Hanks has been portrayed as Hollywood's ultimate Mr Nice Guy.

From the lovable simpleton in Forrest Gump to the courageous gay lawyer in Philadelphia, his portrayal of the good and the great has won him the respect of millions of movie-goers.

Today he'll cement that cutesy image even further with the release of You've Got Mail, his long- awaited second touchy-feely romantic comedy with Meg Ryan.

But while he's serving up another double dose of the feel-good factor on the big screen, his life off camera hasn't been quite so sugary sweet. He

and second wife Rita Wilson might be ready to gush about their "unconditional love" at any available opportunity, but the first Mrs Tom Hanks tells a very different story.

The actor's split from his college sweetheart Samantha Lewes was a dirty affair involving a bitter court battle.

The 1987 break-up isn't something Hanks likes to talk about in his movie promotion interviews, not a part of his life which sits well with his image as America's successor to good- guy actor James Stewart.

But the facts don't lie - and Hanks did not come out of the marriage covered in glory.

There was no suggestion that the star, now 42, had physically attacked his wife in any way, but tensions ran so high between the couple that a judge ordered him not to hurt her - or risk six months in prison.

In contrast to Hanks' nice-guy 90s image, Samantha told Los Angeles Superior Court: "My husband has repeatedly verbally abused and humiliated me during the past 90 days in my home. This has caused me great emotional stress."

Hanks was told that, where Samantha was concerned, he should not "molest, attack, strike, threaten, sexually assault, batter or otherwise disturb the peace". A separate order was issued placing the same restraints upon her.

Money was another bone of contention. Samantha told the court that her husband had threatened to cut her off from his movie millions if she refused to give in to his demands.

She said in testimony: "My husband has stated to me during the past 60 days that if I did not agree to certain things I would receive no community property or support."

Samantha also claimed he had pounds 500,000 in cash and securities from their jointly- owned company Radioland Pictures Inc. She said: "The company comprises a substantial portion of our community estate.

"If my husband is not restrained regarding the disposition of the assets, and if I am not given possession of one half, it is my belief my interest will be lost."

The bitter court fight went on for months until Hanks was ordered to pay more than pounds 9000 per month in alimony and more than pounds 500 per month in child support for children Colin, now 22, and Elizabeth, now 18.

Today the couple are back on talking terms. Time, it seems, has healed some of the old wounds.

Both partners have flourished since they went their separate ways. Samantha now lives in a pounds 200,000 house in Sacramento, California, and Tom owns an pounds 18 million mansion on the Pacific Pallisades in California.

His movies have grossed over a billion dollars world wide and with two Best Actor Academy Awards under his belt for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump, Hanks can command upwards of pounds 17million a film.

That figure could climb to even dizzier heights if the critics are proved right and he carries off a third Oscar for his role in Steven Spielberg's 1998 World War 2 epic, Saving Private Ryan.

His current role in You've Got Mail, however, sees him playing the kind of part that perhaps his fans like best - back in Sleepless In Seattle mode with Meg Ryan.

This time, in a remake of the old James Stewart and Margaret Sullaven movie, The Shop Around The Corner, the pair play two bookshop owners who don't get on face to face, but fall in love in cyberspace.

Today, Hanks insists the fairy-tale life he often leads on screen isn't too far removed from his real life with Rita, whom he married 10 years ago.

But he does admit that life with is first wife was far from perfect.

He said: "I had some personal problems. We're not talking a nuclear holocaust. I just went a little crazy. My work had taken me away from home a lot.

"I think my marriage just broke up after five years for the same reason that any other marriage breaks up. Lack of communication, along with the basic nature of the relationship. Fatherhood certainly passed me by in a blur."

Samantha blames the failure of her relationship with Hanks on his upbringing.

Born in Concord, California, in 1956 - one of Janet and Amos Hanks' four children - the actor lived what can best be described as a nomadic childhood.

When he was just five years old, his parents divorced and his father, a hotel cook, took Tom and his two older siblings with him to wherever he found work.

As a result, the young Tom had little stability. Hanks recalled: "I felt lonely and in the dark."

Annie Felton, a friend of Hanks' first wife, said: "Samantha always said she felt she married Tom and a roomful of left- luggage from his upbringing. She told me after they broke up she thought Tom had never worked out his `demons' from his childhood.

"She said Tom was always acutely aware of missing out on his childhood and didn't want his kids to suffer like he had - but he wanted to redeem himself with work and that meant being an absent father a lot. She said he told her: `I remember as a kid no one telling me the why, just the what - pack your bags, get your stuff, put it in the back of the station wagon'."

Moving schools every few months, Hanks resorted to becoming the class clown in a bid to make friends. Those close to the star today say that his insecurities only took a back seat when he met current wife Rita.

They met on the set of one of his early box office flops, Volunteers. She was engaged and he was still married, so both made a pact to be firm friends.

When his divorce came through all bets were off, they became lovers and he proposed to her on New Year's Eve 1987, marrying the following year.

Actress Sally Field, a friend of the couple, said: "It didn't work out with Samantha, but it has worked out fantastically with Rita. He has what he always wanted in life.

"They are both people who appreciate hard work and excellence. She is his best friend and soul-mate as he is to her.

"She's a mimic, really clever. More times than not, Tom's is the loudest laughter in their house." Hanks even dedicated his Forrest Gump Oscar acceptance speech to Rita.

In a moment that made half of Hollywood shed a tear and the other half cringe with embarrassment, he accepted the precious gold statue and declared: "I am standing here because the woman I share my life with has taught me and demonstrates to me every dayjust what love is."

In contrast to the early days when Hanks claims that fatherhood "passed him by", he now thinks that his greatest challenge in life is being a dad to Chester, eight and Truman, two.

He said: "I do what I can to guide and protect my children. I want nothing more than to be fair to them. Just being part of a big family - hanging out with them, watching TV, assigning them chores.

"I'm a relaxed guy when I am with them - it's the best. Work, family life. That's just it."
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 26, 1999
Previous Article:Bitter sweet tale of survival; LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL (PG).
Next Article:You have to put pearls before line.

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