Timing is everything in Hollywood. and frankly, who would have guessed six years ago, when Hanks and screenwriter William Broyles (”Apollo 13”) were first inspired to tell the story of a man who embarks on a spiritual and psychological journey after he’s stranded on a desert island, that their original idea would seem so prescient? But try as they might to distance themselves from CBS’ megasuccessful ”Survivor,” Hanks and company may have actually lucked out — stumbling upon the best promotional tie-in money couldn’t buy.
Teaming up once again with ”Forrest Gump” director Zemeckis, Hanks stars as Chuck Noland, a workaholic FedEx troubleshooter whose charter flight crashes into the South Pacific. Presumed dead by his girlfriend (Hunt) and coworkers, Noland becomes a modern day Robinson Crusoe as he struggles to stave off hunger, insanity, and death. ”The whole ‘Gilligan’s Island – Blue Lagoon’ concept gets thrown out the window,” Hanks says, laughing. ”There’s no kooky monkey that he talks to.”
To make the movie as realistic as possible, Hanks and Zemeckis remarkably got both DreamWorks and Twentieth Century Fox to okay a yearlong shutdown in the middle of the Fiji based production so the actor could drop more than 50 pounds and metamorphose into a bearded and bony shell of his former self. During the hiatus Zemeckis busied himself by rolling his crew over to another movie — the ghostly thriller ”What Lies Beneath.” Of this unorthodox project overlap, the director deadpans, ”I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.”
Still, despite his waist watching, Hanks’ greatest challenge is carrying the bulk of a feature length movie all alone. Sure, he may be one of the world’s biggest movie stars, but the ”one man without a net” nature of the film isn’t lost on him. ”It’s a huge risk,” he says. ”You know, it’s all a Hail Mary pass. But why do it if you’re not going to take a risk?” GOOD SIGN Hanks’ track record gives him a virtual immunity idol at the box office tribal council. THEN AGAIN What have they got against kooky monkeys?