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Tom Hanks opens up about having imposter syndrome around Paul Newman

The “Elvis” star also shared which tip from Newman he still uses today.
/ Source: TODAY

Even Oscar-winning actors like Tom Hanks feel intimidated from time to time.

The prolific actor was a guest on the Sept. 5 episode of the “Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard” podcast and opened up about overcoming imposter syndrome while working with Hollywood icon Paul Newman on the 2002 crime drama “Road to Perdition.”

During the lengthy conversation, host Dax Shepard asked if Hanks had been watching the six-part HBO Max documentary about Newman and fellow legendary actor Joanne Woodward, whom he shared a 50-year marriage with, called "The Last Movie Stars.”

When Hanks shared that he has not seen the documentary yet, Shepard seemed slightly disappointed. But, Hanks quickly lifted his spirits when he recalled co-starring with Newman in “Road to Perdition.” 

Paul Newman, Tom Hanks
Tom Hanks acting alongside Paul Newman in a scene from the 2002 film 'Road To Perdition.'20th Century Fox / Getty Images

“I made one movie with Mr. Paul Newman,” Hanks began. “It took a bit for me to make peace with that fact — I’m in a movie with Paul Newman.”

Shepard wondered if Hanks experienced imposter syndrome while filming scenes with Newman. 

Hanks replied, “Oh, absolutely.” He then described Newman as “very quiet” and recalled the first day on the set of “Road to Perdition” when they shot a scene with 60 extras in Chicago.

“He just comes in and he’s the lowest maintenance guy you’ve ever come across and easy to talk to,” Hanks said. “There wasn’t a soul on the soundstage that wasn’t thinking, ‘This is the first take of the movie that I am in with Paul Newman. I am going to remember this moment for the rest of my life.’”

The “Pinocchio” star continued, “He did (the scene) and there was a moment of silence. Then, he looked at us all and he said, ‘The first day you feel kind of self conscious, don’t ya?’ And everybody was released from any sort of bondage of honor that we were feeling. That was the guy."

Paul Newman, Tom Hanks
Paul Newman and Tom Hanks attend the premiere of "Road to Perdition" at the former Ziegfeld Theater in New York City.New York Daily News Archive / NY Daily News via Getty Images

Hanks also remembered experiencing a few “pinch me” moments on set whenever he saw Newman and award-winning cinematographer Conrad L. Hall — who worked on “Road to Perdition” as well — interact. 

The “Elvis” star called Newman and Hall “giants who left footprints in lava that will remain for the rest of time.”

He said, “I felt like David Copperfield in a magic shop to be here doing this and being trusted just to follow my instincts and try to keep up or just try to remember my lines in the same scene with Paul Newman. (It) was just pinch-ya.”

As he continued to reminisce about his conversations with Newman, Hanks explained that the “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” actor told stories about the golden age of Hollywood. 

“Movies wrapped at 5 o’clock,” Hanks said. “Everybody had a cocktail in their hand at 4:30. That’s just the way it was. And there was not a shot that could be gotten before 9 a.m. because the lights and the makeup (were) so heavy.”

After work, Newman and Woodward would go out to have dinner with their children and friends. They would return home at 11 p.m., ready to go to sleep and repeat the day. 

Shepard chimed in and said that Newman once mentioned he would dip his face in ice water every morning to help him recover from the long nights. 

“It’s funny you should say,” Hanks responded. He ended their memorializing by revealing the most important technique he inherited from Newman.

“You know what I learned from Paul Newman and use it to this day? First thing in the makeup trailer — your face in a bucket of ice water,” Hanks said. 

With almost 100 acting credits under his belt, clearly the tip must be working.