Colin HanksLeading

What – Colin Hanks

What’s in a name? Colin Hanks of ‘Orange County’ is finding out

By Betsy Pickle, Scripps Howard News Service

Colin Hanks’ first big break was out of this world, but acting has never felt alien to him. “I’ve been doing this for a while,” says the 24-year-old, who left his supporting role in the teen-alien sci-fi series “Roswell” to try his luck as a big-screen leading man in “Orange County,” in theaters today.
Still, the offspring of Tom Hanks wouldn’t mind if questions about his famous father were banished to the far reaches of the galaxy.

“It can be frustrating because at times that’s the only thing that I’m really asked about,” he says. “At least it’s better than … when it was, ‘Wow, so your dad’s on “Bosom Buddies.” ‘ It’s improved over the years.”

Hanks wasn’t the only child of a famous parent to work on “Orange County.” His girlfriend is played by Schuyler Fisk, daughter of actress Sissy Spacek, and the film was directed by Jake Kasdan, son of director Lawrence Kasdan (“Body Heat,” “The Big Chill”).

Being part of a show-business-family tradition “wasn’t the requirement,” Hanks said during an interview at a Manhattan hotel. “We were just working. It never really was an issue. Maybe there’s, like, a safety-in-numbers kind of thing going on.”

Having a name that’s already known in the acting world isn’t an advantage in getting parts, he says. “At getting auditions, yeah,” he admits. “I’m willing to say that that’s a fact because the business, as … backward as it is, is really interested in that sort of stuff. So the first thing is, ‘Oh, well, let’s see what they can do. Let’s get ’em in there.’ And that helps. But if you can’t do anything, they’re not gonna cast you. … I’ve always felt comfortable with everything I’ve done knowing they cast me because they liked what I did in the audition, and they think I’m right for the character.”

In “Orange County,” Hanks plays a Southern California high-schooler who has given up his laid-back surfing ways and hopes to study writing at Stanford University. After his guidance counselor (Lily Tomlin) botches his application, he has to overcome several other obstacles — including his brother (Jack Black), his mother (Catherine O’Hara) and his father (John Lithgow) — in order to be accepted into his dream school.

“On the surface it might seem like every other teen movie that has been out not only in the ’90s and within the past few years but maybe in the ’80s as well,” Hanks says. “But what I liked about it was that it wasn’t about getting the girl. It wasn’t about trying to be the most popular kid or getting invited to the party or … losing your virginity, which is not to say those kinds of movies are bad. But what I liked about this was that it was heartfelt, and it was sincere. Yes, it’s funny, and yes, it’s goofy. But … it’s a movie that (is) about the characters and what the characters do and the situations that they create and the repercussions of that.

“In the end, it’s about a journey that this kid makes … where he starts being able to gain perspective on stuff and starts evaluating his life in a different way — sort of making those first steps to growing up, which is realizing how important your family is and where you’re from and how that has affected who you are. And that was what was nice.”

Hanks played human teen-ager Alex Whitman on the first two seasons of “Roswell” and, when he was offered the lead in “Orange County,” he knew it would be hard to come up with a schedule that would allow him to work on both. He and Kasdan went to “Roswell” creator and executive producer Jason Katims to see what could be done.

“I said, ‘Look, man, if this means that I’ve gotta work seven days a week on both things, so be it. I’ll do it,’ ” says Hanks. “(I) never said, ‘Can you please write me off the show?’ He said, ‘Let me think about it. Give me two weeks, and I’ll get back to you.’

“Two weeks later, I got a call from Carol Trussell, who’s also one of the producers on the show. She said, ‘I’m going to give you a head’s-up here of what we’re thinking about doing. We think we’re going to kill you.’ Which is sort of funny to hear. Especially (since) it was around the holiday season.

“I was shocked. … But I got to have a cool sequence there. That was all fun being able to do. It was sort of sad because it was like, ‘OK, wow, moving on now.’ That was kind of my life for two years …

“Jason Katims, he was the first person to cast me in anything. I owe a lot of my career to him, not only because he gave me the opportunity to be on his show, but he also gave me the opportunity to be in this movie.”

Hanks hasn’t been watching his old show this season.

“You wanna know what? I got a satellite TV and I don’t get UPN,” he says. “I never had The WB either. I was on a TV show, and I didn’t even get the channel.”

There were rumors that Hanks was going to be involved in an even bigger science-fiction project — playing Anakin Skywalker in “Star Wars: Episode II, Attack of the Clones” — but they were greatly exaggerated, he says.

“There really wasn’t any truth to it,” he says. “I met with the casting director, like every other actor my age, within the span of eight years, across the world. The audition wasn’t an audition; it was a general meeting in which we talked about everything but ‘Star Wars.’ That was it. I never went to the ranch (Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch). … The coolest thing about it was, I was able to put the clipping up on my fridge.

“I’m a huge fan. I camped out for ‘Phantom Menace.’ That’s how much of a fan I am. I was out there for 28 hours in Westwood.”

And he “loved” the movie.

“I thought it was great,” says Hanks. “Look, it’s a movie, people. It’s supposed to be fun. … I don’t know why everyone hated Jar Jar so much. I take it seriously — I loved it.

“And believe me, I’m definitely gonna be camping out for the next one.”

January 11, 2002