"Rita glowed with niceness," said their co-star Xander Berkeley. "You could tell they were fond of each other."
Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have been married to each other for so long that it's often forgotten the actor was married to someone else before. The actor was first married to his college sweetheart, Samanta Lewes in 1978, back when he was barely in his early 20s and still an aspiring actor, far from being the lauded man he is today.
Having experienced loneliness throughout his childhood, Hanks later admitted that he married Lewes as a way to feel less alone. "I had kids very young. My son Colin was born when I was 21 and my daughter Elizabeth was born four and a half years later," he told BBC host Kirsty Young, as reported by HuffPost. "By then I thought I was rolling along with the natural order of things."
The early stages of their marriage were difficult as Hanks and Lewes would often get through the day with piecemeals. However, becoming a father in his early 20s is something that The Green Mile actor called "greatest thing that ever happened" in his life.
Coming from a broken home, Hanks "was incredibly lonely, constantly going to different schools and struggling to make friends. It was a dark childhood," a friend told RadarOnline.com. In five years, Hanks was uprooted 10 times as they family constantly moved when he was a child. The loneliness he felt during those years could have been what led to him marrying so early. "Tom says looking back, he got married for all the wrong reasons," a friend said. "He was trying to kill the feelings of loneliness that had haunted him his whole life."
His mother had re-married four times and his father re-married thrice throughout their lives. And this put Hanks in a lot of uncertainty as he grew up in different homes and with different step siblings, pushing him to yearn for some stability and a family of his own as an adult. "I was looking for something I had not found as a kid," Tom Hanks said, according to Express. "And a broken marriage meant I was sentencing my own kids to the sort of feelings I had at their age. I was just too young and insecure for marriage. I was 23 and my son Colin was already two when I married for the first time. I was not really ready to take on those responsibilities."
While Hanks was unhappily married to Lewes, he met Wilson on the set of Volunteers in 1984. The actor felt instantly charmed by her warm and welcoming personality. "Rita glowed with niceness," said their co-star Xander Berkeley, according to People. "You could tell they were fond of each other."
Wilson was already engaged when she met Hanks but admitted that what she had felt in that relationship was not love. She told Vanity Fair, "I didn’t know what being in love was until I met Tom," as quoted by People.
In 1987, Hanks and Lewes divorced and his relationship with Wilson quickly progressed. By the next year, Hanks and Wilson were married in April, 1988.
"It was a complete and utter kind of acceptance of me on her part," Hanks has said. "It was a love that was unconditional." Wilson was also made to feel complete acceptance from her partner. A few years into their marriage in 1994, she told Good Morning America, according to People about a conversation she had with her husband earlier. "He told me, 'You know, you never have to change anything about who you are or what you do to be with me,'" Wilson said.
Lewes, whom Hanks had two children, Colin and Elizabeth with, lost her life in 2002 to cancer, while Hanks and Wilson continue to have a happy marriage. The couple are also parents to Chet and Truman. After a lonely childhood and after growing up craving for some stability, the award-winning actor finally felt like he discovered the true meaning of love with Wilson beside him.
Wilson "taught me what love is," Hanks said while accepting an award at the 2020 Golden Globes with tears welling up, according to Good Morning America. He added that his kids had grown up to be "braver and stronger and wiser than their old man" and also said to his wife, "I can't tell you how much your love means to me."