Hanks indulged his accuracy-hungry mind when he evolved into a producer. Apollo 13 inspired him to tell every astronaut story in HBO's criminally under-discussed From the Earth to the Moon. He documented World War II in intense detail in both Band of Brothers and The Pacific -- and he says a third exploration, Masters of the Air, focused on the 8th American air squadron and is currently gestating at the cable network. After producing a pair of documentaries on the 1970s and '80s, Hanks returned to fictionalization for History Channel's upcoming Lewis and Clark. He can't get enough of the past -- but it's not out of nostalgia. When it comes to telling contemporary stories, Hanks says "documentaries kick fiction's ass." He makes movies and series based on historical events because "you recognize yourself in them."
Surprisingly, the shining moment of Hanks' career, a scene where logic, character, and the blind risk of moviemaking crystalized into perfection, is not based on true events. Close, but still fiction. And he's not even acting in it. It's the scene in That Thing You Do!, Hanks' directorial debut, where The Wonders bandmates hear their single on the radio for the first time. "That transcended," he told Oliver. He knew it worked when none other than Bruce Springsteen expressed his adoration for the scene. The same thing happened to The Boss. Hanks got it right. "That Thing You Do... was really personal, just filled with joy," Hanks said.