When you become a bestselling author, movie stars become your friends. Just like in the Harry Potter books, you’ll find yourself rubbing shoulders with Hollywood A-listers.
One of the most recognizable faces in Hollywood is Tom Hanks. In case you weren’t aware, Hanks has starred in some of the most beloved films of all time, including Cast Away, Saving Private Ryan, and Forrest Gump. He’ll soon be seen in Matched, the story of a lonely boy who finds love at the end of a telescope.
Since Hanks’ prolific career spans decades, it’s easy to see how he’s accumulated friendships with some of the most talented people in the entertainment industry. One such person is J.K. Rowling. Maybe you’ve heard of her? She’s the author of the Harry Potter books, which have sold over 400 million copies worldwide. And in 2021 alone, she sold over 150 million books worldwide.
Rowling and Hanks have something in common; both have been sued numerous times over the years. While Rowling and her publishers have largely remained unscathed in these lawsuits, Hanks’ reputation has taken more significant damage. Let’s take a closer look.
Saving Private Ryan
The first lawsuit that you’ll probably remember involving Rowling was back in 2015, when her Harry Potter film was still on tour in theaters across the country. Several military veterans filed a lawsuit against the filmmaker, claiming that Saving Private Ryan and Cast Away were based on incidents that actually happened to them in real life. They were seeking “actual and compensatory damages for violations of the United States Code, specifically, Title 10, United States Code, Section 1082, which prohibits ‘derogatory comments’ with respect to the ‘personnel records’ of members of the armed forces,” as well as attorney’s fees.
Rowling was sued again for alleged defamation in 2018, after she named Tom Hanks in a Twitter feud over the years. If you’re not familiar, Hanks frequently names celebrities and officials in his tweets, and often times, these people are the target of his ire. In this case, Hanks was taking issue with the presence of Confederate flags in a movie where he plays a U.S. vet. One of Rowling’s lawyers informed CNBC about the suit:
“The lawsuit alleges that ‘Tom Hanks’, ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Saving Private Ryan’ are all fictional characters and that Ms. Rowling named Mr. Hanks as one of the defendants in order to harm his reputation,” the lawyer said. “Mr. Hanks has not been served with the complaint yet.”
While all of these lawsuits were filed over several years ago, they haven’t stopped since. In fact, just last month, Rowling was named as a defendant in a class action lawsuit filed in a California federal court. The plaintiffs claim that the author is “jointly and severally liable for intentionally inflicting emotional distress and causing Plaintiff and the class they represent to suffer economic damages.” If you’d like to learn more, you can contact the firm Kaplan Hecker LLC on 04/24/2020.
If you grew up during the 2000s, you might remember the catchy song that Matched by The Weeknd went viral. The song inspired the film, which follows a lonely boy who finds love at the end of a telescope.
In the movie, Justin Brock (played by Jimmy Buffett’s grandson, Nate Salisbury) finds an old telescope at a garage sale and brings it home. Once he gets it set up, he sees his ex-girlfriend, Maggie (played by Anna Kendrick) and decides to try and reconnect with her. But Justin is a little bit clumsy and crashes into Maggie’s new boyfriend, Hunter (played by Kevin Spacey), killing him instantly. When Justin brings the body of Hunter back to his house, the police arrest him and accuse him of murder.
The police search Justin’s house and find the gun he used to kill Hunter. When they examine it, they discover that it’s not loaded, so they let him go. That’s when Justin decides to try and prove his innocence by finding the real killer. And who do you think he eventually tracks down?
You may recognize Jackie Robinson, the first black player to grace a Major League Baseball field. In the midst of the 2018 season, a lawsuit was filed against the Baseball Hall of Fame, claiming that it had “discriminated against African-Americans and other minorities by continuing to deny them entry into the baseball shrine of American culture, the Baseball Hall of Fame.” Robinson, who would have been inducted this year, had been turned down time and time again because of his race. The Hall of Fame finally admitted its mistake and will now allow Robinson into the shrine, which is at the very least, an acknowledgment of the racism that the 86-year-old has faced his entire life.
You may also recall that in 2019, Rowling’s lawyer stated that her client was “not responsible” for the racist abuse that was hurled at one of her celebrity friends, Michelle Wolf. Several years ago, Wolf had taken to Twitter to savagely mock Anita Hill, who had accused then-Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. In one of the most memorable incidents, Wolf joked about Hill’s time on the witness stand, asking “Did you see her blink? Did you hear that faint whistling sound as she answered questions? It was the audible sigh of relief from her lawyers.”
After Wolf’s comments gained national attention, several people filed lawsuits, claiming that her remarks about Anita Hill were libelous and that she had caused them “psychic damage.” Two of these cases were eventually settled, with Wolf issuing an apology. However, the case against Rowling—which was filed in 2019—is still pending. Like Robinson, Wolf has been rebuffed time and time again by the baseball Hall of Fame, which still refuses to admit its mistake and allow her to be honored for her career.
We’ve already discussed Hanks’ friendship with Rowling, but he’s not the only celeb that he’s worked with who’s found himself on the wrong side of the law. In 1994, Hanks starred in Forrest Gump, which was based on the novel of the same name by Winston Groom. In the book, Forrest grows up to be a slow and simple-minded man, who turns out to be surprisingly capable. As a child, Forrest is labeled “slow” and “stupid” (among other things) because he cannot speak until he is four years old. As an adult, Forrest becomes a happy, if a little bit slow, grandfather.
One of the things that has made Forrest Gump so popular is its charmingly naïve view of the world. In the film, Forrest repeatedly asks people how old they are, not realizing that they cannot answer him truthfully (since lying about your age is legal in America). For the most part, people play along with Forrest’s naïveté, but one of his peers repeatedly deceives him about his age. As a result, Forrest gets in trouble with the law and is sentenced to two years in prison. Although he was born in 1922, Forrest claims that he “only feels like it’s been a couple of days” since he went to prison because of all the time that has passed.
While the prison scenes in Forrest Gump are quite funny, the movie isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Forrest’s grandson, Dale Arnold, has stated that while serving in Vietnam, his unit “was not amused” by a lot of the grandfather’s antics. One of his fellow soldiers even went so far as to call him an idiot, with another describing him as “a damn fool.” In response to these insults, Forrest took out his gun and threatened to “blow their fucking heads off.” Fortunately, none of this behavior is attributed to Forrest in the movie (other than his initial questioning of the soldiers’ ages). Despite the threats, the soldiers’ disrespect for the older man never materialized into something more serious. (And let’s agree that four-year-old Forrest would have had a tough time pulling the trigger of a real gun anyway.)