Actor and family given honour for ‘exceptional services’ after helping wildfire victims
Helena Smith in Athens – The Guardian
Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson, whose mother is Greek. The pair have holidayed in Greece for many years. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock
Of all the roles Tom Hanks has ever played, being himself and being Greek may be the easiest yet. Or at least that is how it would seem from the Hollywood star’s jubilant reaction to his becoming an honorary citizen of the country.
“Starting 2020 as an honorary citizen of all of Greece!” the actor, a convert to Greek Orthodoxy, said on social media. “Kronia pola! (more or less, ‘happy year!’). Hanx”
After learning on Monday he was among this year’s Oscar nominees for his portrayal of a children’s television personality in his latest film, A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood – his first Academy Award nomination in almost 20 years – there was more good news in the pages of the Greek government gazette.
Citing “exceptional services to Greece,” authorities in Athens announced they had decided to not only grant the 63-year-old Hanks Greek citizenship but extend the offer to his wife, the actor-singer Rita Wilson, and their two sons, Chester and Truman.
By way of explanation, the newspaper emphasised the help all four had given in assisting the victims of the devastating wildfire that struck the resort town of Mati outside Athens in July 2018.
The blaze left 103 dead and dozens horribly burnt. “The Hanks family gave a signal all over the world for immediate relief actions to help our fire-stricken fellow citizens,” said the order originally signed by the Greek president, but also actively pushed by the prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
Under Greek law honorary naturalisation can be bestowed on those “who have provided exceptional services to the country or whose naturalisation serves the public interest”.
The family has a year to formally accept the honour, according to the country’s interior ministry.
Hanks, by his own admission, is an ardent admirer of all things Hellenic. The star has been visiting the country for years, spending nearly every summer on the Aegean island of Antiparos, where he has a home. Wilson, whose mother is Greek, is believedto have played a crucial role in his decision to co-produce the romantic comedy My Big Fat Greek Wedding with her.
Waxing lyrical about Greece after receiving the 2020 Cecil B DeMille lifetime achievement award at the annual Golden Globes earlier this month, he said: “I’ve been Hellenic now for the better part of 32 years. Greece is a haven … the land, the sky, the water, it’s good for the soul. It’s a healing place, particularly if you get into that fabulous, fabulous Greek schedule of sleeping until noon, staying up until three o’clock in the morning and arguing in a taverna until 3am. It’s just the best life one can have.”
But the man widely regarded as Hollywood’s most likeable star did have a few reservations about his new status.
“Do I have to pay taxes? Or can I just pay cash and avoid all that stuff?” he quipped when the question of his new citizenship was put to him at a press conference following the awards ceremony. “I’m just kidding. It’s been a great honour.”