DAYTON, Ohio—Actor-filmmaker Tom Hanks brought the Dayton area’s rich aviation heritage into focus with his visit to Wright State University on April 19.
Besides dedicating the university’s new Tom Hanks Center for Motion Picture, the oscar-winning actor spoke at a fundraising gala for the film program and took part with students in a forum about cinema. But Hanks also met with author David McCullough and visited several Wright brothers-related sites in the National Aviation Heritage Area. His company, Playtone, has licensed the movie rights to McCullough’s best-selling book The Wright Brothers for an HBO miniseries.
Hanks’s Wright ties include serving as national co-chair of Wright State’s successful fundraising campaign with Amanda Wright Lane, great-grandniece of the Wright brothers and a trustee of the National Aviation Heritage Alliance (NAHA).
Hanks brought with him a Playtone production team, and a screen writer joined them in Dayton. NAHA worked with Wright State to give Hanks and the Playtone team a first-hand look at several of the historic sites and artifacts described in the book, much of which is set within the heritage area. Wilbur and Orville Wright lived in Dayton and built their first airplanes in their West Third Street Bicycle Shop.
NAHA also produced a 24-page view book about key Wright brothers assets and film resources in the Heritage. It shipped copies to Playtone in Santa Monica, Calif., for Hanks and the team to review on their flight to Dayton.
Hanks capped the visit with an appearance on CBS’s “The Late Show,” where Host Stephen Colbert asked him about the new film picture and showed a picture of the building with its distinctive blue sign. “I’ve never had my name on a building before. … It’s a great honor. To have your name on a building and know that people are going to go in there and learn the tenets of film making is an exciting thing,” he said.
While Hanks didn’t mention aviation heritage, the spot is an indication of the potential attention the miniseries could bring to the heritage area.
Lane, who spent a great deal of time with Hanks and McCullough during their visit, said Playtone is already at work on the project. “The great news is that it is ‘on,’ ” she said after the visit. “The writer joined us here from the Greenfield Village/Henry Ford Museum (in Michigan) where he had already been working on the Wrights’ story.”