The following is from Tom Hanks' The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece. He has won Academy Awards for best actor for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump. He has starred in, among many other films, Big, Sleepless in Seattle, Apollo 13, Saving Private Ryan, Cast Away, Catch Me If You Can, Bridge of Spies, Toy Story, andThe Post. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Vanity Fair, and The New Yorker. He is also the author of the collection of stories, Uncommon Type.
Bill Johnson first laid eyes on Dr. Patrice Johnson (no relation) on a morning flight from ABQ to LAX—he had meetings at Optional Enterprises, she was to sit in on a symposium at UCLA. They did not know each other, but no way the two did not clock each other.
The flight was only half full. Bill was a lanky fellow, with a carriage of confidence and a western-style wardrobe better than that of a forklift driver, closer to that of an actual ranch hand; his pants were weathered western-wear jeans, his boots weren’t too fancy, and he wore a belt without any turquoise in the buckle. And he was on the tall side. Patrice resembled the iconic French movie star Catherine Deneuve in modest braided hair, but who was stretched a bit taller and spent a lot of time in the New Mexican sun. She never dated men who were not lanky, taller than her. Bill liked women with braided hair and sun-kissed necks.
At LAX both were catching Ubers at the curb, but nothing was said between them, and both were driven off into the City of Angels (or Angles, as Bill called the place) for their appointments. Two days later, on the evening flight back to ABQ, Bill was in his seat when a flummoxed Patrice barely made the closing of the plane’s hatch, dragging her wheeled carry-on and looking for her place, which happened to be on the aisle, one middle seat distant from Bill at the window. Patrice was still wearing an ID tag, magnetically attached to her lapel, which read DR. PATRICk joHnson—nmImT and was having a slight hassle getting her bag into the overhead bin.
“I’d offer to help you, Doctor,” Bill said. “But I’m not sure of the protocol.”
“I’m good,” Patrice said, plopping down on the aisle. She adjusted herself in her seat, kicked off her shoes, and buckled up.
“Hey. I saw you on the plane two days ago.”
“I saw you, too,” Bill said. He pointed to her ID tag. “I have a brother named Patrick Johnson, but he’s not a doctor.”
“Yeah,” Patrice said. “Someone didn’t proofread the name tags.”
“Bill Johnson.” He offered his hand and she shook it.
“Patrice,” she said, unmagnetizing her ID badge to slip it into her pocket.
“Are you in medicine?” he asked.
“So . . . if the pilot asks, Is there a doctor on board?”
“Let’s hope there is one,” Patrice said.
“What the heck is Nim-imt on that badge, Patrick-I-mean-Patrice?”
“New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. Where I teach.”
“The mining, the technology, or both?”
“I teach everything important to know. And I research. You aren’t the director Bill Johnson, by any chance, are you?”
This was the sound inside Bill Johnson’s head. “Why in the world would you say that?”
“Your name happens to be the same as the movie director. You’re flying to and from Hollywood. I heard somewhere that Bill Johnson the director lives in Santa Fe. I took a shot. If you’re not that Bill Johnson, that’s okay.”
“You’re the first person to ask me that question on an airplane,”
Bill said. “I don’t live in Santa Fe—that town is too slow for me. I prefer Albuquerque. And yes, I am that Bill Johnson.”
“Really?” Had he been a presence inside Patrice’s head, Bill would have heard a sound much like his own gonngg!! “I’ve seen some of your films.”
“I certainly hope so.”
“I rent them from the Redbox outside Walmart. I binged those Eden movies of yours when I had strep throat.”
“Rented. From a Redbox. For what, a dollar a night?”
“Three dollars. The trilogy. You must have had fun making those movies.”
“Fun? Making those movies almost killed me.”
Audio excerpted courtesy Penguin Random House Audio from THE MAKING OF ANOTHER MAJOR MOTION PICTURE MASTERPIECE by Tom Hanks, excerpt read by Tom Hanks.