It’s an indisputable fact that Tom Hanks, a man who played a key role in the creation of Washington’s World War II Memorial, is a national treasure. (Yes, I said indisputable despite his work in both “The ’Burbs” and “The Money Pit.” We’re a forgiving country, okay?)
Now a group in Oakland, Calif., is attempting to solidify that national-treasure status by erecting a statue of Mr. Hanks ... as his character in the film “Castaway” ... in front of an Oakland high school ... and making the statue out of papier-mâché.
Okay, clearly this is a cheeky plan at best. But it’s still pretty delightful and — if we pool together our resources to spend $10,000 on wire, newspapers and glue — something that could actually happen.
As first noted by The A.V. Club, a trio of artists known as the Wonderment Consortium has created a Kickstarter campaign that seeks to raise $10,000 by July 21. The goal: build a nine-foot statue of Hanks as a sunburnt Chuck Noland in “Castaway” in front of Oakland Technical High School, which will serve as an inspirational beacon to its young students. The Consortium also proposes that for every additional $10K amassed, statues of Hanks as other memorable characters — such as Forrest Gump and Capt. John Miller in “Saving Private Ryan” — will be placed at other schools, including Hanks’s alma mater, Skyline High. So far, $1,358 has been pledged toward the effort.
Per the video pitch by the members of the Consortium (see below), there are numerous obvious signs that this is an attention-getting online gag.
Among those signs:
1. The fact that, as noted above, the prototype statue is made out of papier-mâché.
2. Upon listing Hanks’s film credits, one of the guys in the Consortium winkingly mentions “Trading Places,” a film in which Mr. Hanks did not appear.
3. The highest possible achievement of this Kickstarter project is to hit the $40,000 mark, which would result in the creation of a statue of Hanks as Joe Fox in “You’ve Got Mail.” Which is just ridiculous. Now, a statue of Lawrence Whatley Bourne III in “Volunteers”? That would make sense.
I reached out to Steuart Pittman of the Wonderment Consortium to ask some key questions such as, “There’s no way this is real, right?” and “If you raise $11,500, is that enough money to make a papier-mâché Wilson?” But I have not yet heard back. Hanks’s publicist also has not weighed in on this important matter.
I did, however, receive an e-mail response from Troy Flint, a spokesman for the Oakland Unified School District, who seems tickled by the whole endeavor.
“I’m not sure if it’s a sincere project, or just a clever gag, but I like the spirit of it,” he wrote. “We haven’t spoken to the organizers because we’re consumed with some more pressing issues at the moment, but when there’s a pause in the action, we’ll make contact. If nothing else, it should be a fun conversation.”
So something genuine and positive could come out of this. That’s why the Internet is great, everyone. Well, that and also because it allows me to verify the name of the character Hanks played in “Volunteers.”
Update, 4:45 p.m.:Pittman has now responded via e-mail and sounds sincere about this effort. He wrote: “We all live in Oakland near public schools, and we’re aware that there are serious challenges facing these institutions. In tough economic times, the first departments cut from schools are often the arts and music programs. And without arts and music programs in Oakland Public Schools, there would be no Tom Hanks.”
He added:“We are 110% behind this project and absolutely committed to seeing it through. If our target funding is reached, we will definitely place this tremendous sculpture in front of Oakland Technical High School in Oakland.”
He even addressed my concern about the Wilson factor..
“The ‘Castaway’ characters Chuck Noland and Wilson the Volleyball are a package deal,” he said. “Absolutely inseparable. In contrast to the heart-wrenching separation and loss depicted in the film, our sculpture will unite this pair for eternity.”
Come on, that’s touching. Almost as touching as this:
And in case you’re thinking that papier-mâché doesn’t last for eternity, please know that Packard Jennings, another Consortium member, also assured me that the statue will be constructed wth “durable layers of papier-mâché.”