In 1974, five years after directing Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, George Roy Hill was awarded a Best Director Oscar for his work on The Sting, a heist film that starred Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Later that year, Hill received the following letter, written by a 17-year-old aspiring actor whose name may sound familiar.
(Source: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – with thanks to Tom Hanks.)
Dear Mr Hill,
Seeing that I have seen your fantastically entertaining and award-winning film The Sting, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, and enjoyed it very much, it is all together fitting and proper that you should ‘discover’ me. Now, right away I know what you are thinking: ‘Who is this kid?’ and I can understand your apprehensions. I am a nobody. No one outside of Skyline High School has heard of me … My looks are not stunning. I am not built like a Greek God, and I can’t even grow a mustache, but I figure if people will pay to see certain films … they will pay to see me.
Let’s work out the details of my discovery. We can do it the way Lana Turner was discovered, me sitting on a soda shop stool, you walk in and notice me and – BANGO – I am a star. Or maybe we can do it this way. I stumble into your office one day and beg for a job. To get rid of me, you give me a stand-in part in your next film. While shooting the film, the star breaks his leg in the dressing room, and, because you are behind schedule already, you arbitrarily place me in his part and – BANGO – I am a star.
All of these plans are fine with me, or we could do it any way you would like, it makes no difference to me! But let’s get one thing straight. Mr. Hill, I do not want to be some bigtime, Hollywood superstar with girls crawling all over me, just a hometown American boy who has hit the big-time, owns a Porsche, and calls Robert Redford ‘Bob’.Respectfully submitted,Your Pal Forever,Thomas J Hanks