Oprah: Did you look forward to the constant change?

Tom: Yes. I knew that when I went to a new school, sooner or later someone was going to laugh at something I said in the handball line, and boom!—it would all be fine. Sometimes it took two days, but other times it happened on the first day at lunch. Because I went to so many different kinds of schools, I got a wide view of the way others did things, and I thought it was all so interesting.

Oprah: Both your parents eventually remarried. Didn't you have to meet and get along with a lot of new siblings?

Tom: That was very confusing. I often heard, "These are your new brothers and sisters." If no one had used the words brother and sister, it would have been okay. They should've said, "These are some kids your age who you'll be living with for a while." Two and a half years after that, I'd be saying, "What happened to that brother and sister we had?"

Oprah: Do you hear from any of those step-siblings now?

Tom: No—and I wouldn't recognize a lot of them if they came into this room. Every now and then, I do hear from the ones from my dad's final marriage.

Oprah: Does the instability of your childhood have anything to do with why you've become a great family man?

Tom: Honestly, I married into a classic old-world family structure in which people like to spend time with each other and construct their lives so they can. That hadn't been part of my existence up till then. And you know what? In the 13 years Rita and I have been married, I've discovered there's no substitute for that. There's such an advantage to being involved in the day-to-day details of each other's lives. It's a marvelous fabric to exist in.

Oprah: Here's what everyone wants to know: What is the magic that you and Rita have? When you made that speech about her at the Golden Globes—"Every day I stand at a crossroad, and I see nothing but love and acceptance in every direction"—that was more important to many women than the fact that you'd won the award.

Tom: I view my wife as my lover, and we have a bond that goes beyond words like wife or girlfriend or mother. For example, I was able to construct a number of things in Philadelphia [1993] because of my relationship with Rita. The way my character felt about his lover is the way I feel about mine. The same was true when I played Forrest Gump, who loved Jenny. Without my connection with Rita, I don't know how I would've been able to connect with what Forrest was going through.

Oprah: Do you remember what you said about Rita after you won as best actor for Forrest Gump?

Tom: I said that I have a woman who teaches me what love is every day. Maybe that sentiment is possible to fake, but for me it's really true. What makes me different from others is that I verbalize this stuff. A lot of people would flee from what they think is award-show cheesiness, and I don't. I often joke that my speeches are very personal moments that play themselves out in front of billions of people.


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