Who Was Tom Hanks' First Wife, Samantha Lewes — And When Did They Split Up?

Photo: Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock
tom hanks

Actor Tom Hanks has starred in several iconic movies like "Cast Away," "Forrest Gump" and "A Beautiful Day in The Neighborhood." He has won several Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, and any other kind of award you can think of.

Hanks is a beloved star. But is he as good at his personal life as he is in his movies?

Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have been married so long and so successfully that we all tend to think of Hanks as the perfect husband. However, few people realize he had a prior marriage that ended in divorce. 

Who was Tom Hanks's first wife, Samantha Lewes?

In 1978, Hanks married his first wife Samantha Lewes, who was already the mother of his son Colin Hanks. Lewes was with him during the early days of his career, while he was still struggling to find steady work as an actor.

The pair stayed together as he was building his Hollywood career and even had a second child, Elizabeth, but the marriage eventually came to an end in 1987. By that time, Hanks had met future wife Rita Wilson and knew he wanted to marry her once he got his divorce finalized.

Samantha Lewes was born on November 29, 1952, in San Diego, California, USA as Susan Jane Dillingham.

Hanks and Lewes were college sweethearts.

Lewes grew up in California and met Hanks in college. There aren't a lot of details available about their early relationship, but we do know for sure that they had a baby in 1977. They weren't married when their son Colin was born.

They finally tied the knot in 1978 around Colin's second birthday. All three of them moved to New York together in 1979. Hanks was working in the theater then, with just a few small film roles coming his way.

RELATED: These 13 Tom Hanks Quotes Reveal The Real Secret Of A Happy Marriage

Hanks' career started to look up in the early 80s.

In 1980, Hanks got his big break in the TV series "Bosom Buddies." He and his family moved out to Los Angeles for that gig, and he and Lewes had their second child, Elizabeth, in 1982.

Lewes even had a spot on the show, playing a waitress in an episode from 1981.

Lewes wasn't the only spouse of an actor of his who worked on 'Bosom Buddies'.

Rita Wilson also had a part on "Bosom Buddies" in 1981, and she and Hanks were attracted to each other even then. However, he was still married and nothing came of that encounter.

But five years later, when they were working together on the movie "Volunteers," that would change. “Rita and I just looked at each other and — kaboing — that was that. I asked Rita if it was the real thing for her, and it just couldn’t be denied,” he said of his love story with Wilson

Hanks and Lewes split up in 1987.

Hanks doesn't admit to an affair with Wilson before he and Lewes separated, but he does acknowledge that the divorce wasn't his ideal plan for his life.

His own parents had divorced when he was young and they each remarried multiple times, leaving him with no real sense of security around his family situation. That wasn't what he wanted for his own kids. 

"I was looking for something I had not found as a kid," he said in an interview. "And a broken marriage meant I was sentencing my own kids to the sort of feelings I had at their age."

RELATED: 5 Celebrity Couples You Never Knew Met At Work

Hanks felt like he was too young for his first marriage. 

In retrospect, Hanks saw his own shortcomings in his marriage to Lewes. Since they had gotten together in college, most of their relationship took place when they were very young. Having a baby so soon also contributed to the stress between them.

"I was just too young and insecure for marriage," he recalled. "I was 23 and my son Colin was already two when I married for the first time. I was not really ready to take on those responsibilities."

However, Hanks admitted that having kids at a young age was the greatest thing that ever happened to him, saying, "I didn't smoke pot. I didn't do drugs, I was not a party boy. I didn't drink too much, I went to bed at 10 minutes after 10 pm."

His second marriage has been much more successful.

After the chaos of being a young couple while Hanks was struggling to make it as an actor, his relationship with Rita Wilson was a very different experience.

"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," he said of his current marriage. "That hadn't been part of my existence up till then. And you know what... 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."

Hanks married Rita Wilson on April 30, 1988.

Hanks' older kids remember very distinct phases in his life and career. 

Hanks and Wilson have two children together, Chet and Truman, but those boys were born after he had become an established actor. His older two kids recall his life with Lewes, which had been so different from his later years.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Hey You! Want more of YourTango's best articles, seriously addictive horoscopes and top expert advice? Sign up to get our free daily newsletter!

"My son Colin was born when I was very young," he remembers. "As well as my daughter, but that means we have this gestalt understanding because they remember when their dad was just a guy trying to, you know, make the rent." 

Colin Hanks is an actor, married to publicist Samantha Bryant (no relation to the late Kobe Bryant). They have two daughters together, Olivia and Charlotte. Hanks' daughter, Elizabeth, is also an actor and producer.

Samantha Lewes died in 2002.

Tragically, Tom Hanks ex-wife Lewes passed away from bone cancer in 2002. Her children were 20 and 24 at the time, but she was only 49 years old herself.

Since her death, son Colin Hanks has gone on to create a successful acting career, appearing in movies and TV shows like "Orange County," "Band of Brothers," "The House Bunny," "NCIS," and "Jumanji: The Next Level." Elizabeth Ann Hanks is a writer who has been published in The Guardian, The New York Times, and Buzzfeed.

Lewes never did remarry after her split with Hanks, and her son Colin revealed that she didn't date much either in a 2018 interview on Dax Shepard's Armchair Expert podcast.

Hanks and Wilson have now been married for 33 years. 

RELATED: Who Is Chet Hanks? Details On Tom Hanks And Rita Wilson's Rapper Son

Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. She is the creator of the blog FeminXer and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.