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

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

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. 

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In 1978, Hanks married Samantha Lewes, who was already the mother of his son Colin. The two were college sweethearts and 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, but the marriage eventually came to an end in 1987. By that time, Hanks had met Wilson and knew he wanted to marry her once he got his divorce finalized.

Who was Tom Hanks' first wife Samantha Lewes?

Who was Tom Hanks first wife, Samantha Lewes?

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 theatre then, with just a few small film roles coming his way.

Hanks' career started to look up but the marriage wasn't doing well.

In 1980, Hanks got his big break in television with the show Bosom Buddies. He and his family moved out to LA for that gig and he and Lewes had their second child, Elizabeth, together in 1982. Lewes even did a spot of the show, playing a waitress in an episode in 1981

Tom Hanks and Samantha Lewes.

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Lewes wasn't the only wife of his who worked on the Bosom Buddies set.

Rita Wilson did 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.

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Hanks said, “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.” 

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."

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

In retrospect, Hanks sees 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 recalls. "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."

Tom Hanks' second marriage was 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 has been 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 says 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' 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.

"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. " 

Samantha Lewes died in 2002.

Tragically, 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 has gone on to become a successful actor, appearing in Band of Brothers, the House Bunny, NCIS, and Jumanji: The Next Level. Elizabeth is a writer who has been published in the Guardian, the New York Times, and Buzzfeed.

Hanks and Wilson have now been married for 33 years. 

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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.