March 13, 1995 12:00 PM

FOLLOWING IN TOM HANKS’S FOOTsteps sure ain’t easy. Just ask Jim Hanks, who doubled for big brother Tom in Forrest Gump as the lovable bumpkin made his superhuman jog across America. “Tom had other doubles, but they couldn’t do the run,” he says, referring to Gump’s stiff, geeky stride. “That’s a stupid Hanks thing.”

Acting also runs in the family, except that Jim, 33, has yet to make his splash. He has starred in pulp flicks—including the 1993 bawdy romp Buford’s Beach Bunnies—but these days the gigs are getting better. In April, Hanks begins his first major production, Tuba City Blues; he landed the sizable role as a prison guard, he says, without availing himself of Tom’s considerable clout. Not that his double-take resemblance to his big bro doesn’t pay off. “I know why I’m getting publicity,” says Hanks. “But it’s not my fault who I’m related to.”

Growing up in Northern California, the brothers spent their childhoods apart. When Amos and Janet Hanks divorced in 1961, 5-year-old Tom and older siblings Larry and Sandra lived with their father in various Northern California cities, while baby Jim settled in with his mom in Red Bluff, Calif. “Tom was more confident, and Jimmy was kind of shy,” says Janet. “The only competition was in the backyard, when they played hockey.” After college, Jim worked as a waiter before moving to Los Angeles in 1988 and starting acting lessons. Aside from the B movies, he has earned a modest living doing TV commercial voice-overs—all the while turning down get-rich-quick roles in TV spinoffs of Splash and Big, both movies his brother had starred in. “Since I moved to L.A.,” says Jim, “we’ve slowly built a relationship. It’s strange. He sounds and looks a lot like me, but our backgrounds are very different.”

So are their paychecks. As Jim plays with son Gage, 3, in the living room of his Venice, Calif., home, wife Karen, 31, an actress, brings in the day’s mail. Hanks opens an envelope containing a residual check for a recent TV ad. “Hey,” he exclaims with genuine delight, “it’s in the low four figures!”

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