The Real Tom Hanks: An Inside Look at America's Favorite Star From Those Who Know Him Best

In this week's PEOPLE cover story, Tom Hanks' close friends and celeb pals open about what the Oscar winner is really like

It’s no secret that Tom Hanks is a beloved star. He might even be most admired of them all, given the countless stories about his generosity, dedication to his family and unflappably professional work ethic.

In this week’s PEOPLE cover story, his close friends (like pals Ron Howard and Julia Roberts), and others who know the Oscar winner best share another side of Hanks, their favorite memories of and interactions with the A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood star.

Longtime friend and collaborator Ron Howard, who directed Hanks in 1984’s Splash and 1995’s Apollo 13, says that in addition to all the talk about him being a great person, his acting talent is occasionally overlooked.

“He’s that good,” says Howard. “He’s like one of those athletes who is so effortless that you don’t realize that he’s the game-changer.”

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Hanks, 63, says he thinks of himself as part of a team, not an individual.

“I like being part of an ensemble,” he told PEOPLE earlier this year. “Anybody can make it a miserable day by being cranky or self-centered, by thinking it’s all about them instead of all about the whole.”

Maura Tierney, who costarred with Hanks in Broadway’s Lucky Guy, loves that “he’s not afraid to be a goofball,” for example, she would often find “like, five selfies of Tom making goofy faces on my phone,” she recalls. “He would take selfies if anyone left their phone lying around.”

12/9/19 cover featuring Tom Hanks

For much more on Tom Hanks’ life, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and his everyman charm, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday

His Neighborhood costar Matthew Rhys playfully bemoans “how viciously well-read, well-informed and intelligent he is.”

“It’s like dear god, it’s sickening!” jokes Rhys. “I get it, you’ve got the world’s generosity and acting talent, that’s fine, but he’s a real mind. He has a great mind, which is equally as infuriating.”

“He loves smart people saying smart things,” adds Howard. “Whether he likes what they’re saying or not. … He invites honesty from those who are close to him, not in a self-flagellating, neurotic way, but with a clear-eyed intelligence.”

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Another longtime friend and costar, Julia Roberts, loves that she can always count on him for genuine enthusiasm.

“What doesn’t change about Tom, he is as happy and excited as ever. About work, about friendships,” says Roberts, who costarred with him in two films. “It doesn’t change or wane over time.”

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is now playing in theaters.

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