When Tom Hanks And Rita Wilson Went To An In-N-Out, Their Fans Couldn’t Believe What They Did Next

The Fontana, California, In-N-Out Burger sits 50 miles outside of Los Angeles – thus its clientele tends to be removed from the Hollywood crowd. So imagine the workers and customers’ surprise when actors Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson began waiting in line just like everyone else. And rather than flying under the radar, the A-list couple made their presence known in a way that most patrons wouldn’t forget.

It was a few days before Christmas when Hanks and Wilson rolled up to the Fontana In-N-Out. And no one seemed to know why the couple was in town. But the eatery did sit on the path from Los Angeles to a few popular vacation spots – namely, Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park.

Whatever the circumstances that led to their random visit, Hanks and Wilson made their presence known at the In-N-Out quite quickly. Fans noticed them eating burgers and snapped a few sneaky photos of them. Then they noticed the duo talking to the restaurant staff, at which point their behavior became less average and more like that of two Hollywood A-listers.

ADVERTISEMENT

Before he waltzed into that In-N-Out, Hanks had already cultivated a very specific image for himself. He’s often touted as one of Hollywood’s most well-liked stars. But we also know he’s an Oscar-winning actor, so his real-life personality could be a lot different from what he shows on the surface. Yet that trip to Fontana, California, appeared to show his true colors.

Tom Hanks burst onto the Hollywood scene in 1984, when he headlined the comedy flick Splash. But it was 1989’s Big that proved he was a superstar – and a talented actor, too. He earned his first Academy Award nomination for the movie, cementing his place as one of Tinseltown’s biggest stars.

ADVERTISEMENT

Around the same time that Hanks had his first huge Hollywood success in Big, his personal life had taken a turn for the better, too. He married fellow actor Rita Wilson on April 30, 1988. But the pair had met years earlier, while he was still married to Samantha Lewes, his first wife and college sweetheart.

ADVERTISEMENT

Even as a married man, Hanks couldn’t deny the connection he felt to Wilson. He later described it to GQ, saying, “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.” And their bond remains strong more than three decades later, according to the Forrest Gump actor.

ADVERTISEMENT

It’s not just their successful Hollywood careers that Wilson and Hanks have in common, either. The pair have made philanthropy a centerpiece of their union, and they have long been lauded for their charitable efforts. For one thing, the famous pair – alongside Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw – have been the honorary co-chairs of the Women’s Cancer Research Fund for several decades.

ADVERTISEMENT

The cause is one that hits close to home for the actors. In April 2015 Wilson released a statement to People magazine revealing that she had undergone a double mastectomy after receiving a cancer diagnosis of her own. In the same message, she revealed why she had gone public with the news – another act of goodwill.

ADVERTISEMENT

Wilson saw two doctors, and it was the latter expert found that she had cancer. So she shared what happened “to educate others that a second opinion is critical to your health.” And the actress made a point to reiterate that “early diagnosis is key” – a reminder that could help save lives.

ADVERTISEMENT

Hanks and Wilson are involved in other worthwhile causes, too. He has made environmentalism one of his main focuses, and he practices what he preaches. Not only does the actor invest in electric vehicles, but he drives one of the fuel-free cars himself.

ADVERTISEMENT

Plus the list of philanthropic efforts supported by Hanks doesn’t end there. He has worked with the Hidden Heroes Campaign, which lobbies for more support for veterans, active military members and their caregivers. He has also worked with charities raising funds and awareness for children’s diabetes, AIDS, rainforest preservation, women’s rights and space exploration.

ADVERTISEMENT

Although the married couple volunteer far from the limelight, they have been honored for their philanthropic efforts in recent years. The USC Shoah Foundation, for instance, put on a star-studded celebration when they honored the pair at a 2018 gala, where they won the Ambassadors for Humanity Award. Spielberg and Capshaw presented the accolade to the Hollywood couple.

ADVERTISEMENT

On the night, Spielberg spoke highly of Wilson and Hanks before presenting them with their award. He said, “Hope. This is our greatest power. It is one embodied by our Ambassadors for Humanity, tonight’s honorees, a man and woman who are helping to solve some of today’s greatest riddles.”

ADVERTISEMENT

But not all of the pair’s good deeds have taken place in the name of a charity or cause or even humanity as a whole. Because in their everyday lives they have built quite a reputation for just being nice people. And over the years fans have shared their stories about how the actors have been particularly kind to them.

ADVERTISEMENT

Here’s a perfect example from 2008, when Hanks was on the set of his then-in-production flick, Angels & Demons. The actor – as well as director Ron Howard and the movie’s crew – had gathered outside of the Pantheon in Rome to film a scene. As they worked, though, Hanks noticed something in the crowd.

ADVERTISEMENT

You see, production kept passersby at bay, which was a huge problem for two people who were outside the Pantheon. Hanks saw them – a bride and her father – and immediately called for filming to pause. He realized that the pair had wanted to get into the ancient church for her wedding, and he even escorted them into the building himself. Problem solved!

ADVERTISEMENT

In another adorable story, Hanks found a student ID in a park, so he used his social media platform to reconnect it with its owner. He blocked out the student’s personal information before sharing a picture of the card to Twitter, writing, “Lauren! I found your Student ID in the park. If you still need it my office will get to you.”

ADVERTISEMENT

As it turned out, Lauren, a student at Fordham University, didn’t have a Twitter account. But one of her professors saw the tweet and showed her. So she contacted the actor’s office, and they sent back the ID – with a note from the Toy Story actor himself. The message read, “Lauren, Hold onto this! Tom Hanks.”

ADVERTISEMENT

So it’s important to remember that Hanks and Wilson are normal people – to an extent. They are, of course, Hollywood A-listers, too. And along with their good deeds and philanthropy, the pair do find time for some luxury and relaxation. Take their favorite vacation spot in the world as a prime example.

ADVERTISEMENT

The couple owns a home on the dreamy Greek island of Antiparos, where they often spend the summer soaking up the sun. While accepting the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes in 2020, Hanks gushed about his love for life on the southern European island.

ADVERTISEMENT

Hanks said, “Greece is a haven… I’ve been around the world, I’ve been to the most beautiful places in the world, none of them tops Greece. The land, the sky, the water, it’s good for the soul, it’s a healing place.” Nothing about that statement was braggadocious, of course, but it goes to show that he does lead a different life than most of his fans.

ADVERTISEMENT

And Hanks has made an effort to counter his good guy reputation to some extent. He spoke to the Herald Sun in January 2020 and, at first, he seemed to lean into the public perception of himself, rather than step away from it.

ADVERTISEMENT

The actor said that he had built up some serious resilience over the years – rumors or jokes about him had little, if any, effect. Hanks explained, “Listen, I’m 63-years-old. There is nothing that you can say that will insult me at all. Absolutely nothing. It bounces off me.”

ADVERTISEMENT

But there was one thing that would set off the Sleepless in Seattle star, if he was pushed far enough. Hanks admitted to the Herald Sun, “I’ll tell you this: if anybody takes advantage of my good nature, they’ll have hell to pay.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Hanks continued, “Anyone who has done it, will say, ‘Oh, he’s not that nice a guy.’ Because when that happens, the hammer comes down and it’s relentless. I take care of business when it’s got to be taken care of.” So this lesser-known side of the actor would be deployed when necessary. Apparently.

ADVERTISEMENT

Therefore could a trip to a random fast-food joint in California potentially cause Hanks to lose his cool, too? If he and his wife found themselves harassed by fans – and unable to enjoy their In-N-Out burgers – well, perhaps the nice guy might snap, as he had earlier suggested.

ADVERTISEMENT

But if you can’t imagine that happening, then you’d actually be in the right. Because Hanks’ trip to In-N-Out only saw him reinforcing the fact that he’s a good guy. So we have the sneaking suspicion that the harsher side of which he spoke to the Herald Sun comes out very, very rarely.

ADVERTISEMENT

It all started when Hanks and Wilson rolled up to the unassuming Fontana, California, In-N-Out. The city sits on the road to other Golden State tourist destinations, but it was still rare for celebs to stop in here on their way to Palm Springs or Joshua Tree.

ADVERTISEMENT

You might expect that fans will go a little bit overboard on seeing such a huge celebrity in an unassuming, non-Hollywood location. But Hanks and Wilson were afforded the courtesy of walking into the In-N-Out like any other customer and, after receiving their food, sat down to eat it in the dining room.

ADVERTISEMENT

And the couple didn’t dine and dash, either. Instead they took a few minutes to chat to an employee at the burger joint. Then their fellow patrons started to approach the Hollywood A-listers, who had no problem spending some extra time to say hello.

ADVERTISEMENT

As an In-N-Out customer named Meghan told E! Online in December 2018, “Tom signed In-N-Out hats and took pictures with everyone. He was genuinely nice, laughing, talking with everyone and taking selfies!” A few fans shared the aforementioned snaps with the internet-at-large, too.

ADVERTISEMENT

Meghan went on to add that as Hanks left the In-N-Out, he shouted a holiday greeting to everyone inside the restaurant – it was a few days before Christmas after all. It’s hard to believe, but that wasn’t even his final kind gesture during the trip to the Fontana joint.

ADVERTISEMENT

Another fan’s video – taken while in line at the In-N-Out’s drive-through – shows Hanks standing in front of the take-away window. The actor then flips open his wallet and can be heard saying that he’s going to pay for the next few customers to cruise through. So burgers and fries were on Mr. Hanks! Nice touch.

ADVERTISEMENT

The people in line – including the woman recording the video – shout out their thanks to Hanks as he walks away. The actor smiles at them as he waves, then walks up to a fan in the parking lot who reaches out for a handshake. After that, the Oscar winner hops into his car.

ADVERTISEMENT

Word quickly got out about Hanks’ visit to the local In-N-Out, which inspired the city of Fontana to send the Hollywood couple a message through their Facebook page. It read, “Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, made a surprise stop in Fontana on Friday. Welcome to Fontana! Please visit us again.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Neither Hanks nor Wilson responded to the message, and it isn’t clear whether they have returned to Fontana after causing such a frenzy. But that’s not to say that they have pressed pause on their good-guy antics in any way. They have simply continued to carry that torch.

ADVERTISEMENT

Take this latest example as proof that Hanks is only maintaining the reputation that he and his wife have built over the decades. At the end of February 2021 Late Show host Stephen Colbert dedicated some of his airtime to speaking on behalf of struggling small businesses. And he revealed that one in particular would receive a TV advert free of charge while the show was still on air.

ADVERTISEMENT

So Colbert aired an ad, specifically, for Foggy Pine Books – a bookstore based in Boone, North Carolina. And, wait for it, it featured a voiceover from none other than Sam Elliott and a testimonial from Hanks. The bookstore’s owner, Mary Ruthless, told The Watauga Democrat that the actors’ efforts had saved her business, and “it [meant] everything.”

ADVERTISEMENT

To pitch in and lend a hand was no big ask for Tom Hanks, though. The actor has supported charities, saved weddings, returned IDs and bought his fans In-N-Out fare, of course. So it’s easy to imagine what the future holds for the beloved star and his wife, Wilson: more acts of kindness that they won’t bother to advertise. Because that’s what they’re like.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT