How is it that someone as fascinated with space exploration as Tom Hanks has managed to go his entire career without appearing in a single science fiction film? Hanks has been an outspoken advocate for the space program since starring in Apollo 13 way back in 1995. He produced the award-winning HBO mini-series From the Earth to the Moon, wrote Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D, and sits on the Board of Governors for the National Space Society. Hanks was recognized for this passion by the Space Foundation who awarded him the Douglas S. Murrow Outreach Award in 2006. Is he more interested in the science than the science fiction?
I don't think the two can be totally separated, at least not when it comes to space exploration. Someone needs to imagine the unknown first, they need to theorize and speculate about it before they can creating a solution that will answer their questions. The very nature of space exploration requires a mind willing to consider the fantastic, open to the possibilities that might exist in an unknown galaxy.
Tom Hanks brings a humanity to his characters that would be well-suited for sci-fi films. His natural charisma and likability would allow an audience to buy into a story that might require a large-scale suspension of disbelief (The Green Mile is a great example of this quality at work). He's been a frequent collaborator with film makers like Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis, two men who have made some of the best science-fiction movies of all-time. So, what's stopping Hanks?
Is he waiting for that one perfect sci-fi project to attach his name to? Is he afraid that taking the lead in something truly fantastical would hurt his marquee value? He's Tom Hanks; he can afford to take chances. Science-fiction films could use an A-lister like him, and there's no good reason why someone with as much passion for the stars as he has should be ignoring science-fiction projects during a time when quality stuff like Star Trek, District 9, and Moon are making waves.