Tom Hanks Was Briefly Afraid Of What The Success Of Survivor Might Mean For Cast Away

It sometimes feels like "Cast Away" doesn't get as much love as it deserves. It's certainly well-regarded by both critics and audiences, but it almost seems a bit forgotten. Yes, it still airs on cable pretty regularly, but it's not a film that comes up in day-to-day cinema conversation often. After all, when people talk about the best Tom Hanks movies and performances, they tend to go right to films like "Philadelphia," "Saving Private Ryan," and "Forrest Gump," when the best performance of his career may very well have been as Chuck Noland in "Cast Away." Considering the fact he spends most of the movie completely isolated, and his primary scene partner is a volleyball, the movie is a testament to his star power and acting talent.

And as great as Hanks was in the film, and as satisfying (and wildly successful) a film as "Cast Away" wound up being, there was a time when the actor was worried about how it would be received. Not because he didn't believe in it — he knew it had all of the elements to be exceptional. Instead, it was because of another desert island phenomenon: "Survivor." When the long-running reality series first debuted on American television in 2000, it "spooked" Hanks. He was concerned that by the time "Cast Away" hit theaters, "Survivor" would either have stolen the movie's thunder or turned the concept into a bit of a joke. That proved to be a valid concern, too, since there were stories of audience members yelling "Vote him off!" when the trailer played in theaters.

Outwit, outlast, out ... volleyball?

By now, it's clear that there was room in the world for both "Cast Away" and "Survivor." Tom Hanks earned a well-deserved Oscar nomination for his performance, and "Cast Away" was the year's third highest-grossing film worldwide. Meanwhile, "Survivor" continues to chug right along, with Jeff Probst and his khaki shorts entering their 44th season on the air in March. It wasn't long after his initial concerns that Hanks managed to quell his worries, as he told Entertainment Weekly the year "Cast Away" was released:

"I always felt we didn't have a trivial film. Good or bad, we always had something that was much more substantial than what is essentially a game show that is a television phenomenon."

The film's writer, William Broyles, also noted that it wasn't the first time a Tom Hanks movie was released around the same time as other similarly themed films, noting in that same interview, "Remember, 'Big' was like the fourth of those movies about switching bodies, and which one do you remember?"

Obviously, the "Cast Away" comparisons to both "Survivor" and "Gilligan's Island" were always going to be there. There was no way to avoid it, even if no one could have predicted how massively popular "Survivor" would become. Of course, there's one thing that Probst and "Survivor" didn't have that proved to be Hanks and director Robert Zemeckis's secret weapon: the world's most beloved volleyball. And there's no chance in hell the movie-going audience would ever dare vote Wilson off the island.