Tom Hanks fesses up to firing an actor 20 years ago, even though he doesn't remember it

·3 min read

For 22 years, Connor Ratliff has blamed Tom Hanks for getting him fired from HBO's "Band of Brothers" as a young actor — and he finally got to confront him — on his own podcast born of the apparent exchange.

Except Hanks doesn't recall a thing.

"I did what?" the Academy Award winning-actor exclaimed during Thursday's episode of Ratliff's "Dead Eyes" podcast.

Ratliff's podcast got its name from how Hanks allegedly described the then 24-year-old when he was auditioning for a part in the HBO series. Ratliff, who turned to improv comedy, was initially cast in the show as John S. Zielinski Jr. before Hanks, the actor claims, said he had "dead eyes." Ratliff turned this core memory into a podcast where he talks to celebrities about rejection in entertainment.

After hearing about Ratliff's podcast through his kids Colin and Elizabeth, Hanks said he was petrified thinking he was pivotal in the comedian's firing. He subsequently reached out to Ratliff and asked to come on his show, he explained in the podcast.

"Not a single moment of this rings a bell," Hanks told Ratliff after he recounted the experience to him. "Let me first take full responsibility for doing this to you. This was without a doubt the act of the director, and that was me."

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America's dad went on to explain that re-casting Ratliff's role was a "subtle" decision akin to picking out what color coffee cups someone wanted on set. Hanks said as a director, he had to make hundreds of decisions and he was just hoping to make the right one a little more than half of the time.

"In the inner sanctum of whatever this casting session was on 'Band of Brothers' … I'm sure I said 'I don't know, man, that guy's got dead eyes.' I could've said 'He's got too blond of hair.' I could've said 'He's too tall and I can't have the aide be taller than Captain Winters,' " Hanks told Ratliff. "And it would've been true and it would've been my opinion."

What Hanks said about Ratliff and the reason behind his re-casting should've been a private matter regardless, the actor said.

"Whoever communicated to you what was said in the inner sanctum with such authenticity should have their kneecaps broken because that is not allowed. The inner sanctum is like the dugout, it's not quotable there. It's off the record," Hanks said.

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Ratliff agreed he never should've been told Hanks thought he had "dead eyes" and chalked it up to the chaos of last-minute changes. The comedian shared his old headshot with Hanks who remarked: "These are not dead eyes. Can I just say that right now from this 8x10 black and white."

The two went on to have a friendly conversation about Hanks' past rejections and how Ratliff has used his "dead eyes" moment to propel his career.

Ratliff, now 46, may not have gotten the part in "Band of Brothers," but he went on to have roles in "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" and "Search Party." He launched his "Dead Eyes" podcast in 2020 and has talked to stars like Lauren Lapkas and Seth Rogen in its 31 episodes.

Hanks, 65, stars in upcoming musical drama "Elvis" (in theaters June 24) as Elvis' manager, Colonel Tom Parker. His most recent movies include "Finch," "Greyhound" and "News of the World."

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Tom Hanks finally confronts Connor Ratliff on 'Dead Eyes' podcast