Tom Hanks is currently starring in an L.A. stage production of Shakespeare’s “Henvry IV”, and proved to be exceptionally fast on his feet when an unforeseen emergency led the show to be halted.
According to Variety, Wednesday night’s performance was stopped when “an audience member became dehydrated and had to be taken out,” Heath Harper, Hanks’ theatrical dialect coach, explained to Variety.
“An ambulance was called, so we had to stop the show for about 20 minutes. As the minutes ticked by, the audience became a little restless,” Harper continued. “Finally, Tom decided to just hit the stage [in costume] and vamp, in character.”
As Variety reports, Hanks — who is portraying liquor-loving John Falstaff in the show — returned to the stage to entertain the audience, but never broke character, at one point admonishing the “scurvy rogues who stood up from their seats” during the pause in the play, describing their exit as an “insult to all actors and to Shakespeare himself.”
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Harper said. “It credits the work we’ve done and Tom’s commitment to the character that he was able to just jump on the stage and improv as Falstaff like that. The audience absolutely ate it up and loved every minute.”
Hanks then began pulling audience members onstage, at which point Harper realized what the star was doing and began filming the improvised performance (which can be seen in the video below).
In the video, Hanks-as-Falstaff can be seen threatening members of the audience as they leave “Get back here or find this sword and many a dagger placed neatly in the tires of your carriage,” he declared, earning laughs from the crowd.
Speaking with a woman who informed him she travelled from Burbank to see the show, Hanks quipped, “Milady, you have crossed the 405.”
Declared Harper: “All in all, I think it was a fantastic true-to-Shakespearean moment in L.A. The crowd definitely got their money’s worth.”