Tom Hanks is a mammoth actor who has delighted fans with extraordinary performances for just short of 40 years. He started his career by providing us with some delightfully 80s classics in the era of big hair and bright colours with greats such as Splash, Big and Turner & Hooch. In the 90s he gave us a cacophony of feel-good flicks including Sleepless in Seattle, Forrest Gump and the first of one of the most successful trilogies of all time, Toy Story.

Tom Hanks
Tom Hanks' illustrious career is being recognised at the Kennedy Center Honors

In the noughties Hanks got his serious side out and audiences were treated to Road to Perdition, The Da Vinci Code and its sequel Angels and Demons. Sheriff Woody came out in style twice more for Toy Story 2 and 3 and Hanks has been at the helm of some of the best films of the past few years as a main star in Captain Phillips and Saving Mr Banks.

With a list of cinematic achievements like that, it seems only right for such a Hollywood stalwart to be honoured for everything he has done for the cultural medium. Fortunately for Hanks, and his legions of fans, the 37th Kennedy Center Honors agrees.

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It was recently announced that the prolific actor, along with Sting, Al Green, Lily Tomlin and ballerina Patricia McBride, would be recognised for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts. Seated with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, the honourees will attend the Kennedy Center Opera House on 7 December.

Kennedy Center chairman, David M. Rubenstein, said of the five recognised for their astonishing careers: "The Kennedy Center celebrates five extraordinary individuals who have spent their lives elevating the cultural vibrancy of our nation and the world."

Singer Sting will also be recognised at the event on 7 December

The recipients are chosen by the Center’s Board of Trustees but the event was mired in controversy last year after being accused of consistently overlooking Latino artists.

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In 2013, Soprano Martina Arroyo and rock guitarist Carlos Santana were among those recognised. Despite the selection process being overhaul, no Hispanics were named this year.

In a statement, Hanks said he was "relieved that I am not required to speak at the ceremony as words escape me."