FILM STAR: Susie and Ray Matthews with Tom Hanks silent co-star in Cast Away, Wilson.
FILM STAR: Susie and Ray Matthews with Tom Hanks silent co-star in Cast Away, Wilson. Trish Bowman

Tom Hanks' famous co-star makes his home on the Cap Coast

ACTOR Tom Hanks' co-star in the movie Cast Away, Wilson, has been living a quiet life in Central Queensland with Ray and Susie Matthews for the past 19 years.

Wilson has been the source of countless one-liners, acting as a treasured memory from the couple's involvement in the production of the award-winning movie.

Ray and Susie had been working for Keppel Tourist Services since the mid-70s running boats to and from Great Keppel Island when they were offered the opportunity to sail to Fiji to ferry the cast and crew from the movie Cast Away to Monu-Riki Island.

 

Tom Hanks and Wilson in Castaway.
Tom Hanks and Wilson the volleyball in Cast Away . Castaway

Ray said only a small number of people native to the island were permitted to remain on the island overnight, hence they ferried between 60-100 people each day.

"Everyone was lovely, I couldn't believe how hard they worked starting at around 6am each day and sometimes not finishing until midnight," Ray said.

"We met the whole cast and I must say we found Tom Hanks and the other stars, as well as Steven Spielberg, to be very humble and not at all pretentious.

"They were happy to sit around and have a beer after work and have a normal conversation.

"Tom had his wife Rita Wilson's children and Rita's parents were there and they were all lovely as well."

During the filming, which had a 12-month hiatus to allow Tom Hanks to lose the weight he had gained for the beginning of the production, both Ray and the star got nasty infections in their legs, it would prove to be a situation that allowed them to bond.

"Everyone got along very well, there was always a sense of fun and camaraderie going on," he said.

"Each day we would arrive at the island to find the people who had been staying overnight on the island had altered the first letter of the 'help' sign written in the sand."

 

Movie mega-star Tom Hanks sent the couple a parcel with signed photos, t-shirts, caps and his Co-star Wilson the volleyball
Movie mega-star Tom Hanks sent the couple a parcel with signed photos, t-shirts, caps and his co-star Wilson the volleyball. Trish Bowman

A short time after arriving home in Yeppoon from the film shoot, Ray and Susie, affectionately known as Black and Blue, had a parcel arrive from America.

The couple, who have been married for 48 years, were thrilled when they opened the package from Tom Hanks with signed photographs of the star, Wilson (the very quiet volleyball co-star), T-shirts and hats.

Ray said Wilson became an instant star and talking point in their home.

"He is very easy to live with, he likes to have a ball," Ray joked

"He lives in a glass case and surprisingly, is still inflated after all these years.

"We have only taken him out of his case around eight times to show friends.

"About five years after the filming, a small article was done in Revive magazine and suddenly people started recognising us as Black and Blue, Wilson's carers."

Reports online suggest there were three Wilson's, one of which was sold at auction for $18,500 US to ex-FedEx CEO Ken May.

 

The couple still have their daily run sheets from the film shoot and a casual photo of Tom Hanks on board an inflatable transfer boat.
The couple still have their daily run sheets from the film shoot and a casual photo of Tom Hanks on board an inflatable transfer boat. Trish Bowman

Ray said in actual fact there were quite a few more Wilsons during the shoot.

And while he is not a one-off, Ray and Susie wouldn't give their Wilson away for anything.

The film was released on December 22, 2000, grossing $429million worldwide.

In the film, Wilson serves as Chuck Noland's friend and only companion during the four years Noland spends alone on a deserted island.

Named after the volleyball's manufacturer, Wilson Sporting Goods, the character was created by screenwriter William Broyles, Jr.

While researching for the film, he consulted with professional survival experts, then stranded himself for a week on an isolated beach in the Gulf of California to force himself to search for water and food and obtain his own shelter.

During this time, a volleyball washed up on shore and became the inspiration for the film's now famous character.

At the time of the film's release, Wilson Sporting Goods launched its own joint promotion centred on the fact that one of its products was "co-starring" with Tom Hanks.

Wilson manufactured a volleyball with a reproduction of the bloodied handprint face on one side. It was sold for a limited time during the film's initial release and is still offered on the company's website.