News & Opinion | November 10, 2021 2:57 pm

Tom Hanks’s Beloved “Wilson” Just Sold at a Prop Auction for Over $300,000

Looks like the little guy made landfall, after all

A man holds the "Wilson" volleyball from Cast Away ahead of a prop auction.
"Wilson" was expected to fetch $80,000 at most.
Photo by Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images

The only volleyball to have ever delivered a Best Supporting Actor-worthy performance sold via online auction yesterday for the equivalent of $308,000. That’s right — “Wilson,” best friend to Tom Hanks in the 2000 classic Cast Away, is still around all these years later and has finally found a home.

Listed on the UK-based Prop Store, “Wilson” was expected to fetch $80,000 at most. But bidders were motivated by nostalgia for the massively popular film (it pulled in $430 million at the global box office), and apparently charmed by the lot’s description: “There is a dark brown-and-red ‘face’ on the front, representing Chuck’s bloody handprint. It features a faded pair of eyes, nose, and mouth. The top is torn open, and an array of tobacco stalks are inserted to replicate the appearance of hair.”

wilson the volleyball from cast away
Wilson as a wiley youth.

The auctioneers also confirmed that this was the very volleyball that floated away from Hanks in the pivotal Pacific Ocean scene, when the ball dislodged from his makeshift raft and his character shouted “Wilson!” into the sky over and over again. The listing says: “This version of Wilson was placed in water for long periods during filming.”

At this point, Hanks is probably sick of strangers bellowing “Wilson!” (or, for that matter, “Run, Forrest!”) into his face, but it’s unsurprising that there is still such an affinity for the prop, which was once awarded the Critics’ Choice Award Winner for Best Inanimate Object. The well of emotion Cast Away fans feel as a drugstore athletic ball quietly floats into the sea is completely irrational, but that in itself is a testament to Hanks’s acting and the movie’s flawless screenwriting.

As for how the writers thought to include “Wilson” in the first place? Screenwriter William Broyles Jr. stranded himself on a beach in the Gulf of California for one week in order to find inspiration for the script. One day, a volleyball washed up on shore. He worked it into the story, realizing that the creation served another crucial purpose: it would give Hanks someone (something) to speak to.

Believe it or not, you don’t actually need hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring “Wilson” home. Wilson Sporting Goods sells a $20 volleyball with the little guy’s face printed on the side in mock blood-red. It’s also an official, regulations-size volleyball, so you can bring it down the beach in a pinch. Just go easy on him. That’s your new best friend.