David James, HBO
Tom Hanks, left, Dale Dye and Steven Spielberg talk on the set of HBO's "The Pacific."

PASADENA, Calif. — I love Tom Hanks.

Not just as an actor, but as a guy who shows up at the Television Critics Association press tours to talk about his latest projects. Which he's done with some frequency over the years.

And the Tom Hanks we see is pretty much the Tom Hanks you see on, say, the "Late Show With David Letterman." He's funny. He's bright. He's entertaining. He comes across as just about the most genuine person you could possibly imagine.

And he's totally self-aware in an incredibly amusing way.

Like when he'd already given one rather long answer to a question about his upcoming HBO miniseries "The Pacific." And then prefaced his next answer by saying, "If I can be so bold to continue talking and not let anybody else have a moment." With the lighthearted charm we've come to associate with Tom Hanks.

He's also surprisingly honest. Which he gets away with because, first, he's Tom Hanks. And, second, because he so darn funny while he's being honest.

Like when he was asked why episodes of "The Pacific" — a miniseries about the Pacific front in World War II — open with a mini-history lesson about whatever battle is being dramatized. Which was not the case with "Band of Brothers," which was about World War II in Europe.

"We bowed to the pressures of our studio, HBO. I'm joking," Hanks said. "And, yet, there is truth to that.

"By and large, there was a thought that it would be hard to get people excited about a battle over a place like Guadalcanal or Peleliu without some historical context to why our soldiers are fighting at Guadalcanal on Peleliu. There were those of us on the producing team that felt that context was a waste of time and once we got involved in this story, the context would be obvious."

And Hanks is not the only one who argued his point of view. You may be familiar with one of "The Pacific's" other executive producers — a guy named Steven Spielberg.

And they lost.

"Nonetheless, in the give and take of big-time show business, we took the need for context and turned it into one of the fingerprints. One of the sort of like almost opening chapters," Hanks said. "And it all worked out in part because of, I think, the great arc of each one of our episodes."

So … the folks at HBO actually argued with Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg?

"I can simply say that Tom Hanks and I are marvelous collaborators," Spielberg said. "And they were also giving us a lot of money. Not us, but the production."

And Hanks made it clear he wasn't complaining.

"I'm going to assume that all you crack members of the fourth estate can appreciate sarcasm when it comes your away," he said. "We had a great relationship (with HBO). And, yeah, we fought probably over every single one of these moments throughout the course (of the production and editing), including the closing titles that describe where everybody went."

Hanks was, for the most part, just kidding. It was clear he wasn't harboring any lingering resentments or anything.

"HBO also said, 'We are more successful. We make more money than all the commercial networks combined. We've got $250 million to blow. Do you want to do anything with it?' " Hanks joked.

"So we took it and we ran. We ran off to Australia and put some bullets in the guns and made the film."

Because, of course, they're Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg.

"I don't have any true complaints. I just have sarcastic ones," he said. "So please report my sarcasm in the spirit for which it was presented."

Happy to do so.

e-mail: pierce@desnews.com