Forrest Gump is one of the most beloved films of all time. The Robert Zemeckis film stars Tom Hanks as the titular character who embodies the American Dream and reaches unmatched levels of success.
Momma might have told you life was like a box of chocolates, but she didn’t tell you most of these behind-the-scenes facts about the film. So, why don’t we take a seat on a nice bench and relax as we learn more about this 1994 classic film?
Tom Hanks adopted the perfect voice to capture the personality and culture of Gump. Originally from Alabama, Gump is supposed to be a dim-witted but kind-hearted person. How did Hanks choose the iconic accent for the role?
Well, he drew a lot of inspiration from Michael Connor Humphreys. He was the young boy who portrayed Forrest as a child at the start of the film. Hanks felt he should try to mimic the voice of the young person so they matched up. Good thinking!
Paid In Peanuts
When negotiating his contract, Hanks agreed not to be paid an actual salary for his role in Forrest Gump. The reasons for this were unclear, but sources seem to think it was due to the financing of the project.
Instead, Hanks agreed to accept a percentage of the profits that the film would make. Clearly, he believed in the potential of the film – he made more than $40 million from box office results! He even got his second consecutive Oscar for his work, too. Not a bad deal!
Gary Sinise plays Lt. Dan, a man who believes he is destined to die on the battleground. While his story is pretty compelling on screen, there are some real-life details that make this all a bit more profound.
In one scene, we can see Sinise wear a rosary with a St. Christopher medal that has ‘Protect Us In Combat’ inscribed on it. Well, that isn’t from the prop shop! It turns out that was a real piece of armor worn by Sinese’s brother-in-law during the Vietnam war.
Many of the Vietnam scenes were actually filmed on a golf course in South Carolina. The Ocean Creek Golf Course is found on Fripp Island and was the location for many of the outdoor scenes needed to convey a warzone.
While they worked to adjust much of the practical sets with props, they also relied on ground-breaking CGI to enhance some of the settings and increase the feeling that bombs could fall from the sky. We think it worked.
It’s hard to imagine today, but Tom Hanks wasn’t the first choice to play Forrest Gump. It turns out that the role was rejected by stars like Chevy Chase, John Travolta, and even Bill Murray. Can you imagine them in the iconic role?
John Travolta actually commented on his decision to pass on the project, admitting that it was a huge mistake on his part. Still, we don’t think that he would have had the same charm and quality that Hanks brought to the role.
Run, Someone, Run!
Anyone who has seen Forrest Gump knows that running is a huge part of the movie. Used as both a theme and a story device, we often see Forrest running for minutes at a time. That probably means that Tom Hanks had to run for hours a day during filming.
Well, it turns out that was the case! Hanks himself admits that he’s not a very good runner and would have a hard time keeping up with the demand. So, Zemeckis hired Hanks’ brother, Jim, who would run during the wide shots.
A Decorated Hero
We see Forrest work and develop throughout the movie, having a huge impact on much of American history. When we see a close up of his medals, the audience is given a peek in how successful he actually was.
Some of the medals seen are: the Purple Heart, Medal of Honor, National Defense Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Expert Badge, and Infantry Shoulder Cord. That’s a lot of success for a simple Alabama kid! How many more accomplishments did you spot?
There’s a famous scene when someone cuts off Gump’s microphone when he is asked to comment on the Vietnam War. Suddenly, the crowd and the audience are prevented from hearing what Gump thought about his time overseas.
Well, during filming this is what Hanks actually said: “Sometimes when people go to Vietnam, they go home to their mommas without any legs. Sometimes they don’t go home at all. That’s a bad thing. That’s all I have to say about that.”
Going Off Script
When Forrest first meets Bubba, Bubba introduces himself by saying, “My given name is Benjamin Buford Blue, but people call me Bubba. Just like one of them ol’ redneck boys. Can you believe that?”
Well, after that heavy introduction Gump simply replies, “My name’s Forrest Gump. People call me Forrest Gump.” The line was completely improvised by Hanks but director Robert Zemeckis liked it so much that it was kept in the final cut. And thus, a friendship was born!
Why So Blue?
Over the film, we check in with Forrest Gump over a few different decades and ages. While the film is often divided up by his moments sitting on the bench, we aren’t always told when his age changes. Well, did you look at what he was wearing?
It turns out that Gump wears a blue plaid shirt in the first scene of each age transition. When rewatching the film, you’ll be able to spot when the years change and when Gump matures over time.
Bubba Gump Is Real
One of the things that made Gump a millionaire is the Shrimp Emporium ‘Bubba Gump’. Well, fans of the film can visit the place for real at one of its 33 locations around the world. There are Bubba Gump restaurants in the USA, UK, Japan, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
There’s even one in Orlando, Florida, at the official entrance to the Universal Theme Park. So, next time you take your family to Disneyworld, you can take a short visit to the world’s best shrimp!
Ping-Pong: The How-tos
During Gump’s recovery from the Vietnam War, he develops an interest and talent in Ping-Pong. Predictably, this leads to some fascinating adventures for our character and propels him into the next part of our story.
When Gump is originally told to ‘keep your eye on the ball’, he does what he is told and becomes a champion. What audiences might have missed is that Hanks makes an effort not to blink for that whole time. Did you notice?
When Forrest Gump goes on his cross country run, he attracts the attention of fans and the media. Well, do you remember the reporter who interviews him on Capitol Hill? Turns out his cameo was completely by chance.
It turns out that the man as just a normal tourist visiting Washington, DC, with his family from Atlanta. He was approached and asked to read for the role. He accepted and is now in one of the most beloved movies of all time!
Forrest Gump’s run across the country may not have been inspired by real events, but there is a line of dialogue that was inspired by a young child. It comes from a boy called Louis Michael Figueroa.
In 1982, the 16-year-old ran from New Jersey to San Francisco to raise money for the American Cancer Society. When asked how he did it, he simply said: “I just put one foot in front of the other. If I get tired, I sleep. When I get hungry, I eat. When I have to go to the bathroom, I go.” Well, that line is muttered by Gump!
A Worthy Bench
The bench that Hanks sat on for most of the film was located in Savannah, Georgia. In fact, its exact location was at Chippewa Square. After the film was released, the bench became famous around the world and attracted fans from across the country.
Soon after the film was released, the bench was moved to a museum to make sure it wasn’t destroyed. Today, it is part of the Savannah History Museum in Georgia. Would you visit it?
Over the course of the film, Forrest Gump was invited to the White House to meet with the sitting President. During these scenes, Zemeckis experimented with more technology that was groundbreaking at the time.
When meeting with President Johnson, the footage is actually real and tweaked a little bit for the film. The Medal of Honor footage originally saw LBJ meet with Sammy L. Davis in 1968. Well, the filmmakers just used that footage but superimposed Hanks’ head onto the footage instead.
Lt. Dan doesn’t die on the battleground like he thought he would, but he does end up losing both of his legs in battle. Gary Sinese definitely didn’t lose his legs during filming, so how did they make it look like he did?
Well, special effects artists wrapped the actor’s legs in green blankets and then digitally removed them later on the computer. This might be common today, but in 1994 it was groundbreaking technology! Read more about Hollywood special effects here.
It’s fairly common for actors or filmmakers to include their real-life family members in their work. Well, eager eyes will be able to spot Hanks’ daughter and Zemeckis’ son at the start of the film. Where do they show up?
Hanks’ real-life daughter, Emily, can be seen as the red-headed girl who denies Forrest a spot on the bus. This cruel act is then followed by Alexander, Robert Zemeckis’ son! They must have had fun working with their dads that day.
An Uncredited Cameo
Early on in the film, young Forrest is talking to Elvis Presley, unaware that he would go on to become the King of Rock and Roll. When speaking to the young kid, the actor who plays Elvis on screen didn’t actually share the same voice we hear in the final cut.
Kurt Russell has confessed that he actually provided the voice for the Elvis character, despite not appearing on screen. He seemingly did it as a favor and was uncredited for his performance.
Smile For The Camera
Hanks does an amazing job at making Gump appear simple but lovable as we follow him throughout his life. But did you notice how his awkwardness translates to outside of the Oscar-winning performance?
Director Robert Zemeckis wanted to make sure that Gump was as awkward ‘off’ camera as much as he was on it. So, every time there is a photo of Gump in the film, you’ll notice how is eyes are always closed. It’s a small but important detail!
Singing In The Nude
In one of the most memorable scenes in the film, we meet Jenny as she is performing nude behind a guitar. Actress Robin Wright had to sit there for 12 hours during the shoot and remain largely undressed for most of it.
Amazingly, the star actually had a cold at the time and was feeling terrible. Nonetheless, she persevered and made it through the shoot and the rest is history. Today, it is one of the most upsetting parts of Jenny’s journey.
Bye Bye, Bubba
It turns out that it wasn’t just the character of Forrest that the filmmakers had trouble filling. Before casting Mykelti Williamson as Bubba, producers had contacted the likes of Ice Cube, Dave Chappelle, and David Alan Grier. All of them rejected the part – but why?
Well, it turns out that Ice Cube didn’t feel comfortable playing a character with a disability, and Chappelle was convinced the film would be a box office disaster. He has since admitted to regretting not taking the role.
Visiting The Boat
The boat used for Bubba Gump Shrimp is an integral part of Forrest’s story and helps them become millionaires. It only makes sense that the actual boat used in the film would be preserved and kept as a memento.
Today, fans of the film can see the boat in the Planet Hollywood restaurant in Downtown Disney, Florida. Inside, there is a signed ping-pong bat from Tom Hanks that fans can marvel at, too. It is hung up on one of the walls.
The Show Must Go On…
We already know that Hanks isn’t much of a runner. So, while those scenes were hard to shoot, there was another challenge that the actor had to overcome when filming some of the early scenes in the film.
When Forrest was in college playing football, we saw him running and playing to earn his scholarship. The only problem? Hanks was battling influenza at the time. Way to keep strong, Tom! Maybe his brother stepped in again while he recovered?
Questionable Age Gaps
Sally Field is Hollywood royalty who has two Oscars to her name. Her casting as Momma Gump added much compassion and charm needed for the start of the film as we get to know our characters.
Amazingly, Sally Field is only 10 years older than Tom Hanks in real life. Amazingly, with makeup and good acting, we can hardly tell how close they are in age. Did you notice how close these two were in age and do you think it affected the film at all?
After the smash success of Forrest Gump, there was immediately talk of a sequel circling Hollywood. It would have been an easy way to continue the beloved story and earn more money at the box office. So what happened?
It turns out that Tom Hanks flat out refused to work on a sequel to the classic film. Without Hanks, the idea of the sequel was basically stopped there and then and nothing ever came of it. Would you have watched a second Forrest Gump film?
It’s common knowledge that the film version of Forrest Gump is vastly different from the original novel on which it’s based. For example, Gump isn’t passive and naive in the book – rather, he’s a lot more abrasive and cynical.
And that famous ‘box of chocolates’ line? Turns out it goes something like this: “Let me say this: bei’n a idiot is no box of chocolates. People laugh, lose patience, treat you shabby. Now they says folks s’posed to be kind to the afflicted, but let me tell you – it ain’t always that way.”
The Use of Makeup
We’ve already seen how the filmmakers used CGI special effects for Gary Sinise and his ‘amputated’ legs. Well, when it came to Mykelti Williamson and Bubba’s big lips, they decided to take another approach.
During filming, the makeup team applied physical prosthetics to his face to make it look like his lip was bigger than it actually was. This unique character trait was one of the most redeeming and notable aspects of Bubba – but it came at a price…
10 years after the release of Forrest Gump, Williamson complained that he was having trouble getting work. He believed that Hollywood execs thought he was actually disfigured and that he had an unusually large lip.
To clear up matters, the actor appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman to show the world that he didn’t have large lips. The matter was quickly cleared up and he went on to star in shows like 24. Talk about a comeback!
While we may look back on Forrest Gump and remember its amazing acting and storytelling, there’s one aspect of the film that is often overlooked: the soundtrack. It turns out that the CD of the soundtrack was pretty popular…
Overall, the soundtrack to the film sold more than 12 million copies around the world, making it go Platinum in the process. The film included songs like Hound Dog, Fortunate Son, and Sweet Home Alabama.
Gump To The Rescue!
Paramount Pictures was acquired by Viacom and the studio was in need of a big box office hit. After the investment of the purchase, Viacom wanted to see that it made the right choice in purchasing the studio.
Well, after Forrest Gump was released, film execs could rest easy! The film made a whopping $678 million from just a $55 million budget. Adjusted for inflation, that is the equivalent of $1.1 billion today! It was pretty safe to say they had a hit on their hands.
In 1995, Forrest Gump was a powerhouse at the Oscars and was rewarded with many awards and accolades for its quality. It won the Oscar for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Visual Effects, and Best Editing. In total, that’s six Oscars!
It’s safe to say that Paramount Pictures had a success on their hands. For Hanks, it marked the second consecutive Oscar following his performance in Philadelphia. But what did Congress have to say about it…?
The Library of Congress
Every year, the Library of Congress selects a series of works to preserve for future generations. This can include films, songs, or artwork from notable artists. Well, in 2011 they selected Forrest Gump to be preserved.
But what does this mean? Basically, the US National Film Registry keeps it on record as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” 25 years later and we think the film still stands up as one of the best there is!
Gump in Space?
We’ve noted that the character of Forrest is different in the novel than in the film – but what about their lives? It turns out that the Forrest in the book has a few different adventures than the ones we know.
According to Winston Groom’s novel of the same name, Gump makes time to become an astronaut and go into space! As well as that, he also becomes a professional wrestler and a chess player. Those are quite different professions!
I Understood That Reference…
There’s a scene in the film when Lt. Dan tells Forrest that the day he works on a shrimp boat is the day that he will become an astronaut. This is a subtle nod to the original novel that had Gump actually become an astronaut!
Weirdly, fate would reunite Hanks and Gary Sinise the following year in Apollo 13. In the 1995 film, the actors both play astronauts! Would you like to have seen Forrest Gump go to space?
Calling All Extras!
It’s no secret that Forrest Gump used special effects to achieve some of its most noteworthy scenes. Well, the shot of Forrest looking out to the Washington Monument is one of the most famous examples of CGI.
Using more than 1,500 extras, Zemeckis positioned them in different places wearing different clothes. Then, with the use of technology he managed to duplicate them and make 1,500 people look like 150,000! While this is common today, it was revolutionary at the time.
Filling The Director’s Seat
Can you imagine a Forrest Gump starring John Travolta, Dave Chappelle, and directed by Terry Gilliam? Well, it turns out that Gilliam and Barry Sonnenfeld both turned down the chance to direct the adapted screenplay.
It’s amazing to think how different the film could have been if these different creative choices were made at the start. As well as Gump, Zemeckis has directed classic films like Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, and Cast Away with Tom Hanks.
90 minutes after reading the script, Tom Hanks immediately called director Robert Zemeckis to tell him that he would play the titular character. However, there was one main concern for Hanks: the film had to be historically accurate.
Zemeckis was adamant that the screenplay was factually and historically accurate. Of course, the story is fiction but it still takes place along America’s historical timeline. Then Hanks said he wasn’t sure how Southern to make the voice, but Zemeckis insisted it remains as strong as the novel.
It Was Written In The Stars
Forrest Gump hit cinemas in 1994 and was an instant hit. It wasn’t such a sure-fire classic, however, since the movie was competing with some pretty excellent films.
1994 is considered one of the best years EVER for cinema. As well as Forrest Gump, audiences were also treated to films like Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, and The Lion King. That’s a lot of good films in one year! In fact, we’ve written about 1994 and its impact on cinema here.