Forrest Gump has become one of the most famous movie classics thanks to the memorable script and brilliant acting from the film’s star, Tom Hanks. Although we have rewatched the movie too many times to count, there are some behind the scenes secrets we had no idea about until now…
Based on a book
Before the hit film made its way to the big screen, did you know it was a hit novel? Yup, the author, Winston Groom, published his story in 1986 – eight years before the blockbuster movie was released. While the writers kept reasonably accurate to the story, they did have to make some alterations. They kept in the main events of the story, but in the book, Forrest Gump had the mouth of the sailor. Needless to say, that changed for Hollywood.
While the movie followed most of the novel’s storylines, there are some differences. In the book, Forrest has more professions than the film. Some of these include becoming a pro wrestler, an astronaut, and a top chess player – wowza. Although the character had some pretty impressive careers, the producers had to cut a lot out to keep the length of the film sensible. Even though we could watch the movie forever, even we think all that may have been a bit long!
It wasn’t just the book that inspired the film. No, back in 1982 a teenager named Louis Michael Figueroa embarked on his own journey across America. The youngster reported he wanted to raise awareness of the American Cancer Society, so one day decided to leave New Jersey on foot to head to San Francisco. Louis was just 16 years old at the time, but that didn’t stop him from inspiring one of the most legendary films to date.
Running for more than 10 minutes sounds like hard work to us, let alone the three years and two months Forrest was running. Weeeell, that may not be entirely true. Forrest sets off on October 1, 1979, and receives Jenny’s letter when the news breaks of President Reagan’s assassination. Doing the math, that means Forrest was only running for around eighteen months. While that’s still an impressive amount of time to be on your feet, it’s not quite as long as we thought.
Run, brother, run
Thankfully for Tom Hanks, he wasn’t on his feet throughout the whole film. Jim Hanks, the actor’s brother, was a keen runner so it seemed obvious to bring in some outside help. Rather than wasting time with a rigorous exercise regime, the producers simply swapped out Tom and Jim whenever they shot scenes of Forrest long-distance running. Very sneaky. As the pair look so similar, we were none the wiser, and we’re sure Tom was happy for the chance to rest.
That famous bench
We have many famous faces in this film, but one that often gets overlooked is actually the star of the show: the bench. There have been many legendary seats over the years, such as the couch from Friends, or those egg chairs in Men In Black. However, the bench from the movie was deemed so iconic, that Savannah officials were worried it might get vandalized. Never fear! The bench has since been moved to the history museum located in the city.
Creating a warzone
While the scenes look realistic, the Vietnam scenes in Forrest Gump weren’t ACTUALLY shot in the country. On the days of shooting, golfers in Fripp Island, South Carolina were in for a shock as the movie took over the golf course. It wasn’t quite trudging through the swamps of a war zone, but the brilliant special effects team added in all the appropriate greenery to create the perfect atmosphere. Even before the days of modern CGI, this film was making incredible headway.
Even though the house in the film fit in with the scenery perfectly, it wasn’t the old-style building we had been led to believe. No, the property was, in fact, a modern build in the area. However, during construction, the property hadn’t met the modern health and safety standards. The film took over the home to shoot the relevant scenes before it was demolished shortly after filming wrapped up. The house was located in Greenbow, Alabama, but is now long gone.
Raking in the cash… almost
On paper, it looked as though the film was set to rake in big bucks. With a $55 million budget, the movie earned more than $677 million! Sadly, the joy didn’t last. Promoting and advertising cost Paramount Pictures so much they ended up having to fork out $62 million extra to cover the costs. Ouch. Thankfully, the movie went down as an instant classic, so at least there is some consolation. Although, we’re not sure Paramount saw it that way.
Before promoting the film was even an issue, the movie was close to being canceled. While they were still shooting the scenes, the studios were about two days from calling the whole project off. Thankfully, Tom Hanks and the movie’s director, Robert Zemeckis, had such faith in the film they forked over the extra cash needed to finish the job. Even though the film was a successful failure, Forrest Gump is the director’s highest earning film of his career.
No pay for Tom
After all the commotion with payment, Tom Hanks wasn’t in for an immediate paycheck. In fact, the actor took a massive gamble by accepting percentage points. Thankfully the risk paid off as he walked away $40 million richer. Sadly, for the author of the novel, Winston Groom, he was paid a measly $350,000. He had agreed to 3% of the film’s net profit, but as the movie never made any, the author was left high and dry.
Sometimes a sick day in bed to recover is just what the doctor ordered. Unfortunately, Tom Hanks didn’t have that option. When filming the movie, the actor came down with a severe case of flu. The day of the famous football running scene came around, and Tom was feeling pretty rough. However, like the true natural he is, the actor battled onwards to create one of the most memorable scenes from the movie. We take our hat off to you, Tom!
In one of the sadder scenes of the film, we see Forrest Gump denied a seat on the bus by two of his classmates. Although the kids treat him meanly, the actors playing them had connections in high places. The movie’s director, Robert Zemeckis, enlisted his son to play one of the roles. Tom Hanks got to choose another of the children and knew just the person for the part: Elizabeth Hanks, his very own daughter! Both children pulled off their roles perfectly.
It wasn’t just the children on the bus that appeared in the film; Haley Joel Osment landed the role of Forrest Gump Jr. in one of his first ever acting roles at just four years old. In recent years, Haley finally came clean about the part. As the movie was titled Forrest Gump, the same name as his character, he believed that he was, in fact, the star of the movie. It wasn’t until he grew up that he understood the movie!
Getting the right voice
In the movie Forrest Gump has a strong southern accent, but as the actor is from California, how did he perfect the accent? Well, Tom didn’t have to look far for inspiration. The actor who played Young Forrest, Michael Conner Humphreys, was born and raised in Mississippi. Tom approached the young actor to help voice coach in him in the ways of the south. All the coaching sessions saw Tom Hanks perfect the role, as well as earning Michael critical acclaim.
Phony ping-pong ball
One of the many memorable moments from the film is the incredible ping-pong tournament. With the ball flying back and forward at lightning speeds, it can be hard to keep your eye on all the action. This is precisely what happened to the actors. As the pair didn’t know how to play ping-pong very well, they were just filmed waving their paddles around like madmen, and editors got to work with CGI to edit in the ball.
It wasn’t only the ping-pong ball that was fake. Some of the actors also helped aid their lies – how could they?! Mykelti Williamson was the person cast to play the incredible role of Bubba. However, remember his famous lip? Yup, it’s fake! The prosthetic had to be meticulously fitted to the actor’s real lips to create the perfect illusion. When Mykelti appeared on the red carpet after the film, many fans were amazed to discover he didn’t really bear the pout.
Re-writing the script
When Tom Hanks uttered the line “My name is Forrest Gump. People call me Forrest Gump.” people may have believed this was a genius comedy trick by the writers. In fact, the actor improvised the famous words to create one of the most memorable phrases from the movie. Tom approached the director of the film to hear his thoughts, and thankfully Robert Zemeckis was on board with the script change. Where would we be today without that iconic line?
Throughout the entire movie, there are plenty of moments that stand out. From one-liners to significant events in the film, it is non-stop entertainment from start to finish. So when Forrest Gump was making his famous Washington speech, he was left somewhat disappointed. Before he was able to finish delivering his prepared words, the microphone on the stand cut out entirely. Even though the character was able to read an excellent speech, there was still plenty more to come.
Almost another face
After all those memorable scenes it’s almost impossible to imagine anyone else playing the role of Forrest Gump. However, that was almost reality when the producers were searching for their leading man. At the time the actors John Travolta, Bill Murray, and Chevy Chase were all offered the chance to play Forrest, but all of them declined. It is reported that John Travolta still regrets his decision to opt out of the movie all these years later.
It wasn’t just Forrest that nearly had a different face. When looking for the role of Bubba, there were a number of other actors lined up for the part. Some of these include David Chappelle, David Alan Grier, and Ice Cube. Thankfully, they all turned down the opportunity meaning we got to enjoy Mykelti Williamson bring the part to life. David Chappelle admitted he didn’t want to get involved as he thought the movie would be a total flop – oh, was he wrong!
Devastatingly, Bubba never got to return home and fulfill his dream of ruling the shrimp business after the war in Vietnam. Thankfully, his legacy has lived on in the real world. All across America, there are now Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. restaurants to give the character the recognition he deserved. It isn’t just America that has commemorated Bubba either, as the restaurants have also appeared in Malaysia, Japan, China, and Mexico. Bubba will forever live on in our hearts!
End of a career
While Bubba’s character was a huge success, the role had disastrous effects on the actor’s career. Mykelti Williamson was the face of Bubba, but somehow he managed to play the role too perfectly. Fans of the movie thought that Mykelti looked like Bubba in real life, which led casting directors to believe the same. After the film premiered, Mykelti struggled to land any work. Thankfully he appeared on The Late Show where he put all the rumors to rest.
When Forrest Gump receives his Medal of Honor from President Lyndon B. Johnson, it may be unbelievable to hear that the footage is all entirely real! Well, almost. The clip was from 1968 when Sammy L. Davis was collecting his medal from the president after serving in Vietnam. The smart cookies working on the film managed to edit Forrest Gump’s face onto Sammy’s body to give the illusion it was, in fact, the character at the ceremony. Very sneaky.
Even though the movie was a fan of using CGI, they still needed some help. When shooting the Lincoln memorial scene, the producers managed to rally together 1,500 people to form the crowd. It may be hard to spot yourself out of the group though as the editors multiplied the crowd over and over again to make it look as though there were thousands of people. Still, with 1,500 people, hopefully, they weren’t all trying to get to the front…