Behind the Scenes Facts You Didn’t Know About Forrest Gump

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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.

Young Forrest Gump and young Jenny Curran sat in a tree reading a book together

Secret careers

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!

Tom Hanks appearing in Apollo 13 wearing a spaceman's suit looking into the camera

Real-life influence

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.

Forrest Gump wearing red short, a yellow t-shirt, and a red baseball cap running across a bridge with news reporters

Timeline mistake

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.

Forrest Gump wearing a blue shirt running down a dirt track away from a big car

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.

Forrest Gump with long hair and a beard wearing a baseball hat that says “Bubba Gump” standing in front of a crowd

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.

Forrest Gump sat on a bench wearing next to a brown suitcase while a beige suit with muddy trainers

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.

Forrest Gump dressed in his military outfit with a backpack on crawling through the grass on his stomach

Fake house

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.

The white house from Forrest Gump with large porches, and two women walking over the front lawn towards the front door

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.

Forrest Gump sat in a blue shirt reading a yellow book to a child wearing a blue shirt and red baseball cap

Nearly canceled

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.

Tom Hanks pointing his fingers towards the audience while he is wearing a black suit with matching bow tie

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.

Tom Hanks playing Forrest Gump with short hair while he is frowning off into the distance

Feeling sick

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!

Forrest Gump running through a football field while wearing beige trousers and a blue checkered shirt

Famous children

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.

Emily Hanks on the school bus in Forrest Gump wearing a red checkered dress with a braid in her hair

Another star

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!

Haley Joel Osment playing Forrest Gump Jr. wearing a red and blue striped long sleeve top

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.

Tom Hanks playing Forrest Gump wearing a beige suit and blue shirt while looking into the distance

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.

A table tennis ball flying towards Forrest Gump while he is competing in a ping-pong tournament

Lying lips

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.

Bubba is clutching onto Forrest Gump’s neck while they are both in Vietnam fighting the war

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?

Forrest Gump wearing a beige suit and blue shirt while looking off into the distance

Microphone Issues

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.

Forrest Gump wearing his military uniform, standing in front of many microphones and war veterans giving a speech

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.

John Travolta’s face on Forrest Gump’s body while wearing a green shirt and red baseball cap

Another Bubba

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!

Bubba is clutching onto Forrest Gump’s neck while they are both in Vietnam fighting the war

Bubba’s legacy

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!

One of the many real-life Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. with blue and red parasols on the front of the building

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.

Mykelti Williamson wearing a black shirt while flexing his arm muscles on the red carpet

Real-life clips

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.

Forrest Gump receiving his Medal of Honor from Lyndon B. Johnson

Not The Only Blockbuster

It is hard to believe, but Forrest Gump was not the only smash hit film that was made in the year 1994. In fact, three other cult classics came out that went on to be just as iconic. Pulp Fiction, Jurassic Park and The Shawshank Redemption were all huge seat fillers in cineplexes across the globe. All of them are regular features on people’s most favorite films – all for good reason. Forrest Gump was the big critical hit though, with it scooping no less than 13 Academy Award nominations.

Jenny’s Illness

The love story between Jenny and Forrest is one of the key drivers of the films, which is why when she passes away, the audience is so shocked and upset by it. It is never stipulated in the movie what it is she dies from. Instead, she simply mentions that she is sick with a virus that the doctors cannot cure. In the sequel to the book, its author reveals that in fact, Jenny passes away from Hepatitis C – a disease she caught through taking drugs.

Author Similarities

Whilst the relationship between the filmmakers and the author has publicly soured, the relationship between the main character and the author is strong. There are huge similarities between the fictional character’s history and Winston Groom’s. Groom once attended the University of Alabama like Gump did as well as serving in the US Army for four years in the 60s. Groom even did a tour of Vietnam as Gump so famously did too. Fascinated to hear more? Keep clicking to read facts that will blow your mind…

The Accent Almost Didn’t Happen

The famous southern drawl that Hanks took so long to perfect, was actually something the actor never wanted in the movie. He thought it was unnecessary and wanted the accent to be softened. It’s hard to think of the film without it given that it is an accent that everyone tries to impersonate when the movie is mentioned. It was the director, Robert Zemeckis, who stood up to Hanks and reasoned with him that it had to stay as it is written in the original novel.

Apollo 13

Whilst the long movie doesn’t manage to capture all the jobs that Gump has in the film, like an astronaut, the two lead male actors, Tom Hanks and Gary Sinise, do actually end up playing astronauts in the film Apollo 13. The historical movie was released just a year after Forrest Gump. Love hearing all these facts about one of your all-time favorite characters and movie? Keep clicking to hear even more intriguing titbits from the making of the film.

After The Cameras Stopped

The young actor, that Hanks based his accent on, Michael Conner Humphreys, could have had a twinkling career in acting ahead of him, after the cult hit movie was released. However, he decided to take a very different route in his career and signed up to the military. He went on to serve in the US army and even did a tour of Iraq where he served for 18 months. He gained the nickname Gump. He also went to university like his namesake, but after he had completed his service.

US National Film Registry

Forrest Gump holds such a place in people’s hearts that it actually is named in the US National Film Registry. It earned its spot on the register in 2011 and stands side by side with 24 other great movies like The Silence of the Lambs, Bambi and War Of The Worlds. The powers that be nominated the film owing to how it is viewed in American culture and the fact that it is historically accurate as well as aesthetically significant.

Crowd numbers

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…

Crowd of people listening to Forrest Gump’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial

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