Facts About “Forrest Gump” That Even The Biggest Fans Don’t Know

When Forrest Gump was released in 1994, most people weren’t sure what to expect, even though the novel it was based off (written by Winston Groom) was well-received by critics. Word of mouth quickly ensured that the film would be a hit, though, as viewers were smitten by the jokes, tragic moments, and heartwarming arc of the main character’s life. It would go on to become an Oscar-winning film, but there may be things you don’t know about Forrest Gump. Let’s see, shall we?

Tom Didn’t Get Paid

For a movie that went on to make $677 million and a star as well known as Tom Hanks, you would only be justified in thinking that Hanks pulled down a serious salary to film the role. But he actually made no up-front salary at all, opting for a percentage of the film’s take instead.

It paid off to the tune of $40 million, but director Robert Zemeckis and Hanks actually had to split the cost of filming the running sequence in order to get the film made, as the studio was about to pull the plug on filming and Zemeckis said the shot had to be included for the film to work.

Forrest In CGI

There are some scenes where it is quite obvious that CGI is being used, such as when Forrest Gump meets with historical figures in black-and-white footage throughout the film, but other times were definitely not so obvious at all.

For instance, when Forrest is playing ping pong, there aren’t any actual ping pong balls being used in the scene. Instead, the actors just timed their swing to the sound of clicks and the ping pong ball was added to the film in post.

Playing Forrest

These days, it’s hard to imagine anyone but Tom Hanks playing the role of Forrest Gump. However, he actually was not the first choice to play the role, which may be shocking to many fans of the film.

The first choice was John Travolta, but just like backup choices Bill Murray and Chevy Chase, he turned the movie down. Travolta conceded that it was a major mistake, but he played Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction the same year, so it worked out.

Age Differences

Hollywood actors and actresses can often play much older or younger than their ages with the help of makeup and special effects, and this certainly happened in Forrest Gump, as Sally Field was just 10 years older than Hanks during filming.

Despite that, she played his mother in the movie. It’s far from the only time when this kind of thing has happened in Hollywood, however, and men often play characters that are much younger than their real ages or who date women much younger than them on screen.

Symbolism

Many fans of the film Forrest Gump have noticed lots of little details about the film through repeated viewings over the years. For instance, Forrest wears a blue checked shirt in every first scene after a jump forward in years.

Another funny detail is that whenever Forrest appears in a photo within the movie, as in the cover of Runner’s World or the large cardboard cutout of him, his eyes are closed. Hanks did this on purpose because during photo opps, Forrest is so concerned with standing up straight that he “forgets to open his eyes.”

Seeing Double

Apparently Tom Hanks didn’t always feel like running, even if Forrest always did. To that end, he had to turn to someone he could count on to play Forrest during a few of the running sequences.

That man would be none other than Jim Hanks, Tom’s younger brother. They are not necessarily lookalikes and you wouldn’t mistake them for twins, but there was definitely enough resemblance for it to work for running shots.

What A Tear-Jerker

There’s a famous scene in which Forrest is urged onstage to speak at a protest of the Vietnam War, but when he’s up, the mic cuts out. However, the man next to him is moved to tears. So what did Forrest say? Fortunately, Tom Hanks has revealed it to us all.

“Sometimes when people go to Vietnam, they go home to their mamas without any legs,” Gump said, according to Hanks. “Sometimes they don’t go home at all. That’s a bad thing. That’s all I have to say about that.”

Quite A Nickname

When Tom Hanks first meets Bubba, they kick off what would be a great friendship and one of the best parts of the movie. However, Forrest’s memorable line was an adlib when he says, “My name’s Forrest Gump. People call me Forrest Gump.”

The reason the line was included in the film is that director Robert Zemeckis loved it so much. Sometimes, actors and actresses will adlib a line and it works so well for the film that it’s hard to imagine the movie without it.

Forrest’s Son

It’s always fun to go back and watch movies and sometimes see that people who had rather small parts went on to be pretty big stars. That was certainly the case with young Haley Joel Osment, who played Forrest and Jenny’s son.

It was actually the young man’s first acting performance on film, but he did well enough that he was also tapped to star in The Sixth Sense, which would really make him a star among child actors.

Who’s That Reporter?

While some smaller parts end up being played by actors and actresses who become huge stars, other times directors will cast complete nobodies to play small roles in their films, which is pretty cool.

This was the case for a scene that was shot when Forrest visited Washington D.C. partway through the film. The reporter who asks Forrest questions was actually a tourist visiting D.C. with his wife. Zemeckis gave him the script and liked how he said the lines, so he was in the movie.

Legs Turned Blue

There’s a bit of movie magic involved with making it appear as if people such as Gary Sinise are missing limbs (or in Gary’s case, parts of limbs) for a movie. In this case, the trickery was both basic and high tech all at once.

They had Gary wear bright blue leggings underneath his tied-off trousers. The purpose was to have them be a color that would be easy to remove after filming via CGI, giving the effect that he had no legs beneath the knees.

Where’s Sammy?

Of course, there are a lot of scenes where Forrest Gump appears in historical archive footage, which is part of the movie’s charm. One thing that they did was superimpose Forrest’s head onto other people’s bodies to make the footage look more believable.

For instance, the scene in which President Lyndon B. Johnson awards Forrest with a Medal of Honor is actually taken from footage of Sergeant First Class Sammy L. Davis receiving the honor, only they put Forrest’s head in the film in place of Davis’.

Which Bubba?

Although a number of well known actors passed on the role of Forrest Gump, it seemed that plenty of people wanted a crack at playing Bubba. Tupac Shakur apparently read for the role, but didn’t get it.

Meanwhile, Ice Cube was offered the role, but said no. Dave Chappelle was rumored to have been given the role, too. Ultimately, Mykelti Williamson took the role and ran with it, which he’s probably glad that he did.

Elvis Has Left The Building

Remember when we said that sometimes you’ll find pretty big stars playing tiny roles in films like Forrest Gump? That is also true of cameos like the one where a young man with a guitar seems to be Elvis Presley.

Who’s the actor who portrayed the young Elvis for the scene? That would be none other than Hollywood star Kurt Russell. It wasn’t the first time he ever played The King, either, having starred in the 1970 film Elvis.

Simple As Can Be

One of the most charming aspects of Forrest Gump has to be the title character’s rather simple, yet poignant philosophies on life and seemingly every other topic under the sun. Forrest was someone that we could all learn from.

However, when he said, “I just put one foot in front of the other” to describe his run, the line actually came from a 16-year-old boy who ran from San Francisco to New Jersey in support of the American Cancer Society. That’s absolutely amazing.

A Cold Scene

When Robin Wright, who starred as grown up Jenny in Forrest Gump, filmed the scene where she sings and plays guitar in the nightclub, it was a grueling shoot that took 24 hours of pretty much non-stop shooting. Talk about exhausing.

What made the scene even more difficult was that Robin had a pretty bad cold at the time. It probably didn’t help that her character was only wearing a tiny dress when Robin probably just wanted to be huddled under a blanket.

Norman Rockwell

In the book, Forrest Gump grows up in Mobile, Alabama, but for the movie, director Robert Zemeckis wanted Forrest to grow up in Greenbow, which is a fictional town in Alabama. Many of you are probably wondering why this was.

Zemeckis wanted to create a town that was like something out of Norman Rockwell’s paintings for the movie. In fact, the scene where young Forrest is sitting outside of the principal’s office is directly inspired by the painting “The Young Lady with the Shiner.”

Like A Box Of Chocolates

There are few movie props that are as famous as the bench that Forrest Gump sits on when he delivers his famous “Life is like a box of chocolates” line. However, five benches were actually used for the scenes where he tells his story.

One of the benches made its way to the Savannah Museum in Georgia, another is in the Smithsonian Museum, and two more are on the Paramount lot in L.A. The fifth was given to a security guard who worked on the set, who has gone on to refuse bids to buy the bench for half a million dollars!

Book Or Film?

One of the big debates that movies like Forrest Gump always attract is the classic, “Which do you like better; the book or the film?” However, as is often the case, the book and the movie are quite a bit different.

One of the differences in the movie when compared to the book is that the character of Forrest Gump is much more naive than in the novel. He tends to let things happen to him and go with the flow, but in the novel that’s not always the case.

Young Stars

We have discussed the fact that many movies make use of well-known actors for small parts, and other times performers who take small roles go on to become big stars in their acting careers. This wasn’t the case when it came down to young Forrest and Jenny.

There’s another trend, though: that of stars’ kids playing small roles in films. In Forrest Gump, Tom Hanks’ daughter Elizabeth and Robert Zemeckis’ son Alexander play two of the kids who give Forrest a hard time on the school bus.

Gump & Co.

It didn’t appear that Winston Groom was interested in writing a follow up to the first Forrest Gump novel at first. But with the success of the film, it seemed that he had a change of heart. That’s right, the story of Gump continues after Jenny.

In fact, it was nine years after the original novel was released that Groom finally released the long-awaited followup, Gump & Co., which focused on Forrest’s life with his son after Jenny’s passing. This is definitely not something that Gump fans want to miss out on.

Like Young Forrest, Like Old Forrest

Tom Hanks wasn’t always going to use the distinctive accent that he used for the film Forrest Gump. However, that all changed when he heard how Michael Conner Humphrey talked when he played young Forrest. The kid had a unique voice.

Initially, Tom wasn’t sure about using the accent for the adult version of the character, but after trying it on for size, he thought it was perfect. It ended up being the right decision for sure. His voice is definitely one of the strong characteristics of Forrest Gump.

Quick Decision

Tom Hanks had a lot of enthusiasm for the film; foregoing a salary in favor of a percentage of the profits and helping pay to shoot the running across America scenes himself. He loved the script from when he first read it, signing on for the role just an hour and a half after reading it.

There was a condition, however. Tom only wanted to be a part of the film if the history in the film was as precise as possible. Obviously, they nailed that part when the film debuted in theaters. This is definitely a movie that made an impact.

Big Winner

There were a lot of tests for Tom Hanks when he decided to play Forrest Gump, and even though it looks like a no-brainer in hindsight, playing such an unconventional role was definitely a leap of faith. Tom did it with absolute ease.

However, it paid off, as he earned his second consecutive Oscar for Best Actor for his performance as Forrest. His other Oscar came for Philadelphia, and he’s had three other nominations, to boot. Tom Hanks was a superstar at this point.

Many Locations

Many locations are often used to film movies, and Forrest Gump was no exception. However, the film did keep true to its story and was entirely filmed in the American South. You can see this in the construction of the houses and the landscape.

Most of the scenes were filmed in Savannah, Georgia, with some others filmed in South Carolina. Fripp Island and Hunting Island State Park were also used to give the film a consistent visual palette. We really get to see some of America’s southern beauty.

 

Typecast As Bubba

Mykelti Williamson was the actor who portrayed Bubba in the film Forrest Gump. Unfortunately for Mykelti, he did such a good job that it made it difficult for him to get good roles afterward. The whole world saw the man as Bubba.

Although he would be offered rather goofy comedic roles, he never really got a shot at the dramatic roles he wanted to use to prove his talents. Although it helped that he wore a prosthetic for his famous underbite, he still feels like he’s typecast as Bubba after all these years.

Young Forrest’s Outcome

You may wonder what happened to young Michael Corner, who portrayed the child version of Forrest Gump in the film. He was quite impressive in the movie and many thought he had a bright future in acting.

However, acting wasn’t for him and he ended up joining the U.S. Army when he got older, instead. As for his accent, it definitely wasn’t fake. Corner was from Mississippi, so it came naturally to him! He still speaks like this today.

Made In The U.S.A.

Earlier, we learned that Tom Hanks did have a condition for his acceptance of the role of Forrest Gump: he wanted all the history in the film to be as accurate as possible, given the story. This would come with some hardships for the film crew.

It turned out that director Robert Zemeckis also had demands of his own. He only wanted music from American bands in the film, because he knew that Forrest would want it that way, even though the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and others were quite popular during the eras portrayed in the film.

Poor Jenny

Jenny is one of the threads that ties together the film throughout Forrest’s life, but unfortunately she comes to a sad end in the early 1980s, after her and Forrest have finally started a life together.

“I have some virus, and the doctors, they don’t know what it is, and there isn’t anything they can do about it,” Jenny said during the film. This led fans to believe that she either had Hepatitis C or perhaps even one of the first cases of HIV.