In 1994, Tom Hanks gave one of the finest performances of his career in the Robert Zemekis-directed film Forrest Gump. The perfect blend of palpable humor and emotional depth, the film managed to resonate deeply both with moviegoers and with critics. It performed exceptionally well at the box office. At the 67th Academy Awards, it won about half of the dozen awards for which it had been nominated. However, there are several aspects about the film that remain unknown even to the most keen Forrest Gump fans. Yes, we’re talking about giant bloopers behind the most iconic scenes, and much more. Fortunately, we’ve gathered them all for you!
1. Bubba Gump
It was Forrest’s good friend at war Bubba whose lifelong dream was to reign over the shrimping business. He even invited Forrest to join him once they were at least freed from the war. Sadly, young Bubba died in Vietnam.
But Bubba would be pleased to know that his legacy lives on! In real life, you can patronize any number of Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. locations across the United States and around the world. Countries that boast locations include China, Japan, Mexico, and Malaysia.
2. Real Life–Almost
When Gump meets Lyndon B. Johnson and goes to receive his Medal of Honor for bravery in the Vietnam War, you might be shocked to learn that it is indeed real footage you saw. Of course, it was not footage obtained by the Forrest Gump crew.
Rather, that bit of video comes from the 1968 ceremony of Sammy L. Davis, who did, in fact, receive this prestigious award for his service in Vietnam. Hanks’s face was just slapped onto Davis’s body, to give the illusion that Forrest actually was standing face-to-face with President Johnson.
3. A Mock Vietnam
Obviously, the film crews did not go overseas to Vietnam to film the war scenes. It was all Hollywood magic that achieved that landscape and its accompanying atmosphere: the muddy ground, the raucous jungle, the reedy swamps. So how did they do it?
Believe it or not, the Vietnam War scene in Forrest Gump actually unfolded on a golf course on Fripp Island, just off the coast of South Carolina. To give the sprawling green that earthy Vietnam jungle feel, CGI worked its magic.
4. A Confusing Death
In the film, Forrest’s love interest, Jenny Curran, falls victim to an unknown virus and tragically died just one year after the two are married. The virus is never named but since it took place during the height of the AIDS crisis in the United States, the audience was left assuming she died of the AIDS virus.
For a film that highlighted key moments in American history, it would make sense to have the AIDS epidemic be featured. But that isn’t what the author had in mind when he wrote the book. In Groom’s sequel novel, Bubba & Co., the author reveals that Jenny was actually infected with hepatitis C from her drug usage.
5. Perfecting the Accent
Perhaps one of the main characteristics that makes Tom Hanks’s portrayal of Forrest Gump so endearing is his distinct Alabama accent. Of course, that is not the actor’s natural accent, so it took some effort and time to perfect. It helped that he had someone whose voice he could use for inspiration.
In the end, Hanks modeled the accent he adopted after one of his costars, Michael Conner Humphreys, who played young Forrest in the film. Humphreys went on to win plenty of critical acclaim of his own, perhaps most notably a Young Artist Award.
6. Portraying Lieutenant Dan
Ah, Lieutenant Dan. While there was a certain gruffness to him throughout the film, there was also a lot to love about his character. We especially begin to feel for his character later in the film when we see him vulnerable and uncertain, now crippled from the war.
Getting Lieutenant Dan’s injuries to look realistic was indeed a feat of cinematic technology. Actor Gary Sinise sat in a wheelchair and appeared to have no legs. However, the genius digital team behind the film simply had him wear a blue fabric that neatly concealed his lower legs, achieving a very convincing illusion.
7. The Scene That Cost Eternity
Or at least, it probably seemed that way to actress Robin Wright, who portrayed Jenny in the film. She gives a gorgeous performance in the nightclub scene, strumming at a guitar that offers just tantalizing glimpses of her naked figure.
Most impressive, a lot worked against Wright when it came to filming that scene. For one, it took literally an entire day total (not all at once, thank goodness!) to get the scene perfect. Meanwhile, Wright had been sick for a good portion of the filming, trying very hard to work through sniffles and a runny nose.
8. The Magic of CGI
Even back in 1994 CGI was able to create some pretty eerily convincing illusions. We have already pointed out many of the effects achieved in Forrest Gump, most of which went unnoticed by viewers for years until they finally zeroed in on them or had them pointed out to them by more observant friends. Here is another to add to your special effect file.
As you can imagine, shooting a ping-pong tournament is no easy task. That little ball goes everywhere, ricocheting off surfaces faster than the average eye can manage to follow. When the ping-pong tournament is being played by actors who really do not know much about ping pong, that can make things even more challenging. That is where CGI comes in. That ball you see flying between Forrest and his opponent during the tournament? It was not real; it was crafted meticulously using CGI, designed to hit the paddle just so to create the illusion of mad ping pong skills.
9. The Fake Lip
Mykelti Williamson played an unforgettable Bubba. He looked and played the part so well that it was easy to overlook one very notable thing about him that was all created thanks to Hollywood magic. That thing was his lower lip.
Yes, that jutting lip we have come to associate with Bubba is in fact just a prosthetic. He had to be fitted for it, which took quite awhile to perfect. That’s probably why it ended up looking so convincing. So don’t feel too bad if you fell for it. Many people were shocked when they saw the actor off set, no longer sporting that signature feature.
10. Just Another Country Bumpkin
In a strange turn of events, Mykelti Williamson’s role as Bubba in the film actually ended up hurting his career. In fact, Williamson was so convincing in his acting part that most people believed that director Zemeckis “had discovered some weird-looking guy and put him in front of the camera.”
Unfortunately for Williamson, that’s also what casting directors thought. The seasoned actor has stated that performing in the movie made it difficult for him to find work afterward. Thankfully in an appearance on “The Late Show With David Letterman” he was able to clear the air.
11. A Little Improv
“My name is Forrest Gump. People call me Forrest Gump.” When Tom Hanks’s character uttered these simple words, he managed to do so with such a sense of authority that the line quickly became one of the film’s most memorable.
However, that line did not originally appear in the script. As he did his character preparation work, Tom Hanks brainstormed it while on set. Director Robert Zemeckis liked the line enough to allow Hanks to say it for real–and it clearly paid off.
12. Other Potential Forrest Gumps
It is hard to imagine anyone but the one and only Tom Hanks playing the role of Forrest Gump. He fits so seamlessly into the role. However, believe it or not, he was not the only choice for the part.
Other actors that were considered to play Forrest Gump included Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, and John Travolta. They all declined, not without some serious second thoughts of course. Even today John Travolta is beating himself for passing this one over.
13. The Ultimate Elvis Impersonator
Another man involved in creating Forrest Gump went uncredited in the end. Appearing ever so briefly early on in the film, that man was none other than seasoned Hollywood actor Kurt Russell, who actually provided Elvis with his signature voice and did so very convincingly.
You will not see his name when the credits roll, however. But if you do want to show Kurt Russell some love for his ever so brief yet exemplary Elvis impersonation, you can watch him in the 1979 made-for-television movie Elvis.
14. Wait, I Wasn’t The Lead?
The movie was the very first feature film role for child actor Haley Joel Osment, who was only four years old at the time. Being so young he didn’t quite grasp everything that was going on around him. When Tom Hanks received his AFI Lifetime Achievement Award, Osment fessed up to the fact that he had thought back then that he was actually the lead role and not Hanks.
Osment played the role of Forrest Gump Jr. in the film and didn’t make the connection that he wasn’t Forrest Gump himself. The movie helped Osment jump-start his acting career. Shortly after, he landed starring roles in The Sixth Sense and Pay It Forward. He has also voice acted for all the Kingdom Hearts video games.
15. The Other Brother, the Runner
“Run, Forrest! Run!” The line has endured over the years, becoming the stuff of legends. After all, Forrest Gump was quite literally on the run for large portions of the film. Actor Tom Hanks, however, did not do much running at all in his spare time.
However, Tom’s brother Jim Hanks was actually quite the runner. He also happens to look a lot like Tom. Thus, the solution was quite simple and obvious: just swap out Tom for Jim whenever Forrest had to be shown running long-distance.
16. Coming of Age
There is a lot of growing up in Forrest Gump. In fact, watching the kind-hearted young Forrest grow to be the same good-natured older man is perhaps one of the highlights of the films. All at once, we the audience witness so much change about him as so much also remains the same.
His growth occurs in graceful transitions. These transitions are so graceful and subtle that you might have even missed one detail: in the first scene of each of these transitions, Forrest is sporting that same shirt, which is blue and a distinct plaid pattern.
17. Groovy Dudes
If you recall the hippie scene of the film, you might remember all those jaw-dropping hairstyles. You might have also been wondering to yourself: who had time to make sure all those hairdos were in order for just these couple moments?
As it turns out, this scene was shot someplace where people donning long, unruly hair were plentiful. And it was not a hippie commune. Rather, the brilliant minds behind the film decided to retreat to a creative place where people went all out with fashion: the Maryland Renaissance Festival.
18. The Bench Behind It All
Few movie props are more iconic than that ordinary bench on which Forrest Gump sat while waiting for his bus in Savannah, Georgia. What became of that bench after it was all said and done? Was it left to live out its days in the scorching Southern sun, wishing those who sat upon in farewell as they boarded their buses?
Actually, officials in Savannah found that bench to be a bit too much of a treasure to allow it to remain vulnerable to the general public. There would just be too great of a chance someone would try to take off with it to make a quick buck. Mischievous kids might get ideas and deface it with crude graffiti. Thus, the bench was removed. But never fear! You can still see it for yourself at the Savannah History Museum.
19. The Moving Speech
As you probably have guessed by now, and probably know yourself if you are a big fan of the film, Forrest Gump is rife with significant scenes. Perhaps one of the most poignant yet is the one in which he stands proud before an eager audience in Washington, D.C., prepared to give a harrowing speech.
Of course, the microphone ended up cutting out, which is a shame because Tom Hanks’s character actually had something meaningful to say. This is what he said at that moment: “Sometimes when people go to Vietnam, they go home to their mamas 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.”
20. Historic Mistake
One mistake you might have missed in the movie took place in the timeline for the running scene. In the film, Hanks states that he was running for three years and two months. But if you look closely that just doesn’t add up.
He started running the day that President Carter collapsed from heat exhaustion on October 1, 1979, but then by the time he receives Jenny’s letter after the race, President Reagan’s assassination attempt is breaking on the news, making the run only around a year and a half.
21. Children at Work
You might remember very clearly the scene in which Forrest Gump boards the school bus for the first time. Heartbreakingly, he is denied a seat next to his peers–twice. But those peers are played by not just any kids plucked off the streets and then thrust into a film.
In fact, the two children who refuse to allow Forrest to sit beside them are children of people very involved in the film. The boy is the son of director Robert Zemeckis. His name is Alexander. Additionally, the girl who shuns Forrest is actually Tom Hanks’s own daughter, Elizabeth.
22. Another Missed Opportunity
John Travolta can look on the bright side: at least he was not the only one to turn down a pivotal role in this film that ended up being a success both in terms of box office frenzy and critical acclaim. Several big names had the chance to play Forrest’s friend Bubba–but blew it.
These actors were Ice Cube, David Alan Grier, and Dave Chappelle. Each actor had his reason for declining the role. Ice Cube simply felt uncomfortable playing a disabled character. David Chappelle was a bit more blunt in his explanation: he just did not envision the film doing all that well. Of course, he has since eaten his words and joined John Travolta in his burning regret.
23. More Bubba Legacy
It has already been established that fans can get a taste of the rich Bubba Gump experience in any number of locations around the world. If you visit Orlando, Florida, you will be in for a treat even more special than one of Bubba’s signature shrimp dishes.
In Downtown Disney, fans can see the actual shrimp boat that appeared in Forrest Gump, alongside a moat that surrounds the Orlando restaurant. If you go into the actual restaurant for a quick bite to eat, you can see one of the ping pong paddles Tom Hanks used in the film hanging up for all to admire–and it is autographed!
24. Mother Dearest
In the film, it is clear that Forrest Gump had quite the close relationship with his mother. He relayed much of the brooding wisdom he imparted upon him, wisdom you would expect from a woman who had been on the planet awhile.
In fact, the actress who portrayed Forrest Gump’s mother, Sally Field, is not much older than Tom Hanks. She beats him out by just a little over a decade. Still, she managed to play the part with incredible conviction as one perfectly loving mother.
25. Out Sick?
Who wants to go to work sick? The answer is no one, but try this one on for size: what if you have to do something rather notable once you get there, like shoot a significant scene for a highly anticipated film you are starring in.
Alas, sickness befell Tom Hanks on a very important day of shooting. Specifically, he was set to appear in the football running scene and managed to make it. He just also happened to be suffering from a mean flu all the while.
26. Clean Adaptation
As has already been mentioned, the film version of Forrest Gump differs in some ways from the novel on which it was based. Most of the changes concerned the character Forrest Gump. In the film, he has a lovable childlike naivety that was actually more of a wry cynicism in Groom’s novel. Perhaps one of the biggest modifications yet went to one of the film’s most memorable lines yet. Yes, that box of chocolates line so many of us hold dear.
In the book, the quote was quite different and even took a tone almost opposite to what we received in the film. The quote is as follows: “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. Even so, I got no complaints, cause I reckon I done live a pretty interestin’ life, so to speak.”
27. Racial Exploitation
Forrest met numerous famous and historical icons during the film such as Elvis Presley, Lyndon B. Johnson, John F. Kennedy, John Lennon and Richard Nixon. But one famous figure was actually cut from the movie completely, namely Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The scene featured riot police releasing German shepherds on Rev. King and his supporters. Forrest then jumps in and distracts them with a game of fetch. The director ultimately left the scene out because people felt it cheapened the very real injustice of racial inequality and was quite frankly in bad taste. The cut-scene can be found on the special collector’s edition DVD.
28. Hidden Professions
If you thought Forrest Gump could do it all in the film–from landing a spot on a major football team to fighting in Vietnam to dominating in an international ping pong championship–you might be shocked to learn that his areas of expertise were even more expansive in the novel.
Novelist Winston Groom also described his leading character as a man of many talents who dabbled in a variety of fields: premier chess player, a skilled professional wrestler, and even an astronaut. Sadly, you can only fit so much into one film.
29. The Ping-Pong Championship
As he discovered quite by chance, Forrest Gump turned out to be a ping-pong master and learned how to play the game while recovering from the brutal war. Specifically, a fellow soldier taught him a thing or two about the game.
Most important, he was never to let his eyes leave the ball. And if you pay close attention to the ping pong scenes from then on, Tom Hanks’s gaze in fact never drifts from the ball. He never so much as blinks. Now that is dedication.
30. The Grueling Project
As much as so many of us enjoy Forrest Gump today, it was not exactly an easy project to get off the ground. In 1985, the film’s producer Wendy Finerman noted the novel and saw in it potential for a feature-length film. Sadly, very few other people saw that potential.
She pitched the idea to one Hollywood big shot after another, but she failed to convince any one of them to take a chance. But then she got hold of Tom Hanks, and he was almost instantly sold. Thanks to Tom Hanks’s faith in the film, we get to enjoy him in it today.
31. Actor for a Day
Can you imagine getting the opportunity to appear briefly in what would go on to be a blockbuster film, simply because you happened to be at the right place at the right time? That is exactly what happened to one tourist who was exploring Capitol Hill with his wife while Forrest Gump was being filmed there.
He and his wife hailed from Atlanta, Georgia, and were approached by the film crew and asked to read a few lines off a script. The result? That lucky man got to step into what would become one of the most memorable films in history, by reporting on Forrest Gump’s appearance in Washington, DC!
32. Good Ole Southern Filming
It is hard to deny the Southern charm that radiates from this film. After all, it is grounded in Alabama, and Forrest’s endearing accent is hard not to love. However, the film, for the most part, was actually shot elsewhere to maintain that sunny Southernness we have come to adore.
More precisely, many scenes were shot in Beaufort, South Carolina. Moreover, we also got glimpses of scenic coastal Virginia and North Carolina as well. Georgia also made an appearance in many key scenes. Pictured above is Chippewa Square, located in Georgia.
33. Perfecting Peace
Remember that peace rally at the Lincoln Memorial? You might recall how chaotic that backdrop seemed. At the same time, though, something about it seemed so deliberate. And indeed, that was the case. Directing 1,500 extras to do what you want them to do when you want them to do it all at once is no easy task.
Add to that the fact that the scene called for much more than just 1,500 eager souls. That number would have to be multiplied several times over. Miraculously, though, the number of actors that actually made up the scene remained 1,500. It was thanks to the marvels of digital editing that made expanding that crowd possible. Doing that required making sure all extras were in the proper place. This took about two whole days to achieve! Fortunately, it was accomplished, and there is now a very masterful scene to show for it.
34. Gump & Co.
On the first page of Winston Groom’s lesser-known sequel book, Bubba & Co., Forrest tells readers, “Don’t never let nobody make a movie of your life’s story.” A very unsubtle jab at the directors of Forrest Gump. And if you thought the first book was a bit outlandish, the second really takes the cake.
In Bubba & Co., Forrest takes his dim-witted shenanigans to the next level. He accidentally takes out the Berlin Wall, gets involved with the Iran-Contra affair, fights in Operation Desert Storm with a chimp companion and even crashes the Exxon Valdez. Talk about a wild ride! Good luck trying to make that into a movie, Hollywood.
35. The Real Long Run
Did you know that Forrest Gump’s cross-country run was actually inspired by a real-life event? It actually was! At the young age of 16, Louis Michael Figueroa made headlines when he ran all the way across the United States from New Jersey to San Francisco.
The story is actually quite uplifting. Back in 1982, a teenager by the name of Louis Michael Figueroa set off, on foot, from his home state of New Jersey. He did so with the intent of raising awareness for the American Cancer Society. In fact, Figueroa actually said this line, which appeared in the film modified just slightly to better fit Forrest’s character: “When I got tired, I slept. When I got hungry, I ate. When I had to go to the bathroom, I went.”
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