Forrest Gump is an award-winning film, and unforgettable in its plots and themes, but there are a lot of details that the producers don’t want you to know. It’s in all those secrets, unknown facts and embellishments, though, that some of the real beauty (and our fascination) with this film are found.
The film helped to launch the careers, and further the importance of many of our favorite actors: Tom Hanks, Sally Field, Haley Joel Osment, Mykelti Williamson, etc. Learn more about the Forrest Gump: the movie, the lives it touched, and the legacy we’ve all come to cherish.
Mysterious Missing Ping Pong Ball
You’re probably familiar with the many instances of computer-generated graphics in movies and TV shows, but it’s likely you just don’t think of it as a likely possibility in dramas or most comedies. Well, for those infamous ping-pong battles on the Forrest Gump movie, they were all complete, computer-generated fabrications, through the power of CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery).
Yes, it’s true, Tom Hanks is great, but for the scope of the movie, they helped him out just a little bit. Can you imagine what it would have taken for him to really become a world-class ping-pong player just for the movie? There’s no word on how good he really became. You might just guess that they may have had some fun ping-pong battles for the fun of it. We may never know for sure.
Iconic Blue-Checkered Shirt?
In every transitional moment in Forrest Gump, the main character is seen wearing that blue-and-white checkered shirt, which has raised some questions and even speculation. Why is that shirt so important? What does it mean?
You know it can’t be a coincidence, but why it was purposely put into his wardrobe schedule for those moments is something of a mystery. Some have assumed that it reminds us of where he came from. He was a poor Southern boy, raised by a single mother, who really managed to pull himself up by the skin of his teeth.
Who Turned Down the Starring Role?
You may be surprised by who the producers contacted for the starring role in Forrest Gump. The list includes some of the biggest stars and best funny-men: John Travolta, Chevy Chase, and Bill Murray. They all turned down the role, which led the producers to ask Tom Hanks.
When you look at the final product, though, can you really imagine any of these actors taking on the role of Forrest Gump? Tom Hanks brought the right compo of funny, serious and just-about-reserved talent to the role, which undoubtedly led to how it went on to be such a favorite, award-winning film.
Little Forrest (Haley Joel Osment)
One of the cutest members of the Forrest Gump cast was Haley Joel Osment, who was performing in his debut role. He took on the part of “Little Forrest” or “Forrest Jr.” on the movie. He was the son of Forrest Gump and Jenny Curran, but his mother keeps him a secret for three years before revealing his birth and parentage (that Forrest is his father).
Before this huge film debut, Haley had appeared in a Pizza Hut commercial. He’s since been called “one of the best young actors of this generation.” Beyond Forrest Gump, Haley went on to appear in M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense.
How Old Was Sally Field Really?
Sally Field is another famous actress on the film who helped to make Forrest Gump so successful. On the movie, though, she was supposed to be old enough to be Forrest’s mother. So, they aged her substantially for some of the scenes. What you probably don’t know is that Field is actually only 10 years older than Tom Hanks, so it really was the wonder of make-up that created her ultra-aged look.
Sally Field later said of her role as Forrest’s mother, “She’s a woman who loves her son unconditionally.” She also said, “A lot of her dialogue sounds like slogans, and that’s just what she intends.” All those wise words are part of what makes the film so powerful and memorable.
Where In the World Was Vietnam?
The magic of movie technology has the power to use any backdrop to create the illusion of place, but did you know that Vietnam in Forrest Gump was really filmed on location in Savannah, Georgia and in South Carolina?
The Vietnam War setting was important to the movie not only because of how it helps to further develop Forrest’s character but also as the polar opposite of the hippie lifestyle that Jenny Curran espouses. The war also carries the plot forward, creates many of the relationships, and also sets the stage for many of the tragedies that make the movie into a melodramatic tear-jerker. Lieutenant Dan loses his legs, and Bubba loses his life. But, somewhere along the line, we also see that survival is possible.
What About The Random Reporter Character?
You may be shocked most of all to learn that some movie characters really are random. In the case of the reporter who appears in the movie, while the crew was shooting in Washington DC. The random guy who was chosen to play the character for a few minutes was really just a tourist walking by with his wife.
The production crew chose the random tourist guy, handed him a script, and filmed him. It all happened rather quickly and (fortunately) seamlessly. Imagine the stories he had to tell his friends and family about his trip to Washington DC, though. It must have been a bit mind-boggling, particularly after the movie won so many awards.
The Fame of the Forrest Gump Bench
Yes, Forrest Gump is a popular and award-winning comedic drama, but did you know that the props have been sold at auction for mega bucks. Just take, for example, Forrest Gump’s infamous park bench. From that bench, he famously launched his “Life is like a box of chocolates.”
But, would you believe that the bench was worth $25,000 when it appeared on the auction block in 2013? It’s quite possible that the bench may just increase in value, as the movie continues to be popular after all these years.
What Did Jenny Actually Die From?
In the film, viewers were told that Jenny Curran was terminally ill with a disease. The actual diagnosis was never revealed, and fans have many theories as to what she was suffering from. Based on her lifestyle, living on the street for a period of time, and experimenting with drugs, there’s a good chance that Jenny suffered from Hepatitis C or HIV. At the time, both of these diseases were not known about and were contracted by people living similar lifestyles to Jenny.
The shrimp boat adventures in Forrest Gump offer some of the most powerful character-building scenes of the movie, but the money that came out of that adventure also changed their lives.
You probably remember that Lieutenant Dan invested the earnings from that epic Hurricane Carmen shrimp-boat haul into a fleet of shrimp boats, but also into what he called “some kind of fruit company.” What better fruit company is there than Apple Computer Inc.? The value of those investments has significantly increased, to such an extent that they are now worth $2.5 billion. Not bad for a “fruit company” stock, right?
Actors Who Turned Down the Bubba Role
The Forrest Gump producers first reached out to Ice Cube, David Alan Grier, and Dave Chappelle to play the part of the famous “Bubba” character, but those famous actors all turned down the part. Chappelle later admitted that he didn’t think the film would be successful and that he regretted not taking the part.
So, the producers finally chose Mykelti Williamson to become the ever-popular Private Benjamin Buford “Bubba” Blue, and you probably can’t imagine it any other way. Bubba was supposed to be the senior partner of the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company when they got back from the Vietnam War. Since Bubba never made it back, Lieutenant Dan became Forrest’s partner instead. Forrest also gave what would have been Bubba’s share of the business to his mom.
Tom Hanks’ Brother Was His Double
Another epic and memorable part of Forrest Gump is the “Run Forrest, Run” plotline. In the movie, Forrest runs away from bullies and then he just keeps running. He runs across the country in the most gorgeous, scenic landscape views, but there’s something about that scene that you probably don’t realize.
If you thought that it was Tom Hanks running across that bridge and through many of those long-distant shots, you’d be wrong. It’s his body double, a role taken on by his brother, Jim Hanks. You could say that they have a definite body-type resemblance, being family and all.
The Soundtrack for Forrest Gump
The original soundtrack for Forrest Gump was released on the same day as the movie and included songs from some of the greatest artists, including a record six songs from The Doors. It also immediately jumped to #7 on the Billboard 200 albums chart and even climbed to #2.
The soundtrack included 6 songs from The Doors, but also featured Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog,” Duane Eddy’s “Rebel Rouser,” Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” “California Dreamin'” by The Mamas and the Papas,” Jackie DeShannon’s “What the World Needs Now Is Love,” Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs Robinson,” BJ Thomas “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” and of course Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again.” And, that’s not all. You’ll also find Jimi Hendrix, Hank Williams, Fleetwood Mac, Jackson Browne and many more. The soundtrack was a memorable experience in its own right…
Turning Point in Tom Hank’s Life and Career
Tom Hanks took on the role of Forrest Gump, and it was a pivotal part in the evolution of his career. He’d previously taken on comedic roles, but Forrest Gump allowed him to dig deeper, and become a more dramatic actor.
Yes, it’s the role for which he will always be remembered, but that’s also because he played the role with perfection. He made the part his own, and it’s now difficult to imagine any other actor taking on that role and imbuing it as well as he did.
How Much Did Tom Hanks Get Paid?
In one sense, you could say that Tom Hanks didn’t really get a paycheck, at least not in the traditional sense, for Forrest Gump. In his contract, he signed up for “points,” or a percentage of the studio’s take of box-office revenues. It’s a great deal if the film really takes off, but can be seriously disappointing if the movie tanks.
In this case, the movie made $677 million dollars at the box office, and with the percentage that he earned based on his contract, Hanks brought home $40 million dollars after it was all said and done. Signing on for points (or percentage) also likely makes it worth the actor’s time to promote the heck out of the film. It really could mean millions.
Eyes Wide Shut
It’s hard to believe, and you wouldn’t think it possible if you didn’t actually see it with your own eyes. It’s also a bit of the comic humor that shines through in Forrest Gump. After all, that is the background that Tom Hanks came from. Just look at all the pictures of Forrest Gump in the movie. In every single one of them, he is captured with his eyes closed. One or two might be a mistake.
Three might be a coincidence. But, the fact that every single one is like that seems to suggest that it was a purposeful directive. It also may have a thematic element. Perhaps it has something to do with the idea that Forrest doesn’t embrace his fame. He shuts it all out. He is who he is, and always will be.
What Did Forrest Gump Say About the Vietnam War?
Maybe, just maybe, there was a reason that Forrest Gump’s speech wasn’t audible I the Vietnam War rally scene. His words might have offended some, and that really wasn’t the ultimate goal of the Forrest Gump producers. Although you can’t hear it, he 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.”
They’re simple words, but they’re powerful, and they speak volumes. It may not have been the intent of the producers to make people think, but knowing what he said does affect the tone and meaning of the entire movie.
The Scene That No One Talked About
One evening Forrest asked Jenny, “Will you marry me?” as she walked up the stairs. “I’d make a good husband Jenny.” He tells her. She replies, “You don’t want to marry me.” A little while later, as the rain pours down, Jenny slips into Forrest’s room and tells him that she does love him. Then, they make love for the first time. Afterward, in the morning, Jenny leaves the house, without saying goodbye. We find out later that Forrest Jr. was the result of that night.
Looking back on the film, viewers are left with questions. One of them being, if Jenny was sick with HIV or AIDS, and they slept together unprotected, wouldn’t Forrest have gotten sick? The film ends without this result, but the love scene is one that stands out in the film.
My Name Is Forrest Gump
Tom Hanks first spoke the memorable lines, “My name is Forrest Gump. People call me Forrest Gump.” The words weren’t part of the script. They were ad-libbed, but they had the right “ring” to them. So, Robert Zemeckis decided to keep them in and splice that famous line throughout the script for the movie.
Of course, in the movies that Tom Hanks has worked on since, those moments of capturing the perfect line have popped up again-and-again. He seems to be particularly adept at finding just the right words to say at just the right time. So we shouldn’t be surprised that the line has become one of the most quotable lines from the movie.
Awards for Forrest Gump
If you loved Forrest Gump, it should feel great that you were not the only one. The film received six Academy Awards, including “Best Picture,” and it has garnered something of a cult following. Although it’s been called “mawkish” or melodramatic by some, the bitter-sweet moments have stuck with us, reminding me of those many 60’s moments that really can’t just be let go.
But, for all the controversy surrounding its contrived moments, the movie also has that sense of sentimentality, where friendship overpowers even the certainty of death, and we can rely on love and courage even in those darkest moments. Perhaps we might even be led to believe that if we had more movies like Forrest Gump the world would even be a better place.
Forrest Gump Meets the President
Even meeting the President of the United States takes on a very direct and matter-of-fact approach in Forrest Gump. You probably remember the scene where Forrest Gump says, “The really good thing about meeting the President of the United States is the food. They put you in this little room with just about anything you’d want to eat or drink. But since, number one, I wasn’t hungry, but thirsty, and number two, they was free, I must have drank me about fifteen Dr. Peppers.”
Every event. both monumental or everyday, takes on that same matter-of-fact viewpoint. “That’s all I have to say about that,” he says.
What About the Medal of Freedom?
Tom Hanks has made an undeniable mark on history, culture, and entertainment, which may be why President Barrack Obama chose him to be one of the 21 people to receive the 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom. It’s the highest honor a civilian can receive, and it’s indicative of the level of respect and admiration that Hanks has garnered through the years.
In a statement, President Obama said, “The Presidential Medal of Freedom is not just our nation’s highest honor — it’s a tribute to the idea that all of us, no matter where we come from, have the opportunity to change the country for the better.” Isn’t that what Forrest Gump is really all about as well? You’ve just got to believe that his role as the ever-memorable Forrest is also part of why he went on to be recognized in such a public and enduring way.
The Inspiration Behind Forrest Gump’s Accent
One of the things that make Forrest Gump such an unforgettable character is that accent. The deep Southern drawl is impersonated by many and has helped render Forrest Gump as one of the most quotable movies of all time.
In late 2015, Tom Hanks revealed that his famous accent originated from Michael Connor Humphreys, the actor who played Forrest Gump as a young boy. Humphreys had a thick Mississippi accent, pronouncing words with a hard “g.” Because his accent was so prominent, the young star had trouble making his voice sound more like Hanks. Hanks, however, thought Humphrey’s accent was priceless so he decided to speak more like him.
The Day of Jenny’s Death
One mistake that producers made could have been easily prevented by looking at a calendar. Jenny is said to have died on March 22, 1982. Later when Forrest is sitting at Jenny’s grave, talking to her, he says: “You died on a Saturday morning” but the actual date is on a Monday.
While it doesn’t change the storyline, it does remind viewers that this is a film and not everything you watch is based on reality.
The Shrimp Is Obviously Store Bought
If you take a close look during one of the scenes with Forrest on a boat, you will discover another mistake that producers made in the film. When Forrest catches some shrimp, the net drops the shrimp onto the boat. But if you look closely, you’ll see that the shrimp are headless and dead. Obviously, the shrimp had been store bought and brought to the set for the scene.
Having to buy shrimp for the scene is understandable, but someone should have paid attention and at least made sure they still had heads!
Wait, What Year Is It?
There are a couple instances in the film where things are shown that did yet exist. For example, in a scene where Jenny is doing drugs, the song “Get Down Tonight” is playing, yet the song wouldn’t have been released for another year, in 1975.
Another scene, when Jenny is visiting Forrest on what is supposed to be the Fourth of July in 1976, the TV shows the Statue of Liberty holding a gold torch. But the gold wasn’t added to the statue until 1986 when it was restored.
The House Was Built For the Film And Destroyed After
Forrest Gump’s beautiful home in Greenbow, Alabama was actually built specifically for the film. The builders paid careful attention to make it appear as though the house had a lot of history to it, even though it was brand new.
However, after the crew was done shooting, the beautiful house was torn down, upsetting many. The reasoning is said to be that the home was built “hastily and not to code.” It’s a shame that fans of the community won’t have the opportunity to visit it. Another little-known fact is that it was built in Georgia, where most of the scenes were filmed.
Bubba Gump Shrimp Goes From Reel To Real
After making money from endorsing ping pong paddles, Forrest Gump uses his earnings to fulfill a promise to his late friend Bubba. Purchasing a shrimp boat, he lovingly names the watercraft after Bubba and himself. In true Gump fashion, the company sees paramount success after a series of lucky coincidences.
In 1995, to the delight of Forrest Gump (and seafood) fans, The Bubba Gump Shrimp Company came to life. A collaboration between Paramount Pictures and Rusty Pelican Restaurants Inc., the first Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. opened in Monterey, California. The restaurant saw such success during its first year, the chain expanded. Today there are locations in 10 different countries.
The Reason Forrest Never Blinks
Forrest Gump is all about the subtle details that are only caught if you’re really paying attention or if you’ve seen the classic movie a handful of times. Next time you watch the flick, pay attention to Tom Hanks’ eyes when he’s playing ping pong.
In the scene where Forrest is learning to play ping pong in the infirmary, a soldier trying to coach him tells him the secret is to keep his eye on the ball. In true Forrest Gump fashion, he takes this literally. After this moment, he never blinks when he is shown playing the game.
Guess Who Turned Down the Role of Jenny?
Robin Wright was the actress who played the role of Jenny Curran. However, several top actresses of Hollywood also took an interest in the part but decided to turn it down. Both Demi Moore and Nicole Kidman supposedly turned down the role that scored Robin Wright three nominations.
Wright was nominated for a Golden Globe Award and Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress, as well as a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role.
Gary Sinise and Tom Hanks Enjoy Working Together
Vince Bucci / Stringer
Forrest Gump wasn’t the only project where actors Gary Sinise (Lieutenant Dan) and Tom Hanks worked together. They also acted together in Apollo 13 and The Green Mile.
When Hanks was honored with the AFI Life Achievement Award, Sinise said that when he was on the set of Forrest Gump: “It was clear to me that I was working with an actor as gifted as they come. Every day on the set, I was lucky enough to have a front-row seat. Thanks, buddy.”
The One Scene You Can Visit From The Film
There is one landmark that fans of Forrest Gump are able to visit and snap a few pictures of. In the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park in southeastern Utah, someone erected a handmade wood sign in the desert. It reads: Forrest Gump ended his cross-country run at this spot.”
While we haven’t heard of anyone actually trying to replicate Forrest’s run, there are surely some fans that are happy to be able to see this sign and feel that they were apart of the story.
Runners Love Forrest Gump
Within the running community, Forrest Gump is a pretty big deal. Running enthusiasts love to sport tattoos of Tom Hanks in character, and some even don Forrest Gump styled hair and beards for marathons.
The image above shows a runner’s tattoo of Forrest Gump on his calf, right after he finished running the Boston Marathon in 2018. We’re wondering if in his head he heard, “Run, Forrest, Run!”
How They Filmed Lieutenant Dan’s Legs
In the movie, Forrest Gump famously saves Lieutenant Dan after he is wounded in battle. Lieutenant Dan ends up losing both of his legs and is wheelchair bound for the rest of his life. In real life, however, actor Gary Sinise isn’t disabled.
In order to film his scenes, the star wore a special blue fabric over his lower legs. This helped the digital team make it appear as though he is a double amputee in the film.
You Can See The Original Park Bench Forrest Gump Sat On
You already read how the original bench Forrest Gump sat sold for a cool $25,000 in a 2013 auction, but you can still see one of the original benches for yourself. The bench at which Forrest Gump details the magic and mundane of his life became one of the most iconic parts of the movie — but there were actually four benches created specifically for the film.
After the movie was finished, Paramount Pictures donated one of the original fiberglass benches to the Savannah History Museum in Savannah Georgia.
The Magic Of CGI
Forrest Gump had lots of impressive scenes considering CGI wasn’t where it is today in the early ‘90s. Arguably the most compelling is the scene where Forrest receives the Medal of Honor from President Lyndon Johnson.
In the scene, the POTUS pins the medal around Forrest’s neck — and if you didn’t know any better, you could be easily fooled into thinking the scene was entirely real. The footage, however, was from the actual ceremony where Sammy L. Davis was awarded the Medal of Honor in November 1968. Thanks to CGI magic, Hanks’ head was superimposed onto Davis’ body.
Kurt Russell Didn’t Voice Elvis In The Movie
For a long time, it was reported that Kurt Russell had a small, uncredited role in Forrest Gump. Fans speculated that Russell voiced Elvis Presley in the scene where a young Forrest is showing the musician his dance moves while he stays at their home.
However, this little fact was never confirmed by Paramount and Russell was never credited in the film. Eventually, Peter Dobson was credited with the small role. Interestingly enough, Russell did play Elvis in the 1979 movie of the same name.
Greenbow, Alabama Doesn’t Actually Exist
Forrest Gump grows up in the small town of Greenbow, Alabama. But you won’t find Greenbow on a map.
Greenbow is totally made up for the film and differs slightly from the novel, in which it’s stated that Forrest’s hometown is Mobile, Alabama. Although Greenbow, Alabama may be fictional, Bayou La Batre is a real town in Alabama and the actual birthplace of Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
The Lt. Dan Band
Gary Sinise isn’t just talented on screen — he’s talented on stage too. In the mid-2000s, the actor started a semi-successful band.
Inspired by his Forrest Gump character, Sinise started a rock ‘n’ roll cover band call ‘The Lt. Dan Band.” While he started the group for fun, they were well received and even went on a handful of tours playing for military veterans.
A Sequel In The Works?
Sunset Boulevard/Getty Images
With Forrest Gump being wildly successful, naturally, talk of a sequel arose. At the time, however, Tom Hanks was not interested in working on any sequel no matter what the movie.
The idea of a sequel remained in development or years until eventually a film version of Gump & Co. seemed to be on the horizon. The movie was delayed for a bunch of reason including the September 11 attacks. In 2007, Paramount took another look at producing the film but nothing came of it. Here’s to wishful thinking!
Warming Hearts Since 1994
You probably won’t be able to believe it, but Forrest Gump was actually first released in 1994. That means the movie hit the two-decade mark a few years ago. But, it also helped us recall our history, retold and “like a box of chocolates.” As Forrest Gump reminds us, “you never know what you’re gonna get”…
The life lessons aren’t always blatant, in your face, or a crack over the head. They’re subtle but powerful. But, Forrest’s mom also gave him all that he would ever need to get through this life, telling him about his destiny, “You’re gonna have to figure that out for yourself.” And, she told him that “miracles happen every day.”