All The Secrets You Never Knew About Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump is one of the most beloved films of the mid-nineties. The way Tom Hanks lovingly portrayed the titular character’s quirks as he navigated life with an intellectual disability was both charming and heartbreaking. The film was a hit with moviegoers, who loved listening to Forrest tell his life story perched on a park bench. Here are some things you may not have known about the making of the Oscar-winning film…

No One Wanted To Make It

Sometimes it takes many years before a film makes it from conception to the big screen. Forrest Gump was one of those films. Producer Wendy Finerman discovered Winston Groom’s novel way back in 1985. She knew it was a gem, but she had a difficult time persuading other people of the same thing. Finerman spent years trying to get studio executives to see that the novel would make a great big-screen film. Unfortunately, no one wanted to make it. Then Tom Hanks heard about the project and because he’s such a big star, he made it happen nine years after Finerman came up with the idea.

Hanks Actually Said A Line When The Microphone Shut Off

In one of the film’s most interesting moments, Forrest Gump is in Washington, D.C., delivering a speech during a rally for Vietnam. His microphone is somehow turned off, and the crowd can’t decipher what he says. Moviegoers were unable to make out his words either. All everyone hears is, “There’s only one thing I can tell you about the war in Vietnam.” Everyone was waiting for the following statement. A 1994 behind-the-scenes documentary titled Through The Eyes of Forrest Gump offered some insight on that moment. Hanks reads the line, “There’s only one thing I can tell you about the war in Vietnam. In Vietnam, your best good friend can get shot.”

Tom Hanks Wasn’t The First Choice To Play Forrest

It’s almost impossible to think of Forrest Gump being played by anyone but Tom Hanks. Well, it’s common in Hollywood for several people to be considered for a particular role before a final decision is made. You won’t believe who the first choice was — John Travolta! But the Saturday Night Fever star was not interested in the role, so he turned it down (and he probably regretted it later on). Another unlikely actor who was in the running was Bill Murray. Yup, the Caddyshack star nearly played Gump. So did Chevy Chase. Author Winston Groom wanted John Goodman to play the titular character.

Robin Wright Was Sick During Filming

In one of the movie’s more tantalizing scenes, Robin Wright’s character appears naked and strums a guitar. That alone is difficult for any star to do because it’s never easy getting naked in front of the cast and crew. Well, Wright was also dealing with a cold and she wasn’t feeling very well. There’s nothing like being naked and constantly having to blow your nose! The scene also took 24 hours to film, which didn’t give the actress much time to recover. She probably felt so bad that it wasn’t difficult for her to get mad during the scene.

The Ping-Pong Scenes Were Computer Generated

Tom Hanks actually had the ability to play ping pong, which certainly helped. But do you remember when Forrest first started learning to play the sport in the infirmary and another soldier advised him to keep his eye on the ball? From that moment on, Forrest never blinked when he was playing. The fantastic ping-pong scenes were 100 percent staged. It’s really not a big surprise that CGI (computer-generated imagery) was used for them. Hanks and his opponents merely pretended that they were playing the game by moving their arms back and forth. Everything else was added in during production.

Bubba’s Lip Was Fake

Chock this one up as one of the great moments in movie magic — or should we say movie make up? Actor Mykelti Williamson did not actually have a gigantic protruding lip. He wore a prosthetic! The filmmakers wanted to include something unique for Bubba’s character, but the only way to achieve it was for the actor to wear a fake lip. Many moviegoers were convinced that his pout was real, but it wasn’t. When he appeared in the David Letterman show, many were shocked at what he looked like in real life. Williamson brought the prosthetic with him and gave it to Letterman.

Tom Hank’s Daughter Made A Cameo

Director Robert Zemeckis’ son Alexander and Tom Hank’s daughter, Elizabeth Hanks, appeared in the film. She played one of the girls on the bus who doesn’t let Gump sit next to her. Hanks had Elizabeth and his son, Colin Hanks, with his first wife, actress Samantha Lewes. Elizabeth’s appearance on Forrest Gump is only one of three acting jobs she’s ever done. She is now an editor. Colin, however, has had a very busy acting career, starring in films such as Orange County, King Kong, and The Great Buck Howard. Hanks and his second wife, Rita Wilson, have two sons: Chester Marlon “Chet” Hanks and Truman Theodore.

Director Robert Zemeckis Wasn’t The First Pick

If you knew you’d earn an Academy Award for directing a movie, you wouldn’t turn it down, right? Well, that’s not something that filmmakers know in advance when they’re offered to direct a film. Robert Zemeckis took home a best director Oscar for Forrest Gump, but he wasn’t studio executives’ first choice to helm the film. Terry Gilliam, famous for starring in various incarnations of Monty Python, was the first choice for the role. But it didn’t catch his interest.. In 2013 he confessed that he didn’t do the movie because he didn’t believe in it. His loss.

Tupac Shakur Auditioned To Play Bubba

Tupack Shakur is considered one of the greatest hip hop stars in American history. But he also dabbled in acting. He appeared in films such as Juice, Poetic Justice and Above the Rim. He also wanted to appear in Forrest Gump. During an interview with UPROXX, his wife, Keisha Morris, explained that she and Tupac went to see the film on their first date. And she also revealed an interesting tidbit. She explained, “We went to the Chelsea Movie Theater to see Forrest Gump and then we ate dinner around the corner in an Italian restaurant. He wanted to see Forrest Gump because he read for the part of Bubba.”

The Running Scene Had A Real-Life Inspiration

Forrest’s infamous running scene was inspired by an actual event. In 1982, a teenager named Louis Michael Figueroa decided he wanted to run from New Jersey to San Francisco, California. Nope, it wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision. Figueroa, 16, was doing it for a good cause and teamed up with the American Cancer Society. Forrest, however, appeared to be suddenly struck by the decision to run as far as he could. Naturally, Figueroa’s adventure made headlines, and he said: “I just put one foot in front of the other. When I get tired I sleep. When I get hungry I eat. When I have to go to the bathroom, I go.”

The Bench Is On Display In A Museum

Forrest famously sat on a park bench in the film in which he offered a woman waiting for the bus if she wanted a piece of chocolate. He also told strangers his life story from that bench. The bench was originally located in Savannah, Georgia, at Chippewa Square. After the film became so popular, the bench was removed to preserve it. It was relocated to a museum to ensure that no one would steal it and so it wouldn’t get destroyed in bad weather. Remember the scene where the feather falls? It was filmed about 100 yards away from the bench.

The Author Didn’t Receive Any Of The Film’s Profits

The film wound up winning six Academy Awards in 1995. If it weren’t for the book it was based upon, the film never would have been made. You would think the author, Winston Groom, would have shared in the immense success of the film. However, he didn’t receive any net profits from Paramount. He got $350,000 for the movie rights to the novel, but no one thanked him during the Oscars ceremony. The film did help turn Groom into a best-selling author. After it was made, the book hit the number-one spot, and more than 1.7 million copies were sold around the world.

The Medal Of Honor Scene Was Cleverly Shot

You may remember when Gump visited the White House and President Lyndon Johnson gave him a Medal of Honor for his heroic deeds in Vietnam. That scene was really amazing because it actually looked like the President and Tom Hanks were in the scene together (quite impossible, of course, since Johnson died nearly 20 years earlier in 1973.) In order to make the scene happen, producers took actual footage of Johnson giving the medal to a veteran named Sammy L. Davis in 1968. With a little help from CGI they were able to superimpose Hank’s head over Davis’ head. Davis also performed heroic acts in Vietnam, pulling others to safety just as Gump had in the movie.

The Actor Who Played Bubba Struggled To Find Work

Sometimes it’s hard to take a certain part because the role may typecast you. Mykelti Williamson, who played Bubba, probably didn’t realize that the movie would have a negative impact on his career. During a 2014 interview he told Stacks magazine: “Forrest Gump didn’t really help me. It damned near destroyed my career. They thought they found a guy with a big lip somewhere on a farm and stuck him in a movie.” Fortunately, he went on to star in many other films, including Free Willy, Heat, Three Kings, Black Dynamite, The Final Destination, ATL, Species II and The Purge: Election Year.

The Studio Nearly Pulled The Plug

Studio executive nearly shut down production on the film because it was becoming too expensive. Tom Hanks told Yahoo! in an interview: “The studio was one day away from pulling the plug on this one movie I was going to make, and the director came to my house and said, ‘Look, this is going to fall apart because they won’t give us the budget for shooting this one sequence, and we’ve got to have this sequence.” As a result, he and director Robert Zemeckis split the cost of the running scene when they were just 48 hours away from the film being shut down.

Producers Cut A Scene Featuring Martin Luther King, Jr.

Forrest Gump encountered several historical figures in the film, including John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Elvis Presley. But did you know Martin Luther King, Jr. was also supposed to make an appearance? Director Robert Zemeckis filmed a scene in which Forrest meets Rev. King and his supporters. Then the police arrive with a bunch of German Shepherds, who make a run for King. Gump distracts them by playing fetch with the dogs, and tells King: “Sorry to interrupt your parade. They just dogs and they don’t know any better.” The scene is included in the Forrest Gump special collector’s edition DVD.

Haley Joel Osment Thought He Had The Starring Role

Hayley Joel Osment was only four years old when he appeared on Forrest Gump. And even though he was very young, he had big ideas about what it meant to be a movie star. Prior to his break-out role in The Sixth Sense, Osment played Forrest Gump Jr. He believed that he was the lead character in the film and playing the title character, not the title character’s son. We can see understand the mistake — the character’s names were almost identical! When Hanks received the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009, Osment jokingly revealed this information to Hanks.

Hanks Turned Down A Sequel

FORREST GUMP, Tom Hanks, 1994
FORREST GUMP, Tom Hanks, 1994

Paramount gave author Winston Groom a seven-figure sum for his work on Forrest Gump as well as the rights for the novelist’s 1995 sequel, Gump & Co. In the sequel, Forrest complains about his depiction in the film. He also meets Tom Hanks. The sequel has been in development for several years, but Hanks declined to make it. The first film cost an estimated $65 million to make and took in $330 million at the North American box office. Hanks opted not to take a salary for the film. Instead, he agreed to take a percentage of the film’s gross profits instead (reportedly worth $40 million).

Renaissance Fair Extras Filled In The Scene At The D.C. Mall

During the anti-Vietnam protest rally, Gump speaks in front of what appears to be hundreds of thousands of people. The movie studio actually only hired 1,500 people for the scene. Executives learned that there was a Renaissance Fair happening locally, so they recruited several of the attendees to take part in the film. Many of them had long hair and were wearing what could pass for hippie clothing, so it was a perfect fit. The filmmakers shot the extras around various locations in the mall, and using CGI were able to make the sweeping panoramic shots you see in the scene.

Kurt Russell Had A Crucial, Uncredited Role

Kurt Russell provided the voice of Elvis Presley but never received any credit for the work. In one scene, Forrest Gump talks in a voiceover about all the people who stayed at his mother’s boarding house, including the Kin. His mother finds Gump in the bedroom dancing for Elvis, and she admonishes, “I told you not to bother this nice young man.” Elvis responds, “That’s alright, mam. I was just showing him a thing or two on my guitar.” Elvis then asks Gump to show him the dance he was doing. The face of Elvis is not clear. The actor who played him was Peter Dobson, but Russell did the talking.