A-Ron’s Film Rewind Presents: The 25th Anniversary – Forrest Gump

A-Ron’s Film Rewind Presents: “My Name Is Forrest Gump. People Call Me Forrest Gump”. A 25th Anniversary Celebration Of One Of Hollywood’s Great Films. Director Robert Zemeckis Timeless, One Of A Kind, Magical, Ambitious & Original Classic “Forrest Gump”.

In 1994 I’m sure none of us had ever met anyone like the character of Forrest Gump or seen a film quite as magical as “Forrest Gump”. Then again it’s no surprise it’s a magical and special film, see as how the great Robert Zemeckis directs the six time Oscar winning film. “Forrest Gump” is a perfect and ambitious two and a half hour blend of comedy, drama and romantic docu-fable. 

The film was originally to be released by Warner Bros who gave up the rights to this film in 1988 in exchange for the rights to “Executive Decision” which released in 1996, because the studio felt that the project had lost its commercial promise in the wake of 1988’s “Rain Man”. After years of development hell, Paramount pictures picked up the project. Zemeckis’ film as we know it today, follows Forrest from his post-war childhood through the early 1980s, as Forrest becomes attached to his childhood sweetheart, Jenny (Robin Wright). Forrest proves his athletic abilities on the football field; becomes a hero of the Vietnam War and becomes friends with a hard edged Lieutenant he saved (Gary Sinise); and makes an even better friend in Bubba who helps him get lucky in the shrimping business; and Forrest finally faces a few grown-up realities.

This is all based on the 1986 novel by Winston Groom. As both book and film center on the character of Forrest Gump, screenwriter Eric Roth who is an accomplished screenwriter and has written some of the best: Bradley Cooper’s “A Star Is Born”, Spielberg’s “Munich”, “The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button”, “The Good Shepard” and “The Horse Whisperer”. 

Roth likes to primarily focuses on the first eleven chapters of the novel, as he then jumps ahead to the end of the novel with the founding of the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and his meeting with Forrest, Jr. In addition to skipping some parts of the novel, the film adds several aspects to Gump’s life that do not occur in the novel, such as his needing leg braces as a child and his run across the United States. Roth isn’t interested in the social embarrassments that make Jenny’s relationship with Forrest a trial, nor can he be bothered with the details of Forrest’s football career, his occasional academic triumphs or his opinions about the Vietnam War. Even those who haven’t read the book may sense that something’s missing when these matters are left unexplained.

Roth is also hopelessly attached to the tall-tale notion of having Forrest present at key 20th-century moments: teaching Elvis Presley how to do his trademark leg shuffle, reporting the Watergate burglary, and inspiring famous slogans, even the “happy face” logo. There aren’t alot of pop-cult references, but they are essential. They make the point that Forrest has somehow affected all of us, if only indirectly.

Gump’s core character and personality were also changed from the novel; making Forrest less of a savant in the novel, while playing football at the university, he receives a perfect score in an advanced physics class he is enrolled in by his coach to satisfy his college requirements. The novel also features Forrest as an astronaut, a professional wrestler, and a chess player. 

Known as one of Hollywood’s favorite nice guys, Tom Hanks embodies the character of “Forrest Gump”. Hanks who was at the height of his career had taken home the best actor Oscar for his performance in “Philadelphia” the year before. He also took home the Oscar for “Forrest Gump”, winning another best actor nomination making him a double Oscar winner two years in a row. 

Hanks owns the title role, he is the only actor who could have played Gump as I really can’t think of anyone else as Gump, but in actuality Hanks was not the first choice. Up for the role was Bill Murray, John Travolta, and Chevy Chase who all turned down the role. Travolta had later admitted that passing on the role was a mistake. I love Travolta’s work but, he would not have worked as well as Hanks. 

Tom Hanks had signed onto the film after an hour and a half of reading the script and agreeing to take the role only on the condition that the film was historically accurate (Hanks is a huge History buff). He initially wanted to ease Forrest’s pronounced Southern accent, but was eventually persuaded by Robert Zemeckis to portray the heavy accent stressed in the novel, and he patterned his accent after Michael Conner Humphreys (the young actor who played Forrest), who actually spoke that way. Hanks was not paid for the film. Instead he took a percentage of the earnings, which ultimately landed him in the region of $40 million.

Seeing how Hanks makes him into a person that is so dignified, so straight-ahead. The performance is a breathtaking balancing act between comedy and sadness, set in a story so rich in big laughs and quiet truths. He plays Forrest with a somewhat similar man child persona he played in 1988’s “Big”. Forrest is one of life’s true innocents, a person whose good intentions often compensate for his lack of sophistication. Except for the brief passages concerning Forrest’s childhood, Hanks is in just about every scene and it’s definitely his show. His performance like the film itself is magical, as his performance is both sincere and hilarious.

The supporting cast surrounding Hanks is phenomenal as the always on top of her game Sally Field, portrays Forrest’s mother. While Hanks and Field is actually only 10 years apart in age. Hanks and Field has reunited as they both starred in 1988’s “Punchline”, where Sally Field played the love interest for Tom Hanks’s character. 

Playing the hard edged, but ultimately lovable Lieutenant Dan, is another extraordinary actor Gary Sinise in what is his only Oscar nominated performance (if you can believe that?). To help achieve the groundbreaking special effects (there is actually many special effects within the film) with giving the illusion of Gary Sinise’s lower legs that had been amputated, had to be wrapped in a special blue fabric that allowed them to be digitally removed later. The effects were so brilliant you really were convinced Sinise had no legs. 

Being inspired by his character Lieutenant Dan. Gary Sinise co-founded a rock and roll cover band during the mid-2000s called “The Lt. Dan Band.” The band often goes on U.S.O. tours to play for U.S. military personnel stationed around the world, and also plays various benefits for veteran-related causes. Sinise was awarded the Presidential Citizen Medal in 2008 for his charity efforts. “Forrest Gump” would be one of three movies, that both Tom Hanks and Gary Sinise has starred in together as the other two being “Apollo 13” (1995) and “The Green Mile” (1999). All three movies were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, but only “Forrest Gump” won in the category.

For the role of Forrest’s best friend Bubba a few actors were considered before Mykelti Williamson was cast. David Alan Grier, Ice Cube, Tupac Shakur and Dave Chappelle all turned down the role. Ice Cube refused to play an “idiot” and Dave Chappelle turned it down thinking the movie would bomb. Chappelle had since gone on to admitting to deeply regretting not taking the role, as he would eventually go on to play Tom Hanks’ best friend in “You’ve Got Mail” (1998). Heavy hitting actresses Jodie Foster, Nicole Kidman, and Demi Moore were offered but turned down the role of Jenny, which ended up being perfectly played by Robin Wright. 

The maestro of it all and directed with a deft hand in visual style, beauty and character drama is Robert Zemeckis. One of the defining filmmakers, a real groundbreaking filmmaker who made cultural defining films, like: “Back To The Future Trilogy”, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”, “Romancing The Stone”, “Flight”, “The Walk”, “Contact” and “What Lies Beneath”. Zemeckis would also be the pioneer in establishing the motion capture technique in films. Before starting work on “Forrest Gump”, Zemeckis had just come off directing his cult classic “Death Becomes Her”. Six years later Zemeckis would work again with Tom Hanks in another big Oscar contender “Cast Away”, which became another massively successful film of both their careers. 

His work on “Forrest Gump” gave him his one and only Oscar (that is a cinematic crime!), his only other Oscar nomination came in 1985 for Best Original Screenplay for “Back To The Future”. Two directors were offered the opportunity to direct the film before Robert Zemeckis was finalized. Terry Gilliam (“Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas”) turned down the offer. Barry Sonnenfeld (“Men In Black”) was attached to the film, but left to direct his sequel “Addams Family Values”. 

While “Forrest Gump” was early in the visual effects game, it gave rise to scenes in which the filmmakers used the latest technical achievements made available to them. The sequences make it appear that Forrest is present in documentary footage with the likes of John Lennon, Richard Nixon, John Kennedy and George Wallace. At one point, Forrest even appears his bare bottom (or, as he pronounces it, “butt-tawks”) to a much-surprised president Lyndon Johnson.

While the movie’s technical tricks are great fun, so is it’s soundtrack which captures the essence of each era it traverses. The soundtrack includes songs from Elvis Presley, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Aretha Franklin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Three Dog Night, The Byrds, The Beach Boys, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Doors, The Mamas & the Papas, The Doobie Brothers, Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Seger, and Buffalo Springfield. While The Doors have more songs in the movie than any other band with a total of six tracks. The soundtrack has sold over 12 million copies. 

Zemeckis and screenwriter Eric Roth has filled “Forrest Gump” with iconic sequences and one-liners. The bench that Forrest is sitting on to wait for his bus at the beginning of the film, there were five benches that were actually made for the film. After filming ended, one went to the City of Savannah, one went to the Smithsonian, two went to Paramount Pictures, and one went to a security guard who was on patrol while filming. Many offers have been made to buy the bench from the security guard. With the largest sum of money being $500,000, he had turned down all offers. 

The famous quote that Forrest uses: “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get?”, is not completely original to the film or the adapted novel. It was used slightly differently in the British film “The Likely Lads” (1976) where the term used was ‘the chocolate box of life’. The sentence in the movie is based on the very first sentence in the novel: “Let me say this: bein’ an idiot is no box of chocolates”. Bruce Springsteen even ripped the movie in one of his songs, saying: “My Best Was Never Good Enough”: “Now life’s like a box of chocolates/You never know what you’re gonna get/Stupid is as stupid does and all the rest of that shit”. While the the line, “My name is Forrest Gump. People call me Forrest Gump”, was ad libbed by Tom Hanks while filming the scene, and director Robert Zemeckis liked it so much that he decided to keep it. 

The scene when Forrest gets up to talk at the Vietnam rally in Washington, the microphone plug is pulled and you can’t hear him. Fans have been asking for years what it was Hanks said in the scene, in an interview Tom Hanks said he says, “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.”

Author Winston Groom was paid $350,000 for the screenplay rights to his novel “Forrest Gump” and was contracted for a 3 percent share of the film’s net profits. However, Paramount and the film’s producers did not pay him, using Hollywood accounting to posit that the blockbuster film lost money. Tom Hanks, by contrast, contracted for a percent share of the film’s gross receipts instead of a salary, and he and director Zemeckis each received $40 million. Additionally, Groom was not mentioned once in any of the film’s six Oscar-winning speeches. Groom’s dispute with Paramount was later resolved after Groom declared he was satisfied with Paramount’s explanation of their accounting situation, this coinciding with Groom receiving a seven-figure contract with Paramount for film rights to another of his books, “Gump & Co”.

At the time of talks to a sequel, Tom Hanks adamantly refused to work in any sequel, and making the sequel with another actor was never a consideration. After Hanks reconsidered his stance on sequels and prequels, such as with “Toy Story 2”, “Toy Story 3” and the Robert Langdon sequel “Angels & Demons”. Original screenwriter Eric Roth attempted to adapt the second novel “Gump & Co” in 2001. However, the 9/11 attacks changed the world to the extent that it made the film irrelevant. Despite several attempts to revive the project and the absence of a formal cancellation, the sequel has remained in “development hell” since, and is unlikely to ever be made.

The “Bubba Gump Shrimp Company” Restaurant and Market that was inspired by the film is an American seafood restaurant chain, that also contains memorabilia from the film. There are twenty-nine locations in the United States, four in Mexico, three in Japan and Colombia and one in London, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Canada, the Marianas and the Philippines. 

The film was an enormous success at the box office; it became the top-grossing film in America released that year and earned over US$677 million worldwide during its theatrical run, making it the second highest grossing film of 1994. It took only 66 days for the film to pass the $250 million mark at the box office. “Forrest Gump” had won the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor for Hanks, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Visual Effects, and Best Film Editing. It won many other awards and nominations, including Golden Globes, People’s Choice Awards, and Young Artist Awards. In 2011, the Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

Forrest’s uncomplaining attitude and his joy in simple pleasures, is hard to resist. His pure and good heart makes him an ideal companion. Who wouldn’t want to have a best friend like Forrest Gump? Watching the film, you can feel that you do. “Forrest Gump”, is a one-of-a-kind treat, a rare magical ambitious film that may be the most original Hollywood film to ever come out of Hollywood. 

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About Aron Medeiros

Aron Medeiros
Aron Medeiros lives on the beautiful island of Maui. He is a member of The Hawaii Film Critics Society, movie critic for Maui Watch, a commentator and cast member of the NerdWatch pod cast. He is a 2003 graduate from King Kekaulike High School. His favorite film of all time is “Back To The Future”. He has worked at Consolidated Kaahumanu Theaters for nearly 13 years as a Sales Associate and making his way up to Assistant Manager. He has loved movies since he was a young boy, learning about movies from his Grandfather and being self taught.

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