In 1994 a certain film was born starring Tom Hanks that has stuck with audiences for decades. Forrest Gump went on to win Oscars for Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Actor for Tom Hanks, and Best Director for Robert Zemeckis. With pinches of romance, historical themes, controversy, and action, Forrest Gump has something for every avid movie watcher. Even if you’re obsessed and watch Forrest Gump everyday, there still may be some things you don’t know about the film. The movie that is about as bittersweet as eating a whole box of chocolates has many interesting behind-the-scenes facts. How many of these little factoids did you know about Forrest Gump?
In a genius move, Hanks opted out of a salary for filming
When Tom Hanks signed up to star in the movie he opted out of receiving a salary, and instead wanted a portion of the film’s earnings. It turned out to be a fantastic move on his part, seeing as the film made more than $677 million.
It is estimated by some reports that he earned over $60 million in the end. Hank’s performance in the film also won him an Academy Award, making him the second actor to win the Best Actor Award two years in a row. He won the award the year before for his role in Philadelphia.
Critics were divided on the film
These days, if you’re one of the few who dislike the film, you’re met with despairing glares and a bombardment of questions but, when the film was first released in theaters, some critics weren’t fans. Yes, the beloved film that holds the #12 position on IMDb’s Top 250 movies chart had a bunch of haters.
Entertainment Weekly gave the film a “C” rating saying it “reduced the tumult of the last few decades to a virtual-reality theme park: a baby-boomer version of “Disney’s America.”
In 2014, LA Weekly revisited the film and wrote a rather harsh review that read, “The film is so afraid to dredge up debate that when Abbie Hoffman hands Forrest the microphone at an anti-war rally, someone unplugs the speakers so we can’t hear him—fitting for a movie with nothing to say.” Yikes.
Mykelti Williamson couldn’t find work after the film
During an interview with USA Today, Williamson, who played Bubba, admitted that “I couldn’t get a job after Forrest Gump. The industry didn’t realize that I was wearing a lip device and that I was the same guy who had appeared in 11 TV series. They thought the director had discovered some weird-looking guy and put him in front of a camera.”
Audiences were shocked when Williamson made television appearances because they were expecting a “weird-looking guy” to appear before them. He eventually found work on an array of other memorable classics like in Con Air, Heat, and, most recently, Fences.
Forrest actually had lines when his mic shut off
Do you recall the scene where Forrest is pulled on stage in Washington D.C., and is asked to describe his experience in Vietnam? As he walks toward the microphone, a nearby police officer cuts out the speaker, and you can’t hear what he says.
You may have thought the script didn’t include his mini-monologue since the audience can’t hear him. However, Hanks admitted that he did have lines during this scene, and they were:
“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.”
Hanks and the director paid for some scenes out-of-pocket
The running sequences in the film are some of the most iconic, and they almost didn’t happen. In fact, the whole film almost shut down completely due to financial issues.
Tom Hanks explained during an interview with Yahoo Movies:
“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.”
Director Robert Zemeckis and Hanks decided to split the cost of shooting the running montage and saved the film 48 hours before it was about to be shut down.
Sally Field was only 10 years older than Hanks
In the movie, Sally Field plays Forrest’s mother, and it looks like the makeup artists sure did a great job in deceiving audiences when it came to her age. Although Field’s was made up to look like she was decades older than Hanks, in real life, Hanks and Field were only 10 years apart.
It must have been odd playing the roles of mother and son when they had recently played love interests in a comedy film. Forrest Gump came after the two actors had finished the 1988 film, Punchline. The comedy revolves around Hanks’ character, Steven Gold and love interest Lilah Krytsick, played by (you guessed it), Sally Field. Weird transition or not, they pulled off their character relationships in both movies without a hitch.
There was originally a scene that involved Martin Luther King Jr.
If you’ve seen the film, then you are familiar with the ways Forrest Gump interfered with American history. We know that he met historical figures such as John F. Kennedy and Elvis Presley, but there’s also a scene that involves another historical icon that ended up on the cutting room floor.
The director shot a scene that included Martin Luther King Jr., which involved Forrest meeting him and his supporters as police dogs are set to attack. When the vicious dogs are released, they run towards King, but Forrest interferes. He begins playing fetch with the dogs, eventually steering them away. Forrest then says to King, “Sorry to interrupt your parade. They just dogs and they don’t know any better.”
You can watch the scene on the special collector’s edition of the film.
Blue checkered shirts symbolize a transition
Have you ever watched the film and noticed that Forrest sports blue checkers a lot? This wasn’t due to laziness on the wardrobe team’s side; it symbolizes the many transitions in his life. He wears a different form of a blue checkered shirt in the first scene of each age transition in the film, to signify a change in time.
The movie ends with Forrest’s son similarly wearing a blue checkered shirt when he is getting onto the bus. Although the cast and crew from the film have not acknowledged why they did this, it became a fun Easter egg when it was discovered by fans.
Hanks had one condition when he signed on to the film
Only an hour an hour and a half after reading the script, Hanks was ready to sign on to do the film, but only under one condition. The producers had to promise him that the historical portions of the film would remain as accurate as possible.
Many people just assumed that the footage of Forrest interacting with John Lennon, President Kennedy, President Johnson, etc. was entirely CGI. However, the footage you’re seeing is pre-existing recordings of these people with Hanks CGI’d in.
For example, the footage in the scene with John Lennon at The Dick Cavette Show was taken from Lennon’s real interview on September 11, 1971. Seated beside him in the original footage was his wife, Yoko Ono, who is replaced by Hanks in the movie using special effects.
Forrest’s eyes were closed in every photo
No matter how many times you’ve seen the film, this one can still be easily missed. Keep this in mind the next time you watch the movie.
Look at every picture that is taken of Forrest throughout the film. Do you notice anything? In every photo taken of him, his eyes are closed.
This funny character trait was a decision made on the actor’s part, with Hanks explaining that Forrest is trying so hard to stand up straight and look normal that he forgets to open his eyes for the photos. This is just another little Easter egg that shows how much thought Hanks put into making Forrest a truly unique character.
The cross-country run was inspired by real events
At the most pivotal moment of the movie, Forrest Gump embarks on a run across the country and does it at least four times.
Although many people crossed the country on foot plenty of times before the film’s release, Forrest’s journey was inspired by a particular individual. This individual is the same one who coined the famous quote, “When I got tired, I slept. When I got hungry, I ate. When I had to go, you know, I went.”
Louis Michael Figueroa ran across the country from the east coast to the west in 1982 when he was 16 years old to help bring awareness and raise money for the American Cancer Society. According to some sources, he is the fastest and youngest person to endure the trek.
Robin Wright wasn’t the first choice to play Jenny
Robin Wright won hearts and high praises all around for her portrayal of Jenny, earning nominations for a Screen Actors Guild award and a Golden Globe.
Although the role of Jenny seems like a highly coveted one, big stars turned down offers to play her. Both Jodie Foster and Demi Moore turned down the part, and Nicole Kidman refused to do a screen test.
Wright has had quite a successful career since her breakout role as Kelly Capwell in the NBC Daytime soap opera, Santa Barbara. Some of her major roles since playing Jenny include Claire Underwood in the Netflix political drama, House of Cards, for which she won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Television Series, and her role as Lt. Joshi in Blade Runner 2049.
Tom Hanks wasn’t the first choice for Forrest Gump
These days, it seems ludicrous that anyone other than Hanks would play the part of Forrest Gump, but the megastar wasn’t the studio’s first choice. The actor they had in mind was John Travolta. When he turned the role down, it was offered to Chevy Chase and Bill Murray, who both turned it down too.
That same year, Travolta would go on to star in Quentin Tarantino’s acclaimed crime drama, Pulp Fiction, but admitted that turning down the role was a colossal mistake. All these big names aside, the author of the original novel, Winston Groom, pushed for John Goodman, believing he would be the perfect Forrest.
The film had a few small bloopers that you probably didn’t notice
Although the producers and screenwriters tried to be as historically accurate as possible, there are still some minor mistakes that have been noted by fans over the years. For example, in the scene where we see Jenny dabbling in drug use and listening to the song “Get Down Tonight,” the song wasn’t released until 1975, but that part was supposed to take place in 1974.
When Jenny visits Forrest on the Fourth of July in 1976, we get a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty holding a gold torch, yet the gold wasn’t added to the statue until its restoration in 1986.
Another small goof occurs when Forrest catches the hoards of shrimp and brings them onto the boat. They are already dead and headless like when purchased at the market.
Hey, Hollywood can’t always be perfect.
Hanks’ brother did a lot of the running
Tom Hanks has a little brother, Jim Hanks, who looks and sounds quite similar. In 1995, A Current Affair revealed that Hanks had based Forrest’s mannerisms on the peculiarities created by his brother Jim for the role of Jeeter in Buford’s Beach Bunnies.
One of the more famous mannerisms that the magazine said Hanks copied from his brother was his now-famous “jerky run.”
Many of the wide-shots you see of Forrest running in the movie is actually Jim running. This is not the first time Jim has taken over some of Hanks’ characters either. Due to their voice similarities, Jim has often substituted for his brother as Sheriff Woody in Toy Story video games and spin-offs.
Plenty of A-listers turned down Bubba
When casting began, the Forrest Gump producers reached out to an array of celebs to play the part of Bubba. Ice Cube, David Alan Grier, and Dave Chappelle were all offered the part, but they all turned it down.
Chappelle later admitted that he regrets not taking the role after seeing how successful the movie became.
The film would have been a huge success for the comedy giant, as it would have introduced him to a broader audience. Coincidentally enough, Chappelle went on to play Tom Hanks’ sidekick in the 1998 film You’ve Got Mail.
The screenwriters have an unproduced sequel
When Eric Roth, director Robert Zemeckis, and Tom Hanks did an interview with USA Today, they admitted that there is a sequel script that exists. When asked about what experiences Forrest has in the sequel, they explained how he comes in contact with O.J. Simpson and Princess Diana.
Hanks believes that Forrest “would have chatted up both Mark Zuckerberg and the Winklevoss twins about how it would be nice if you had a book that would show a person’s face and make a friend.” They also believe that Forrest would have assisted in Hurricane Katrina efforts and he would be the reason the Navy SEALs find Osama bin Laden.
So, can we make this happen already?
The famous benches were removed from their original spots
The Square in Savannah, Georgia, is known for housing the famous park bench scenes from the movie. Right in the opening shot of the film, a feather floats through The Square and lands at the base of a park bench in Chippewa Square.
The seat where Forrest sits at while telling his story is a movie prop that was removed and placed in the Savannah History Museum.
Regardless, the spot where the bench used to sit is still a favorite destination for tourists to take photos! Don’t forget to bring a box of chocolates if you decide to visit!
The whole movie was filmed in Georgia and South Carolina
No need to travel the world to make this blockbuster. In Forrest Gump, “Vietnam” was actually filmed in Savannah, Georgia, and South Carolina, near Beaufort. The “mountains” that appear in the background were added with CGI to make for an aesthetic more reminiscent to that of Vietnam.
The town of “Greenbow, Alabama,” was actually shot in a tiny town called Varnville, 35 miles northwest of Beaufort. Both Forrest’s home and Jenny’s home stood on the Bluff Plantation between Varnville and Beaufort. The houses were built entirely for filming purposes. When filming wrapped up, both of the houses were torn down.
Fan theories disprove Jenny died of HIV/AIDS
When the credits roll, there is still one question fans have about the movie that is left unanswered. How does Jenny die? This part of the film differs from the novel, as Jenny does not die in the novel, and she is instead reunited with Forrest and their son in the end.
When Robert Zemeckis was asked by CBC whether Jenny’s death was due to AIDS or not, he said, “It could have been, but it didn’t matter. I mean…everyone thought that because it was so topical in the era…but we never said it. We never said it in the movie. We didn’t want that to be, you know, the issue.”
Although many people just assumed that Jenny did die from HIV/AIDS, there is a loophole in this theory that fans have pointed out. If Jenny had HIV/AIDS due to a dirty needle due to her party girl days, wouldn’t Forrest or Forrest Jr. been affected? Looks like we’ll never know the answer though.
The ping pong balls weren’t really there
Do you ever watch the film and wonder how long Hank had to practice until he got that good at ping pong? Sure, it helped that Hanks was a pretty decent ping pong player, but he was nowhere near good enough to play at a world-class level.
So how did they quickly fix this little problem?
Well, Hanks didn’t have to practice at all, because the ping pong balls didn’t actually exist. CGI is used pretty heavily in this film, and animating Forrest’s out-of-this-world table tennis skills is one of the clearest examples of that.
Hanks created the accent we hear in the movie
We have to admit, Forrest Gump’s slow southern inflection is spot-on in the film, but where is it derived from?
In 2015, Hanks admitted on The Graham Norton Show that the accent was inspired by Michael Conner Humphreys, who plays Forrest Gump as a young boy. Humphreys had an incredibly thick Mississippi accent, making it difficult for him to copy Tom Hanks’ way of speaking in order to keep the character’s mannerisms constant.
Hanks said, “Somewhere I have cassettes, hours and hours of me just making chit chat with a very young Michael Conner Humphreys. He was like seven, eight years old. He was a young man, and that was the vernacular that we spoke in and that was priceless.”
Only American bands can be heard in the film
There are over 32 recognizable songs on the official soundtrack, and even more in the movie. You will notice that every band featured originated in America, and that was done on purpose.
Joel Sill, the film’s executive music producer, told The Los Angeles Daily News, “All the material in there is American. Bob [Zemeckis] felt strongly about it. He felt Forrest wouldn’t buy anything not American.” Fans adored the soundtrack upon its release, and it sold 12 million copies around the world.
The only exception to the American theme is the band Fleetwood Mac, who formed in England, but still contributed to the Special Collector’s Edition soundtrack when it was released in 2001.
Hanks ad-libbed one of the film’s most famous lines
Forrest Gump is easily one of the most quotable movies of all time. The line “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get,” is listed at number 40 on AFI’s list of “100 years – 100 movie quotes.” The quote even hilariously inspired fans to send boxes of chocolates via mail to Tom Hanks after the film was released.
That aside, another one of Gump’s famous lines wasn’t even in the script. Hanks thought up the line “My name is Forrest Gump. People call me ‘Forrest Gump’” on the spot. Zemeckis thought it was so funny and fitting for Gump’s character, he decided to leave it in.
The movie was heavily influenced by American artists
Norman Rockwell was a famous American artist who vividly portrayed American culture in his illustrations. People adored his art since they believed it was so effective in capturing the proud American spirit. Zemeckis used Rockwell’s art as inspiration for the fictitious town of Greenbow. He even styled certain scenes to replicate some of the art and visuals.
One clear visual is the scene when Forrest is waiting outside of the principal’s office. This scene is meant to replicate Rockwell’s “Girl With a Black Eye,” and the resemblances between the scenes are uncanny.
Of course, Rockwell wasn’t the only artist who inspired the film. In the scene where Jenny breaks down outside the home of her abusive father, the visual is meant to mirror “Christina’s World,” painted by Andrew Wyeth.
Forrest never blinks while playing ping pong
Forrest Gump is truly a film where the devil is in the details. The next time this movie is on, be sure you pay attention to this fun little tidbit that begins when Forrest is in the Army infirmary, learning how to play ping pong.
While the soldier is coaching Forrest, he tells him to keep his eye on the ball. Naturally, Forrest takes this statement quite literally and refrains from blinking whenever he is on screen playing.
This is just another character choice on Hanks’ part that further proves he is the only one who could play Forrest in such iconic fashion.
Gary Sinise became an advocate for veterans after playing Lt. Dan
Gary Sinise was incredibly passionate about playing the role of Lieutenant Dan Taylor, a part that earned him an Academy Award nomination. When Sinise realized that playing the role linked him with other veterans in the U.S., he dedicated many years of his life to advocating for them.
In 2011, he created the Gary Sinise Foundation, which featured programs to help construct specially adapted smart homes for wounded veterans. He is also the frontman for the Lt. Dan Band, which has performed at military bases and war zones. He credits the part for changing his life. It even inspired him to write a novel.
No one is really sure who voiced Elvis in the movie
The mysterious young gentlemen who plays guitar while Forrest shows off some dance moves is obviously meant to be Elvis Presley. However, fans have been unsure who to credit for the role since there is no mention of the actor in the film’s credits.
Some fans (and IMBd) credit the voice to Kurt Russell, who’s had experience impersonating The King’s unique voice since playing him in the 1979 film, Elvis.
However, since this was never confirmed by Paramount or Russell, others believe that the voice belongs to actor, Peter Dobson. Neither of these actors have been confirmed by Paramount.
Forrest Gump was Haley Joel Osment’s first film
Haley Joel Osment has been in big blockbusters such as The Sixth Sense and A.I. Artificial Intelligence, but he got his big start playing “Little Forrest” in Forrest Gump.
His character appeared in the movie for only two minutes, but it seems like that was enough to catch everyone’s eye.
Before making his debut on the silver screen, Osment had only appeared in a Pizza Hut commercial. As a young boy, Osment continued to have quite a distinguished film career and was even referred to as “one of the best young actors of this generation,” and he was the first millennial male to receive an Academy Award nomination for acting.
The reporter in D.C. was actually just a tourist
When Forrest winds up in Washington D.C. after returning from the Vietnam War, he is suddenly approached by a reporter. You would think an actor would’ve played this part, but it was really a random tourist who had been walking down the street with his wife.
The crew walked up to the gentlemen, handed him a script, and filmed him in the scene after he agreed to do it. Talk about a great story for that guy to bring home to his friends. Imagine, one second you’re touring a city, and the next you’re acting in a blockbuster film?!
Bubba Gump Shrimp has seen big success over the past few decades
In the film, Forrest Gump uses his big bucks to keep the promise to his friend, Bubba. In 1995, The Bubba Gump Shrimp Company came bursting to life from the screen.
After the film’s success, Rusty Pelican Restaurants Inc. and Paramount Pictures collaborated to create the first Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. in Monterey, California.
By July 2015, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. expanded to a remarkable 40 restaurants operating worldwide. 29 of the locations are in the United States, four are in Mexico, three in Japan, three in Columbia, and one in London, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Canada, the Marianas, and the Philippines.