Forrest Gump is a sweet confection of a film – almost like a box of chocolates, in fact – despite the sometimes weighty historical themes it tackles. But believe it or not, there were plenty of difficulties and even some controversies behind the scenes. Here are 20 little-known facts about the 1994 hit that went on to bag six Oscars at the 67th Academy Awards.
20. It took nine years to get the film out
Producer Wendy Finerman came across the Winston Groom novel Forrest Gump in 1985 and then spent years relentlessly pursuing studio executives about making a movie out of it. No-one was interested, however, until word of the project eventually reached Tom Hanks’ ears. And the rest, of course, is history.
19. Hanks did actually deliver Gump’s Vietnam speech
When Forrest Gump gives a speech at a Vietnam rally in the movie, his microphone is cut off so that neither the crowd nor the movie audience can hear him. But according to footage seen in the 1994 making-of documentary Through the Eyes of Forrest Gump, Gump actually says, “There’s only one thing I can tell you about the war in Vietnam. In Vietnam, your best good friend can get shot.”
18. Robin Wright had a cold during her naked club scene
When filming the scene in which she had to appear naked, Robin Wright had a cold. Worse still, the scene in question took more than 24 hours to film in its entirety. It’s probably safe to say that she didn’t need to act much when the script called for her character to get angry.
17. The novel’s author wanted John Goodman to play Gump
The author of the original Forrest Gump, Winston Groom, told The New York Times in 1994 that he felt the movie had taken “the rough edges” off Gump. Indeed, the character as Groom envisioned him was much less sentimental and far more physically imposing than Hanks’ portrayal. In addition, Groom said that he would have chosen the more portly John Goodman to play him.
16. Mykelti Williamson’s lip was a prosthetic one
In order to play Bubba effectively, Mykelti Williamson had to be fitted for a prosthetic lower lip. And the prosthetic was so well done that many people assumed it was real – that is, until Williamson appeared on David Letterman’s show with it and gave it to him.
15. Terry Gilliam turned down the movie
Robert Zemeckis directed Forrest Gump, netting himself a Best Director Oscar for it. But things could have been very different if the first choice for director had been on board. Monty Python member Terry Gilliam was that initial pick, but as he told A Site Called Fred in 2013, he turned the movie down because he simply didn’t “believe” in it.
14. The ping-pong scenes were CGI
Tom Hanks could actually play ping-pong but not to the same standard Forrest Gump could. To make them look like pros, then, Hanks and his ping-pong opponents had to simply swing their arms around as if they were playing, with the ball being added in later with the help of some computer trickery.
13. One of Gump’s lines was said by a real long-distance runner
In 1982, a decade before the fictional Forrest did it, a man called Louis Michael Figueroa ran a solo marathon across the United States for charity. And, appropriately, the Forrest Gump production team used a line uttered by him as a homage to his achievement. Figueroa had said, “When I got tired, I slept. When I got hungry, I ate. When I had to go to the bathroom, I went.” The ever-innocent Forrest, however, didn’t use the word “bathroom.”
12. Winston Groom wasn’t paid or thanked
Even though the movie wouldn’t have existed without author Winston Groom, the Forrest Gump producers didn’t pay him a cent. Thanks to the complex system known as “Hollywood accounting,” he lost out. And to add insult to injury, not one person mentioned him in their speeches on Oscar night.
11. The movie almost ruined Mykelti Williamson’s career
“Forrest Gump didn’t really help me. It damned near destroyed my career,” Mykelti Williamson lamented in an interview with entertainment news website Stacks Magazine in 2014. “They thought they found a guy with a big lip somewhere on a farm and stuck him in a movie.” Ultimately, though, he shook off Bubba’s ghost after he shook off that lip.
10. Tom Hanks based his accent on young Gump’s accent
When he appeared on The Graham Norton Show in 2015, Hanks revealed how he came to adopt a Southern accent for his role as Gump. It was because the actor who played the young Gump, Michael Conner Humphreys, had that accent. And ever the professional, Hanks spent hours with Humphreys in order to get his voice down properly.
9. There was a cut scene involving Martin Luther King
Forrest Gump featured its hero running into many famous historical figures, but one of those encounters was left on the cutting-room floor. Specifically, there was intended to be a scene in which Gump accidentally saves Martin Luther King from police attack dogs; in the end, though, it was simply sliced out.
8. One of the girls on the bus was played by Hanks’ daughter
The girl who won’t let the young Gump sit next to her on the bus is played by Elizabeth Hanks, daughter of Tom. It was her first screen role and, as it turned out, one of only three – as she became an editor rather than an actor.
7. The timeline for the running scene doesn’t add up
Forrest Gump claims in the movie that he ran for three years and two months, but he can’t have done. He starts running on the day President Carter collapses from heat exhaustion – October 1, 1979. But when he gets Jenny’s letter, March 1981’s attempted assassination of President Reagan is on the television. So he was “only” running for around a year and a half.
6. Hayley Joel Osment thought he was in the lead role
Before he shot to fame in The Sixth Sense, Hayley Joel Osment played Forrest Gump Jr. in Forrest Gump. But being only four years old, he didn’t quite twig that he was playing the title character’s son and not the title character. An older Osment jokingly told Hanks this in 2009 when Hanks received his AFI Lifetime Achievement Award.
5. The movie wasn’t re-released in Winston Groom’s hometown
Understandably, Winston Groom’s home town of Mobile, Alabama, loves Forrest Gump. So in 2014 its inhabitants – and Groom – were very much displeased to learn that the movie wouldn’t get an IMAX release in the town. Speaking to the Alabama Media Group that year, Groom called it “embarrassing.”
4. Sally Field is only ten years older than Tom Hanks
Sally Field may have played Tom Hanks’ mother, but in reality she’s only ten years older than him. And she had once played his love interest! Understandably, then, Hanks was nervous about asking her to play his mother after that, but he did – and it all worked out.
3. Tom Hanks’ brother doubled for him
The filmmakers needed a double for Gump’s running scenes. However, they had difficulty finding one who ran in the same way Hanks did. So eventually they called upon his brother, Jim Hanks. That’s him seen running in the long-distance shots.
2. Jenny actually died of Hepatitis C
In the film, Jenny passes away from an unknown virus. Audiences assumed that it was AIDS – but Winston Groom thought differently. In the sequel to the novel Forrest Gump, titled Gump & Co, it is revealed that Jenny died of Hepatitis C.
1. Tom Hanks had to finance some of the movie
Forrest Gump came dangerously close to never existing as we know it. In 2015, in fact, Tom Hanks told Yahoo Movies that the studio balked at the idea of the cross-country running scene and that they “were 48 hours away from it being shut down.” So Hanks and Zemeckis put up the money themselves. The result: success!