15 Interesting Facts About 'Forrest Gump'
Released in 1994, Forrest Gump is a modern classic in every sense of the word. Even if you’ve never seen the film, which in and of itself seems impossible, chances are you’ve at least heard one or two lines from the film. After all, Mama was a real smart lady. But, I digress.
The Oscar-winning film was unique for its time, seamlessly blending historical footage with the latest advancements in CGI. And on top of that, it had incredible acting and cinematography. Moreover, the story was told with a ton of heart, plenty of humor, and serious subject matter, making it timeless in many ways.
The Oscar-winning film became bigger than anyone expected and became cemented into pop culture history. While there has been some controversy surrounding it, it has earned its reputation, as it is still talked about to this day.
Although you may know the film well, and maybe have seen it many times, you may not know everything there is to know about it. We’ve compiled a list of the most interesting facts about Forrest Gump, that most people don’t know. We were certainly surprised by some of these! And with that said, let’s take a look…
‘Forrest Gump’ is Robert Zemeckis’s Highest-Grossing Film
Forrest Gump was Robert Zemeckis’s biggest hit and that is saying a lot because he’s the same man that gave us other classic films like Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Cast Away. The film was made with a budget of $55 million dollars, and it earned over $678 million worldwide at the box office.
To give you a little more context, Cast Away was his second highest-grossing film and earned $429.6 million. Meanwhile, the ‘80s classic Back to the Future earned around $338 million, which is only half of what Forrest Gump earned. That being said, it goes without saying that the film was his biggest success and will likely remain so.
‘Forrest Gump’s Oscar Win was Controversial
Forrest Gump wasn’t just a financial success. The film also earned plenty of accolades. For one, it earned Tom Hanks his second Oscar win. But the film also won an Academy Award for Best Picture and Robert Zemeckis earned the award for Best Director. However, the film was not seen as an Oscar favorite by film aficionados.
Two other films that came out that year were also favored to win: Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption. And particularly in recent years, Forrest Gump’s win has been a subject of controversy. While the other two films are also clear classics, it’s difficult to say whether either film would be met with the same controversy had they won.
‘Forrest Gump’ was a Book First
Forrest Gump was adapted from a book which is why it earned the award for Best Adapted Screenplay at the 1995 Academy Awards. It had been adapted from a book written in 1986, under the same title. Written by Winston Groom, the book was not a huge success when it was released.
It wasn’t until after the film’s success that the book Forrest Gump sold over one million copies. The success of the film even led the author to write a sequel. However, the sequel would never be adapted into a film, which will likely remain true given that the plans for the film sequel ultimately fell through.
John Travolta was the First Choice to Play Forrest Gump.
While it's hard to imagine anyone other than Tom Hanks playing the role of Forrest Gump now, at one point it was John Travolta who Robert Zemeckis had in mind for the role. Other people that were considered for the role were comedians Bill Murray and Chevy Chase.
However, John Travolta ended up passing on the role and Tom Hanks got it instead. Ultimately, it worked out for the best because Tom Hanks nailed it in the role, and John Travolta got a huge boost in his career from the film Pulp Fiction that came out the very same year.
(Image via Wikipedia; Paramount Pictures)
Every Line of Narration was Filmed Rather than Recorded
In most cases, narration in a movie is recorded after filming. And this typically involves actors basically reading their lines as with any voice over work. However, Robert Zemeckis didn’t want this for Forrest Gump. He didn’t want Tom Hanks to sound like he was reading from a script, so he had another idea.
The narration spoken by Tom Hanks was all recorded during filming, which meant that Tom Hanks had to remember his narration lines and perform them just like dialogue or monologue. This allowed the narration and bench monologues to flow seamlessly in the film. And it definitely doesn’t sound like Tom Hanks is just reading lines.
Forrest Gump's Childhood Segments were Inspired by Norman Rockwell
Forrest Gump’s childhood segments in the film were heavily inspired, in terms of look, by Norman Rockwell. All the scenes in the film were made to look like a Norman Rockwell painting. Production designer Rick Carter designed the scenes to look that way, using similar colors and elements to match Rockwell’s paintings.
Norman Rockwell was perhaps most famous for his illustrations for magazines like The Saturday Evening Post as well as his WWII paintings depicting Willie Gillis and Rosie the Riveter. He also worked closely with the Boy Scouts of America. During his lifetime, he produced nearly 4,000 original works depicting American life.
Forrest Gump Wasn’t Really Filmed in Alabama
Alabama is the main setting for much of the film, except of course, the Vietnam sequences and Washington DC sequences. However, it turns out most of the film wasn’t shot in Alabama at all. Instead, various parts of the South stood in for the fictional town of Greenbow, Alabama.
The production headquarters were located in Beaufort, South Carolina. Other parts of the south even stood in for Vietnam – both in South Carolina and Georgia. Most people wouldn’t recognize the shooting locations in the film, so it ended up working just fine. It’s all part of the movie’s magic!
Sally Field Isn’t Actually Old Enough to Play Tom Hanks’s Mom
In the film, actress Sally Field plays Forrest Gump’s mother. In real life, however, Sally Field is not even old enough to be Tom Hanks’s mother as there is only about a 10-year age difference between the two of them. In fact, strangely enough, Sally Field actually played his love interest in the ‘80s comedy film Punchline.
Nevertheless, Sally Field does a great job believably playing his mother. In part its due to her fantastic acting abilities but it also has much to do with the right age makeup and costume design among other things. You don’t even think about the fact that Sally Field is only 10 years older in real life.
The Meaning Behind the Feather
The feather that bookends the beginning and end of the film has some symbolic significance that you may or may not have thought of. According to the film’s director, Robert Zemeckis, it is meant to convey the idea of the randomness of life, much like all the situations that Forrest Gump finds himself in.
This idea is repeated in one of the film’s iconic lines, “life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.” Interestingly, the feather was featured in the original screenplay only at the beginning. It was then added at the end of the film as well.
Tom Hanks and Robert Zemeckis Had a Mutual Trust
Tom Hanks and Robert Zemeckis had a working relationship based on mutual trust. That meant that they didn’t need to constantly consult each other. Zemeckis never had to ask what Tom Hanks would be doing for a scene and Tom Hanks never felt the need to tell the director what he would be doing.
Tom Hanks would just show up for filming and give the performance he felt was right. Allegedly, Hanks had told Zemeckis, “This is like taking a warm bath. I’m so comfortable in this character.” Interestingly, the first two weeks of filming didn’t involve Tom Hanks at all. He only showed up two weeks into production.
The Filmmakers Had No Idea Bubba-Gump Shrimp Would be Such a Popular Reference
The fictional Bubba-Gump Shrimp company owned by Forrest Gump in the film is a big deal in the film’s universe, but the filmmakers had no idea that the popularity of the fictional brand would bleed into real life. After the movie was released, there was a demand for Bubba-Gump merchandise.
At first, it was just things like hats, which sold out quickly but soon it would grow bigger and there would be a chain restaurant, inspired by the film, called the Bubba-Gump Shrimp Company. There are now many locations around the world, including 29 in the United States alone.
The Running Sequence in the Film Was the Most Difficult to Shoot
The running sequences in the film were the most difficult to shoot for a number of reasons. For one, it required that they come up with a timeline for Forrest Gump’s run so that they could determine the evolution of his character and what was going on around him. His hair, makeup, and wardrobe would all have to reflect that timeline.
It would be especially important because it would all be shot out of order, so the continuity of the beard and the deterioration of the clothes would have to match up in the editing process. But the end result was nearly perfect as difficult as it was to produce.
Robin Wright was the Only Choice for Jenny.
Robin Wright was indeed the only choice for Jenny. The actress was the only person to read for the role and something about her drew in the filmmakers. Producer Steve Starkey said:
There’s no doubt in casting her, you really had to find someone who deep inside of themselves could show the emotion of a damaged and deeply hurt individual... Robin somehow was able to depict that throughout the entire movie, that somehow beneath the surface of her beauty was this hurt in herself.”
One fact you may not be aware of is Jenny’s last name in the movie. It is never said aloud in the film so most people don’t know it, referring to her character only as “Jenny.” But the name is there. It can be seen on some mail that was delivered to her and that last name is Curran.
It was Haley Joel Osment’s Acting Debut
Forrest Gump marked the film debut of child actor Haley Joel Osment. The young actor played the illegitimate son of Jenny and Forrest in the film. According to producer Wendy Finerman, he was chosen because they felt he was “the proper mixture between a Jenny and a Forrest.”
Haley Joel Osment would be best known for his role in the psychological thriller The Sixth Sense which would really launch his childhood career. He ended up working with Steven Spielberg in A.I. Artificial Intelligence and he would also appear in the film Pay It Forward – both of which were fairly successful.
Zemeckis Thought the Film Would Only be Popular with Baby Boomers
Given the film's subject matter and many historical references, Robert Zemeckis believed that only boomers would be able to appreciate the movie. Fortunately, he was wrong and pleasantly surprised on his part. The film ended up resonating with just about everyone at the time, even people outside of the United States.
Even with all of the film's American history references, audiences around the world still managed to appreciate the story and the film’s American humor. Zemeckis said about the film’s success, “it must have touched some nerve that’s beyond the historical part of America, and it was all about the real human story and all the life metaphors that are in the film.”