Forrest Gump Turns TWENTY SIX Years Old

 Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

July  marks the 26th anniversary of the 1994 movie classic that is “Forrest Gump.” 26 years ago, the world was introduced to Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump.

The movie earned the star an Oscar for his portrayal of the naive and sincere man who seemed to be in the middle of every major historical event in the 60s and 70s.

The movie was wildly successful with such phrases as “Stupid is as stupid does” and “Life is like a box of chocolates” becoming common phrases in conversation.

lakesbutta CC BY-SA 3.0
lakesbutta CC BY-SA 3.0

According to producer Wendy Finerman, the main question people have about the film is whether the Forrest Gump character is based on any real-life people.

In truth, the fictional character almost wasn’t played by Tom Hanks at all. Bill Murray, Mathew Broderick and Chevy Chase were all considered for the role with Murray admitting in a Howard Stern interview that he had discussions to play Forrest Gump.

Winston Groom, the author of the 1986 novel that the film is based on, had written the character as a large, earthy character and imagined John Goodman in the role.

One rumor is that John Travolta turned the role down but Finerman does not recall discussing the part with him.

So many actors were considered for the role in part because the development of the movie took so long. It was ten years from start to finish.

When they began working on the film, Tom Hanks was not considered a major actor yet. But when the final script was written and Robert Zemeckis was handed the reins to direct, Tom Hanks was the clear winner for the role.

One of the scenes in the film shows Forrest Gump receiving the Medal of Honor from President Lyndon Johnson. The scene consists of actual footage of Private First Class Sammy L. Davis receiving his medal from the president. Davis fought in a battle in which his 42-man squad was attacked by 1500 Vietcong soldiers.

Davis (third from left) receiving the Medal of Honor from President Lyndon B. Johnson on November 19, 1968
Davis (third from left) receiving the Medal of Honor from President Lyndon B. Johnson on November 19, 1968

Though shot over 30 times in the back and buttocks by friendly fire (similar to the wounds Gump received in the movie and comically displayed to the president during the medal ceremony), Davis fought with valor and paddled an air mattress across a river in order to assist wounded soldiers after he himself was too wounded to swim.

In the movie, Hanks is superimposed over Davis through digital effects. Davis called it an honor to have part of the film be inspired by his true-life story.

Lt. Dan was one of the movies highlights and played brilliantly by Gary Sinse. It went on to change actor Gary Sinise’s life. His performance as a wounded warrior connected him to real-life veterans, and Sinise has become one of the highest-profile supporters of military and veteran causes.

lakesbutta CC BY-SA 3.0
lakesbutta CC BY-SA 3.0

Another inspiration for the Gump character was Groom’s childhood friend Jimbo Meador. The author dedicates the book to Meador and another friend, George Radcliff.

Meador’s speech pattern was used as a model for the way Gump speaks. In addition, Meador offers river boat excursions and at one time was a general manager of a seafood processor. He developed a high level of knowledge about shrimp.

The shrimping boat Jenny used in the film. Loadmaster CC BY-SA 3.0
The shrimping boat Jenny used in the film. Loadmaster CC BY-SA 3.0

People constantly ask Meador if he is the “real” Forrest Gump. He says he supposes he is, except for “the idiot part.”

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But Meador had to draw a line when People, A Current Affair, the London Times and David Letterman all came calling for interviews. He says he kept telling them, “The story is fiction.”