Forrest Gump star Tom Hanks recalls worrying that the 1994 film would be a flop because nobody would care about the character. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, Forrest Gump follows Hanks’ titular protagonist as he finds himself in an array of crucial moments throughout history, including helping Elvis Presley develop his signature dance moves, fighting in the Vietnam War, becoming a ping pong champion, and meeting President John F. Kennedy. The movie was a critical and commercial hit, winning Oscars for the Best Picture and Best Actor, among others.
In a recent New Yorker Live event (via People), Hanks recalls that he initially expressed doubts about Forrest Gump to Zemeckis. The actor was concerned that the odd nature of the film and its lead character ultimately wouldn’t click with audiences. Check out Hanks’ full comment below:
“I say, ‘Hey Bob, I’ve got a question for you. Is anybody going to care about this movie? This guy sitting on a thing in these goofy shoes and this cuckoo suit with a suitcase full of Curious George books and stuff like that. Are we doing anything here that is going to make any sense to anybody?’
“And Bob said, ‘It’s a minefield, Tom. It’s a g—— minefield. We may be sowing the seeds of our own destruction. Any footstep we take can be a bouncing Betty that’ll blow our nuts right off.’”
Why Forrest Gump Was Such A Big Risk
One could make the case that without Hanks Forrest Gump wouldn’t have worked. Without Hanks’ inherent charm and likability, and without the unique acting choices that he makes in the role, the character of Forrest Gump may have been too odd to strike a chord with general audiences at best and offensive at worst.
While the story itself is certainly interesting in a comically unbelievable sort of way, the film only works if Gump is a character that generates empathy. The premise of Forrest Gump, after all, is that Gump is recounting his incredible life story to strangers at a bus stop. Without empathy and a strong emotional core, the film’s somewhat meandering series of events falls apart.
Of course, Hanks is crucial to Forrest Gump, but so too are supporting actors like Robin Wright’s Jenny and Gary Sinise’s Lt. Dan, who are used to explore deep themes of love, friendship, and even PTSD. Although Gump himself doesn’t get too many emotional scenes, actors like Wright and Sinise are crucial because they help to solidify Gump’s powerful influence on the lives of others. It’s certainly understandable why Hanks may have had doubts about Forrest Gump at first, but considering the film’s lasting cultural footprint and its impact on his career, he’s undoubtedly happy he stuck with it.