|Directed by||Robert Zemeckis|
|Screenplay by||Eric Roth|
|Based on||Forrest Gump|
by Winston Groom
|Edited by||Arthur Schmidt|
|Music by||Alan Silvestri|
The Tisch Company
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
Forrest Gump is a 1994 American comedy-drama film directed by Robert Zemeckis and written by Eric Roth. It is based on the 1986 novel of the same name by Winston Groom and stars Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise, Mykelti Williamson and Sally Field. The story depicts several decades in the life of Forrest Gump (Hanks), a slow-witted but kindhearted man from Alabama who witnesses and unwittingly influences several defining historical events in the 20th-century United States. The film differs substantially from the novel.
Principal photography took place between August and December 1993, mainly in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Extensive visual effects were used to incorporate Hanks into archived footage and to develop other scenes. The soundtrack features songs reflecting the different periods seen in the film.
Forrest Gump was released in the United States on July 6, 1994, and received universal acclaim for Zemeckis's direction, performances (particularly that of Hanks and Sinise), visual effects, music, and screenplay. The film was an enormous success at the box office; it became the top-grossing film in America released that year and earned over US$677million worldwide during its theatrical run, making it the second-highest-grossing film of 1994, behind The Lion King. The soundtrack sold over 12 million copies. Forrest Gump won six Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor for Hanks, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Visual Effects, and Best Film Editing. It received many award nominations, including Golden Globes, British Academy Film Awards and Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Varying interpretations have been made of the protagonist and the film's political symbolism. In 2011, the Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". An Indian Hindi-language remake Laal Singh Chaddha is under production.
In 1951, in Greenbow, Alabama, young Forrest is fitted with leg braces to correct a curved spine, and is unable to walk properly. He lives alone with his mother, who runs a boarding house out of their home that attracts many tenants, including a young Elvis Presley, who plays the guitar for Forrest and incorporates Forrest's jerky dance movements into his performances. On his first day of school, Forrest meets a girl named Jenny Curran, and the two become best friends.
Forrest is often bullied because of his physical disability and low intelligence. While fleeing from several bullies, his leg braces break off, revealing Forrest to be a very fast runner. This talent eventually allows him to receive a football scholarship at the University of Alabama in 1963, where he is coached by Bear Bryant, witnesses Governor George Wallace's Stand in the Schoolhouse Door (during which he returns a dropped book to Vivian Malone Jones), becomes a top kick returner, is named on the All-American team, and meets President John F. Kennedy at the White House.
After graduating college in 1967, Forrest enlists into the U.S. Army. During basic training, he befriends a fellow soldier named Benjamin Buford Blue (nicknamed "Bubba"), who convinces Forrest to go into the shrimping business with him after their service. Later that year, they are sent to Vietnam, serving with the 9th Infantry Division in the Mekong Delta region. After months of routine operations, their platoon is ambushed while on patrol, and Bubba is killed in action. Forrest saves several wounded platoonmates – including his lieutenant, Dan Taylor, who loses both his legs – and is awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
At the anti-war March on the Pentagon rally, Forrest meets Abbie Hoffman and briefly reunites with Jenny, who has been living a hippie lifestyle. He also develops a talent for ping-pong, and becomes a sports celebrity as he competes against Chinese teams in ping-pong diplomacy, earning him an interview alongside John Lennon on The Dick Cavett Show, influencing the song "Imagine". He spends the 1972 New Year's Eve in New York City with Lieutenant Dan, who has become an embittered cripple. Forrest soon meets President Richard Nixon and is put up in the Watergate complex, where he unwittingly exposes the Watergate scandal.
Discharged from the army, Forrest returns to Greenbow and endorses a company that makes ping-pong paddles. He uses the earnings to buy a shrimping boat in Bayou La Batre, fulfilling his promise to Bubba. Lieutenant Dan joins Forrest in 1974, and they initially have little success. After their boat becomes the only one to survive Hurricane Carmen, they pull in huge amounts of shrimp and create the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, after which Lieutenant Dan finally thanks Forrest for saving his life. Lieutenant Dan invests into what Forrest thinks is "some kind of fruit company" and the two become millionaires, but Forrest also gives half of the earnings to Bubba's family. Forrest then returns home to his mother as she dies of cancer.
In 1976, Jenny – in the midst of recovering from years of drugs and abuse – returns to visit Forrest, and after a while he proposes to her. That night she tells Forrest she loves him and the two make love, but she leaves the next morning. Heartbroken, Forrest goes running, and spends the next three years in a relentless cross-country marathon, becoming famous again before returning to Greenbow.
In 1981, Forrest reveals that he is waiting at the bus stop because he received a letter from Jenny, who asked him to visit her. Forrest is finally reunited with Jenny, who introduces him to their son, Forrest Gump Jr. Jenny tells Forrest she is sick with an "unknown virus" and the three move back to Greenbow. Jenny and Forrest finally marry, but she dies a year later. The film ends with Forrest seeing his son off on his first day of school.
"The writer, Eric Roth, departed substantially from the book. We flipped the two elements of the book, making the love story primary and the fantastic adventures secondary. Also, the book was cynical and colder than the movie. In the movie, Gump is a completely decent character, always true to his word. He has no agenda and no opinion about anything except Jenny, his mother and God."
The film is based on the 1986 novel by Winston Groom. Both center on the character of Forrest Gump. However, the film primarily focuses on the first eleven chapters of the novel, before skipping ahead to the end of the novel with the founding of Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and the meeting with Forrest Jr. In addition to skipping some parts of the novel, the film adds several aspects to Gump's life that do not occur in the novel, such as his needing leg braces as a child and his run across the United States.
Gump's core character and personality are also changed from the novel; among other things his film character is less of a savant--in the novel, while playing football at the university, he fails craft and gym, but receives a perfect score in an advanced physics class he is enrolled in by his coach to satisfy his college requirements. The novel also features Gump as an astronaut, a professional wrestler, and a chess player.
Two directors were offered the opportunity to direct the film before Robert Zemeckis was selected. Terry Gilliam turned down the offer. Barry Sonnenfeld was attached to the film, but left to direct Addams Family Values.
Filming began in August 1993 and ended in December of that year. Although most of the film is set in Alabama, filming took place mainly in and around Beaufort, South Carolina, as well as parts of coastal Virginia and North Carolina, including a running shot on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Downtown portions of the fictional town of Greenbow were filmed in Varnville, South Carolina. The scene of Forrest running through Vietnam while under fire was filmed on Hunting Island State Park and Fripp Island, South Carolina. Additional filming took place on the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, and along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone, North Carolina. The most notable place was Grandfather Mountain, where a part of the road subsequently became known as "Forrest Gump Curve".
The Gump family home set was built along the Combahee River near Yemassee, South Carolina, and the nearby land was used to film Curran's home as well as some of the Vietnam scenes. Over 20 palmetto trees were planted to improve the Vietnam scenes. Forrest Gump narrated his life's story at the northern edge of Chippewa Square in Savannah, Georgia, as he sat at a bus stop bench. There were other scenes filmed in and around the Savannah area as well, including a running shot on the Richard V. Woods Memorial Bridge in Beaufort while he was being interviewed by the press, and on West Bay Street in Savannah. Most of the college campus scenes were filmed in Los Angeles at the University of Southern California. The lighthouse that Forrest runs across to reach the Atlantic Ocean the first time is the Marshall Point Lighthouse in Port Clyde, Maine. Additional scenes were filmed in Arizona, Utah's Monument Valley, and Montana's Glacier National Park.
Ken Ralston and his team at Industrial Light & Magic were responsible for the film's visual effects. Using CGI techniques, it was possible to depict Gump meeting deceased personages and shaking their hands. Hanks was first shot against a blue screen along with reference markers so that he could line up with the archive footage. To record the voices of the historical figures, voice actors were filmed and special effects were used to alter lip-syncing for the new dialogue. Archival footage was used and with the help of such techniques as chroma key, image warping, morphing, and rotoscoping, Hanks was integrated into it.
In one Vietnam War scene, Gump carries Bubba away from an incoming napalm attack. To create the effect, stunt actors were initially used for compositing purposes. Then, Hanks and Williamson were filmed, with Williamson supported by a cable wire as Hanks ran with him. The explosion was then filmed, and the actors were digitally added to appear just in front of the explosions. The jet fighters and napalm canisters were also added by CGI.
The CGI removal of actor Gary Sinise's legs, after his character had them amputated, was achieved by wrapping his legs with a blue fabric, which later facilitated the work of the "roto-paint" team to paint out his legs from every single frame. At one point, while hoisting himself into his wheelchair, his legs are used for support.
The scene where Forrest spots Jenny at a peace rally at the Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool in Washington, D.C., required visual effects to create the large crowd of people. Over two days of filming, approximately 1,500 extras were used. At each successive take, the extras were rearranged and moved into a different quadrant away from the camera. With the help of computers, the extras were multiplied to create a crowd of several hundred thousand people.
Forrest Gump received generally positive reviews. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 71% of critics gave the film a positive review, with an average rating of 7.50/10, based on 104 reviews. The website's critical consensus states, "Forrest Gump may be an overly sentimental film with a somewhat problematic message, but its sweetness and charm are usually enough to approximate true depth and grace." At the website Metacritic, the film earned a rating of 82 out of 100 based on 20 reviews by mainstream critics, indicating "universal acclaim". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film a rare "A+" grade.
The story was commended by several critics. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote, "I've never met anyone like Forrest Gump in a movie before, and for that matter I've never seen a movie quite like 'Forrest Gump.' Any attempt to describe him will risk making the movie seem more conventional than it is, but let me try. It's a comedy, I guess. Or maybe a drama. Or a dream. The screenplay by Eric Roth has the complexity of modern fiction...The performance is a breathtaking balancing act between comedy and sadness, in a story rich in big laughs and quiet truths...What a magical movie." Todd McCarthy of Variety wrote that the film "has been very well worked out on all levels, and manages the difficult feat of being an intimate, even delicate tale played with an appealingly light touch against an epic backdrop." The film did receive notable pans from several major reviewers. Anthony Lane of The New Yorker called the film "Warm, wise, and wearisome as hell." Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly said that the film was "glib, shallow, and monotonous" and "reduces the tumult of the last few decades to a virtual-reality theme park: a baby-boomer version of Disney's America."
Gump garnered comparisons to fictional character Huckleberry Finn, as well as U.S. politicians Ronald Reagan, Pat Buchanan and Bill Clinton. Peter Chomo writes that Gump acts as a "social mediator and as an agent of redemption in divided times". Peter Travers of Rolling Stone called Gump "everything we admire in the American character - honest, brave, and loyal with a heart of gold." The New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin called Gump a "hollow man" who is "self-congratulatory in his blissful ignorance, warmly embraced as the embodiment of absolutely nothing." Marc Vincenti of Palo Alto Weekly called the character "a pitiful stooge taking the pie of life in the face, thoughtfully licking his fingers." Bruce Kawin and Gerald Mast's textbook on film history notes that Forrest Gump's dimness was a metaphor for glamorized nostalgia in that he represented a blank slate onto which the Baby Boomer generation projected their memories of those events.
The film is commonly seen as a polarizing one for audiences, with Entertainment Weekly writing in 2004, "Nearly a decade after it earned gazillions and swept the Oscars, Robert Zemeckis's ode to 20th-century America still represents one of cinema's most clearly drawn lines in the sand. One half of folks see it as an artificial piece of pop melodrama, while everyone else raves that it's sweet as a box of chocolates."
Produced on a budget of $55 million, Forrest Gump opened in 1,595 theaters in the United States and Canada grossing $24,450,602 in its opening weekend. Motion picture business consultant and screenwriter Jeffrey Hilton suggested to producer Wendy Finerman to double the P&A (film marketing budget) based on his viewing of an early print of the film. The budget was immediately increased, in line with his advice. In its opening weekend, the film placed first at the US box office, narrowly beating The Lion King, which was in its fourth week of release. For the first twelve weeks of release, the film was in the top 3 at the US box office, topping the list 5 times, including in its tenth week of release. Paramount removed the film from release in the United States when its gross hit $300 million in January 1995, and it was the second-highest grossing film of the year behind The Lion King with $305 million. The film was reissued on February 17, 1995 after the Academy Awards nominations were announced. After the reissue in 1,100 theaters, the film grossed an additional $29 million in the United States and Canada, bringing its total to $329.7 million, making it the third-highest-grossing film at that time behind only E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Jurassic Park, and was Paramount's biggest, surpassing Raiders of the Lost Ark. Box Office Mojo estimates that the film sold over 78.5 million tickets in the US and Canada in its initial theatrical run.
The film took 66 days to surpass $250 million and was the fastest grossing Paramount film to pass $100 million, $200 million, and $300 million in box office receipts (at the time of its release). After reissues, the film has gross receipts of $330,252,182 in the U.S. and Canada and $347,693,217 in international markets for a total of $677,945,399 worldwide. Even with such revenue, the film was known as a "successful failure"--due to distributors' and exhibitors' high fees, Paramount's "losses" clocked in at $62 million, leaving executives realizing the necessity of better deals. This has also been associated with Hollywood accounting, where expenses are inflated in order to minimize profit sharing. It is Robert Zemeckis' highest-grossing film to date.
Winston Groom was paid $350,000 for the screenplay rights to his novel Forrest Gump and was contracted for a 3 percent share of the film's net profits. However, Paramount and the film's producers did not pay him the percentage, using Hollywood accounting to posit that the blockbuster film lost money. Tom Hanks, by contrast, contracted for a percent share of the film's gross receipts instead of a salary, and he and director Zemeckis each received $40 million. Additionally, Groom was not mentioned once in any of the film's six Oscar-winner speeches.
Groom's dispute with Paramount was later effectively resolved after Groom declared he was satisfied with Paramount's explanation of their accounting, this coinciding with Groom receiving a seven-figure contract with Paramount for film rights to another of his books, Gump & Co. This film was never made, remaining in development hell for at least a dozen years.
Forrest Gump was first released on VHS on April 27, 1995, and on Laserdisc the following day. The laserdisc was released without chapters, requiring the film be watched start to finish. Film magazines of the period stated this was at the request of Zemeckis who wanted viewers to enjoy the film in its entirety. It became the best-selling adult sell-through video with sales of over 12 million. It was released in a two-disc DVD set on August 28, 2001. Special features included director and producer commentaries, production featurettes, and screen tests. The film was released on Blu-ray in November 2009. Paramount released the film on Ultra HD Blu-ray in June 2018. On May 7, 2019, Paramount Pictures released a newly remastered two-disc Blu-ray that contains bonus content.
Forrest Gump won Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Hanks had won the previous year for Philadelphia), Best Director, Best Visual Effects, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Film Editing at the 67th Academy Awards. The film was nominated for seven Golden Globe Awards, winning three of them: Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama, Best Director - Motion Picture, and Best Motion Picture - Drama. The film was also nominated for six Saturn Awards and won two for Best Fantasy Film and Best Supporting Actor (Film).
In addition to the film's multiple awards and nominations, it has also been recognized by the American Film Institute on several of its lists. The film ranks 37th on 100 Years...100 Cheers, 71st on 100 Years...100 Movies, and 76th on 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition). In addition, the quote "Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get," was ranked 40th on 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes. The film also ranked at number 61 on Empires list of the 100 Greatest Movies of All Time.
In December 2011, Forrest Gump was selected for preservation in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry. The Registry said that the film was "honored for its technological innovations (the digital insertion of Gump seamlessly into vintage archival footage), its resonance within the culture that has elevated Gump (and what he represents in terms of American innocence) to the status of folk hero, and its attempt to engage both playfully and seriously with contentious aspects of the era's traumatic history."
In 2015, The Hollywood Reporter polled hundreds of Academy members, asking them to re-vote on past controversial decisions. Academy members indicated that, given a second chance, they would award the 1994 Oscar for Best Picture to The Shawshank Redemption instead.
American Film Institute lists
"I don't want to sound like a bad version of 'the child within'. But the childlike innocence of Forrest Gump is what we all once had. It's an emotional journey. You laugh and cry. It does what movies are supposed to do: make you feel alive."
Various interpretations have been suggested for the feather present at the opening and conclusion of the film. Sarah Lyall of The New York Times noted several suggestions made about the feather: "Does the white feather symbolize The Unbearable Lightness of Being? Forrest Gump's impaired intellect? The randomness of experience?" Hanks interpreted the feather as: "Our destiny is only defined by how we deal with the chance elements to our life and that's kind of the embodiment of the feather as it comes in. Here is this thing that can land anywhere and that it lands at your feet. It has theological implications that are really huge." Sally Field compared the feather to fate, saying: "It blows in the wind and just touches down here or there. Was it planned or was it just perchance?" Visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston compared the feather to an abstract painting: "It can mean so many things to so many different people."
Hanks states that "the film is non-political and thus non-judgmental." Nevertheless, CNN's Crossfire debated in 1994 whether the film promoted conservative values or was an indictment of the counterculture movement of the 1960s. Thomas Byers called it "an aggressively conservative film" in a Modern Fiction Studies article.
All over the political map, people have been calling Forrest their own. But, Forrest Gump isn't about politics or conservative values. It's about humanity, it's about respect, tolerance and unconditional love.
It has been noted that while Gump follows a very conservative lifestyle, Jenny's life is full of countercultural embrace, complete with drug usage, promiscuity, and antiwar rallies, and that their eventual marriage might be a kind of reconciliation. Jennifer Hyland Wang argues in a Cinema Journal article that Jenny's death to an unnamed virus "symbolizes the death of liberal America and the death of the protests that defined a decade" in the 1960s. She also notes that the film's screenwriter Eric Roth developed the screenplay from the novel and transferred to Jenny "all of Gump's flaws and most of the excesses committed by Americans in the 1960s and 1970s".
Other commentators believe the film forecast the 1994 Republican Revolution and used the image of Forrest Gump to promote movement leader Newt Gingrich's traditional, conservative values. Jennifer Hyland Wang observes that the film idealizes the 1950s, as made evident by the lack of "whites only" signs in Gump's Southern childhood, and envisions the 1960s as a period of social conflict and confusion. She argues that this sharp contrast between the decades criticizes the counterculture values and reaffirms conservatism. Wang argues that the film was used by Republican politicians to illustrate a "traditional version of recent history" to gear voters towards their ideology for the congressional elections. Presidential candidate Bob Dole stated that the film's message was "no matter how great the adversity, the American Dream is within everybody's reach."
In 1995, National Review included Forrest Gump in its list of the "Best 100 Conservative Movies" of all time, and ranked it number four on its 25 Best Conservative Movies of the Last 25 Years list. "Tom Hanks plays the title character, an amiable dunce who is far too smart to embrace the lethal values of the 1960s. The love of his life, wonderfully played by Robin Wright Penn, chooses a different path; she becomes a drug-addled hippie, with disastrous results."
Professor James Burton at Salisbury University argues that conservatives claimed Forrest Gump as their own due less to the content of the film and more to the historical and cultural context of 1994. Burton claims that the film's content and advertising campaign were affected by the cultural climate of the 1990s, which emphasized family values and American values, epitomized in the book Hollywood vs. America. He claims that this climate influenced the apolitical nature of the film, which allowed many different political interpretations.
Some commentators see the conservative readings of Forrest Gump as indicating the death of irony in American culture. Vivian Sobchack notes that the film's humor and irony rely on the assumption of the audience's historical knowledge.
The 32-song soundtrack from the film was released on July 6, 1994. With the exception of a lengthy suite from Alan Silvestri's score, all the songs are previously released; the soundtrack includes songs from Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Aretha Franklin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Three Dog Night, the Byrds, the Beach Boys, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Doors, the Mamas & the Papas, the Doobie Brothers, Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Seger, and Buffalo Springfield among others. Music producer Joel Sill reflected on compiling the soundtrack: "We wanted to have very recognizable material that would pinpoint time periods, yet we didn't want to interfere with what was happening cinematically." The two-disc album has a variety of music from the 1950s-1980s performed by American artists. According to Sill, this was due to Zemeckis' request, "All the material in there is American. Bob (Zemeckis) felt strongly about it. He felt that Forrest wouldn't buy anything but American."
The soundtrack reached a peak of number 2 on the Billboard album chart. The soundtrack went on to sell twelve million copies, and is one of the top selling albums in the United States. The Oscar-nominated score for the film was composed and conducted by Alan Silvestri and released on August 2, 1994.
The screenplay for the sequel was written by Eric Roth in 2001. It is based on the original novel's sequel, Gump and Co., written by Winston Groom in 1995. Roth's script begins with Forrest sitting on a bench waiting for his son to return from school. After the September 11 attacks, Roth, Zemeckis, and Hanks decided the story was no longer "relevant." In March 2007, however, it was reported Paramount producers took another look at the screenplay.
On the first page of the sequel novel, Forrest Gump tells readers "Don't never let nobody make a movie of your life's story," and "Whether they get it right or wrong, it doesn't matter." The first chapter of the book suggests the real-life events surrounding the film have been incorporated into Forrest's storyline, and that Forrest got a lot of media attention as a result of the film. During the course of the sequel novel, Gump runs into Tom Hanks and at the end of the novel in the film's release, includes Gump going on The David Letterman Show and attending the Academy Awards.
Film critic Pauline Kael came out of retirement to bash the film on a book tour; by year's end, New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin had gone from mildly praising the film in her initial review to putting it on her worst of 1994 list, describing Forrest as a "hollow man" who's 'self-congratulatory in his blissful ignorance, warmly embraced as the embodiment of absolutely nothing.'