Tom Hanks has had an incredibly fruitful acting career, moving seamlessly from comedies to dramas in some of the most beloved and successful movies of the last 25 years. Forrest Gump might just be his most popular film and is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The movie about a slow-witted man who finds himself being pulled into every major United States event of the 1960s and 70s was the number one film at the box office in the summer of 1994 for a 10-week run — and in theaters for 42 weeks total. It went on to pull $677.4 million worldwide, give Tom Hanks his second Oscar statue, and — let’s never forget — it spawned a chain of overpriced seafood restaurants.
None of this should be surprising though, people love Tom Hanks. (Dare I say even more than Bill Murray?) So Tom Hanks in a white suit recounting all of America’s civil rights and Vietnam strife through the child-like eyes of a mentally challenged man was nothing short of a giant in American cinema. As much as people love Tom Hanks and as big as Forrest Gump was, it’s generated its share of criticism in pop culture. Some people feel that Pulp Fiction was a more deserving movie of the Best Picture Oscar that year, and others take issue with the notion we’re expected to believe a man of Forrest Gump’s IQ could possibly achieve as much as he does. (I generally believe it as much as I believe Bruce Wayne could pull off being Batman.)
We’ll save the discussion for whether the movie is a box of chocolates or three hours of eye-rolling melodramatic moments in the comments. First, let’s find out what happened to that bench Forrest had himself planted on for so long.
1. The bench Tom Hanks sat on sold at auction. The bench that Forrest sat on with his box of chocolates at the Savannah bus stop sold in 2013 for a whopping $25,000. There was also no bench at that particular bus stop in Savannah, producers had to bring it in for the shoot.
2. There were several potential Bubbas before actor Mykelti Williamson got the part. Williamson was up against a fresh-faced Dave Chappelle and Ice Cube for the part of Forrest’s shrimp-loving friend. Cube reportedly turned the part down because he didn’t want to portray a “dumb” character.
3. Bubba needed some enhancements for his lip. Mykelti Williamson wore a prosthetic piece in his mouth to help extend his lower lip. Bubba’s lip was so prominent that it actually made it difficult for Williamson to work after the movie, because as he described “casting directors thought Zemeckis had discovered some weird-looking guy and put him in front of the camera.”
4. Hanks’ Forrest Gump was more passive than author Winston Groom’s character. Groom’s Gump was a bit more aware of the world around him and less passive, admitting in the opening paragraph that people treat him poorly because he’s “an idiot.” The Gump from the book is also described as a more heavyset man, and Groom has said that he would have picked John Goodman for the role. Oh, and in the book Forrest accomplishes even more of the impossible by becoming an astronaut.
5. The book was fairly unknown before the film. Winston Groom’s novel came out in 1986 and sold around 30,000 copies, before the movie catapulted it to the top of the charts. Less than a year after the movie was released the book had sold 1.4 million copies and later spawned the 1995 sequel, Gump and Co. The first page of the sequel even jokingly jabs at the movie with Gump saying, “Don’t never let nobody make a movie of your life’s story.”
6. Tom Hanks ad libbed one of the movies most iconic lines. “My name is Forrest Gump. People call me Forrest Gump,” was supposedly thought up on the spot by Hanks.
7. All of the hippies at the anti-war rally were Renaissance Fair attendees. The producers were able to accomplish the shot of a large protest rally in front of the Washington Monument with just 1,500 extras from a nearby Renaissance Fair. The group was filmed in various locations of the mall lawn and then the footage was spliced into one panoramic crowd shot.
8. The movie’s historical special effects birthed the term “gumping.” One of the most impressive things about the movie was the realism of Forrest Gump appearing in the historical video footage. Ken Ralston’s special effects team earned an Oscar for its work on the movie and their work led to the term “gumping” for their ability to place Tom Hanks in old news footage. The process involved using CGI to superimpose Tom Hanks’ face over the likeness of other people as well as manipulating hand and mouth movements.
9. Gary Sinese started a Lt. Dan tribute band. Following the movie’s massive success, actor Gary Sinese formed a cover band based on his Gump character called, The Lt. Dan Band. Taking the band on a tour of Bubba Gump restaurants seems like a no brainer, but Sinese actually takes the band on the road for various veterans’ and USO shows.
10. Tom Hanks’ brother did some of his running. Forrest does a lot of running in the film, and Tom Hanks just isn’t acclimated to the amount of running in a movie as say, Tom Cruise. His brother, Jim Hanks actually subbed in for some of Tom’s running scenes in South Carolina and Montana.
11. The movie’s sequel is still in development. Just like any hugely successful movie, Hollywood has been pushing a sequel to the film for years. In the mid-1990s, Tom Hanks was still opposed to doing a sequel — obviously that changed with Toy Story — and has declined to Paramount’s offers to revisit Forrest Gump for a second time.
12. What did Forrest really say during his Vietnam speech? Forrest’ microphone goes mute right when he begins to speak, but Tom Hanks has said that his lines from the speech were “Sometimes when people go to Vietnam, they go home to their mommas without any legs. Sometimes they don’t go home at all. That’s a bad thing. That’s all I have to say about that.”