It doesn’t get quite as much love today, but a quarter century ago, Forrest Gump was the second highest grossing film of 1994, coming a close second to the original The Lion King. But perhaps even then a big budget epic that spanned decades seemed like a gamble. In a new interview on In Depth with Graham Bensinger (as caught by The Hollywood Reporter), star Tom Hanks said he wound up forking over a small chunk of the budget when production company Paramount acted a little stingy with him and director Robert Zemeckis. Thing is, it actually made the two even richer.
According to Hanks, Paramount was not into the paying a little extra for the stretch of Gump where our holy fool hero up and decides to run cross-country. It is a pricey-looking sequence, with lots of location shooting, a swelling number of fellow runners, to say nothing of Gump’s growing hair and beard. But by then, a movie that already cost quite a lot was not, Paramount felt, deserving of more for a bit that, honestly, could be removed without severely damaging the final product. So Zemeckis came to Hanks with a cunning plan:
“And he said ‘Well, this run is going to cost X amount of dollars.’ And it wasn’t cheap. And I said ‘OK’. He said, ‘You and I are going to split that amount, and we’re going to give it back [to Paramount]. We’ll give you the money back, but you guys [Paramount] are going to have to share the profits a little bit more.’ Which the studio said ‘Fabulous, great. OK.’ And it was good for us, too.”
That wasn’t the only part of the film Paramount refused to fund, though Hanks wouldn’t specify which one he was talking about. “They said ‘The weather is such that we can’t get the insurance coverage on it,’ the studio said, ‘So you guys can’t shoot,’” Hanks recalled. “And Bob and I said, ‘We’ll cover the insurance.’ And we did.” (This sounds like the scene where Forrest and Gary Sinise’s Lt. Dan almost drown at sea on their Bubba Gump shrimping boat, but maybe not.)
Haggling for portions of the profit wound up being the right move as, again, Forrest Gump made near-Lion King money. Hanks himself pocketed an estimated $65 million after the film became a commercial and critical behemoth.
Hanks dropped at least one other notable Gump tidbit: He didn’t relax into the character’s singular personality right away. In fact, the first three days of shooting were totally scapped. “Bob said, ‘Look, I know what you are trying to do. I know how nervous you are and how self-conscious this can be before we get into the groove. But we’re not going to use any of these first three days because I don’t think you’ve got it. You haven’t got the character.’ And I said, ‘I don’t. I don’t. You’re right.’ And he just said, ‘Don’t try so hard.’ And from that, everything settled down in a moment’s notice.”
The lesson? Spend a lot and you’ll make a lot, especially if you’re Tom Hanks in 1994.