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Forrest Gump is a Americanmarker comedy-drama film based on the 1986 novel of the same name by Winston Groom. The film, directed by Robert Zemeckis, stars Tom Hanks, Robin Wright Penn, Sally Field and Gary Sinise. The story is of Forrest Gump, a simple man that comes from Alabama, and his journey through life meeting historical figures, influencing popular culture, and experiencing firsthand historic events of the late 20th century.

The film differs substantially from Winston Groom's novel on which it was based. Filming took place in late 1993, mainly in Georgia and North and South Carolina. Extensive visual effects were used to incorporate the protagonist into archived footage as well as for developing other scenes. An extensive soundtrack was featured in the film, and its commercial release made it one of the top selling albums of all time.

Released in the United States on July 6, 1994, Forrest Gump was well received by critics and became a commercial success as the top grossing film in North America released that year. The film ended up earning over $677 million worldwide during its theatrical run. The film garnered multiple awards and nominations, including Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, People's Choice Awards, and Young Artist Awards, among others. Since the film's release, varying interpretations have been made of the film's protagonist and its political symbolism. In 1996, a themed restaurant opened based on the film, and has since expanded to multiple locations worldwide. Although a screenplay was developed on Groom's second novel, as of 2009, no sequel has been officially greenlit.

Plot

Forrest Gump, who is sitting at a bus stop in Savannah, Georgiamarker, tells the story of his life to a woman seated next to him. The listeners at the bus stop change regularly throughout his narration, each showing a different attitude ranging from disbelief and indifference to rapt veneration.

On his first day of school, he meets a girl named Jenny Curran, whose life is followed in parallel to Forrest's at times. Despite his below-average intelligence quotient (IQ), his ability to run at great speed gets him into college on a football scholarship. After his college graduation, he enlists in the army, where he makes friends with a man named Bubba, who convinces Forrest to go into the shrimping business with him when the war is over. They are sent to Vietnam and, during an ambush, Bubba is killed in action. Forrest ends up saving much of his platoon, including his platoon leader, Second Lieutenant Dan Taylor, who loses both his legs as a result of injuries. Forrest is awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism.

While Forrest is in recovery for a shot to his buttocks, he discovers his uncanny ability for ping-pong, eventually gaining popularity and rising to celebrity status, later playing ping-pong competitively against Chinese teams in ping pong diplomacy. He is subsequently promoted to sergeant. At an anti-war rally in Washington, D.C., now Sergeant Gump is reunited with Jenny, who has been living a hippie counterculture lifestyle. Forrest witnesses Jenny being slapped across the face by her boyfriend. This angers him to the point where Forrest beats the man severely, but Jenny convinces him to let her leave with him. Jenny is later shown to get addicted to herion and cocaine.

Returning home, Forrest endorses a company that makes ping-pong paddles, earning himself $25,000, which he uses to buy a shrimping boat, fulfilling his promise to Bubba. Dan joins Forrest, and although they initially have little success, Hurricane Carmen leaves theirs the only shrimping boat in operation, yielding immense catches. They use their income to buy an entire fleet of shrimp boats. Dan invests the money in Apple Computermarker and Forrest is financially secure for the rest of his life, and also donates half of the money to Bubba's family. He returns home to see his mother's last few days.

One day, Jenny returns to visit Forrest and he proposes marriage to her. She declines, though feels obliged to prove her love to him by having sex with him. She leaves early the next morning. On a whim, Forrest elects to go for a run. He decides to keep running across the country several times, over three and a half years, becoming famous and accumulating a large following in the process.

In present-day, Forrest reveals that he is waiting at the bus stop because he received a letter from Jenny who, having seen him run on television, asks him to visit her. Once he is reunited with Jenny, she introduces him to his son, also named Forrest. Jenny tells Forrest she is suffering from a virus (possibly HIV, though this is never definitively stated). Together the three move back to Greenbow, Alabama. Jenny and Forrest finally marry but she dies soon afterwards. The film ends with father and son waiting for the school bus on little Forrest's first day of school.

Cast

  • Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump: though at an early age a doctor determines Forrest possesses an IQ of 75, he encounters many historical figures and events throughout his life. John Travolta was the original choice to play the title role, and admits passing on the role was a mistake. Bill Murray was also considered for the role. Hanks revealed that he signed onto the film after an hour and a half of reading the script. He initially wanted to ease Gump's pronounced Southern accent, but was eventually persuaded by director Bob Zemeckis to portray the heavy accent stressed in the novel. Michael Conner Humphreys portrayed the young Forrest Gump.
  • Robin Wright Penn as Jenny Curran: Gump's childhood friend who enters his life at various times in adulthood. Zemeckis reflected on Penn's portrayal of the role, "Robin exudes a kind of strength and, at the same time, a vulnerability. She doesn't bring any of her stardom to the role. You don't look at her on-screen and think that this is Robin Wright's interpretation of the character. She's a real chameleon." Hanna R. Hall portrayed the young Jenny Curran.


  • Gary Sinise as Dan Taylor: Gump's platoon leader during the Vietnam War. Although Gump saves his life in battle, his legs are amputated because of a severe injury, and he blames Forrest for robbing him of his destiny, as one of his direct ancestors had died in every previous American war, whereas he survived this war. After several years of depression, he later thanks Forrest and joins him in running the shrimping business.
  • Mykelti Williamson as Benjamin Buford "Bubba" Blue: Gump's friend whom he meets upon joining the Army. Throughout filming, Williamson wore a lip attachment to create Bubba's protruding lip. David Alan Grier, Ice Cube, and Dave Chappelle were all offered the role before turning it down. Chappelle claimed he believed the film would be unsuccessful and has also admitted that he regrets not taking the role.
  • Sally Field as Mrs. Gump: Gump's mother who raises him after his father abandons them. Field reflected on the character, "She's a woman who loves her son unconditionally. ... A lot of her dialogue sounds like slogans, and that's just what she intends."
  • Haley Joel Osment as Forrest Gump, Jr.: Gump's and Curran's son. Osment was cast in the film after the casting director noticed him in a Pizza Hut commercial.
  • Peter Dobson as Elvis Presley: a house guest Gump encounters. Although Kurt Russell was uncredited, he provided the voiceover for Elvis Presley in the scene where Presley met Gump.
  • Dick Cavett as himself. Cavett played the 1970s version of himself, with make-up applied to make him appear younger. Consequently, Cavett is the only well-known figure in the film to play a cameo rather than be represented through the use of archival footage.
  • Sam Anderson as Principal Hancock: Gump's elementary school principal.
  • Richard D'Alessandro as Abbie Hoffman
  • Geoffrey Blake as Wesley
  • Siobhan Fallon Hogan as Dorothy Harris
  • Sonny Shroyer as Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant
  • Grand L. Bush, Conor Kennelly, and Teddy Lane Jr. as the Black Panthers
  • Bill Roberson as Fat Man on Bench


Production

Script

The film is based on the 1986 novel by Winston Groom. Both center around 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 country.

Gump's core character and personality are also changed from the novel; among other things he is an autistic savant—while playing football at the university, he fails craft and gym, but receives a perfect score in an advanced physics class he was enrolled in by his coach to satisfy his college requirements. The novel also featured Gump as an astronaut, a professional wrestler, and chess player.

Two directors were offered the opportunity to direct the film before Bob Zemeckis was selected. Terry Gilliam turned down the offer to direct. Barry Sonnenfeld was attached to the film but left to direct Addams Family Values.

Filming

Filming began in August 1993 and ended four months later in December. Although the majority of the film is set in Alabama, filming took place mainly in Beaufort, South Carolinamarker, as well as parts of North Carolina. The Gump family home set was built in Savannah, Georgiamarker and the nearby land was used to film Curran's home as well as some of the Vietnam scenes. Over 20 palm trees were planted to improve the Vietnam scenes. Forrest Gump narrated his life's story in Chippewa Square as he sat at a bus stop bench.

Visual effects

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 now deceased presidents 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 doubles were hired. To ensure that the voices matched when the person spoke, special effects were used to alter the mouth movements. Archival footage was used and with the help of techniques like chroma key, warping, morphing, and rotoscoping, Hanks was integrated into it.

In one Vietnam War scene, Gump carries a wounded 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 "missing" 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 comprised of several hundred thousand people.

Release

Critical reception

The film has received mostly positive reviews. As of July 1, 2009 the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 72% of critics gave the film a positive review based on a sample of 50 reviews, with an average score of 7/10. At the website Metacritic, which utilizes a normalized rating system, the film earned a favorable rating of 82/100 based on 19 reviews by mainstream critics.

The story was commended by several critics. Roger Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times wrote, "The screenplay by Eric Roth has the complexity of modern fiction...[Hanks'] 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." In addition, the film received notable pans from several major reviewers. Anthony Lane of The New Yorker called the film "Warm, wise, and wearisome as hell." Owen Gordinier of Entertainment Weekly said that the film "...reduces the tumult of the last few decades to a virtual-reality theme park: a baby-boomer version of Disney's America."

Critics had mixed views on the main character. Gump has been compared to various characters and people including Huckleberry Finn, Bill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan, among others. 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, loyal...". 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."

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' ode to 20th-century Americamarker 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."

Box office performance

Produced on a budget of $55 million, Forrest Gump opened in 1,595 theaters in its first weekend of domestic release, earning $24,450,602. The film placed first in the weekend's box office, narrowly beating The Lion King, which was in its fourth week of release. For the first ten weeks of its release, the film held the number one position at the box office. The film remained in theaters for 42 weeks, earning $329.7 million in the United States and Canada, making it the fourth-highest grossing film (behind only E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Star Wars IV: A New Hope, and Jurassic Park). As of July 2009, the film is ranked as the 18th highest grossing domestic film and 32nd worldwide.

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). The film had gross receipts of $329,694,499 in the U.S. and Canada and $347,693,217 in international markets for a total of $677,387,716 worldwide.

Home media

Forrest Gump was first released on VHS on April 27, 1995, before being released on a two-disc DVD 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.

Awards and honors

In addition to the following list of awards and nominations, the film was recognized by the American Film Institute on several of its lists. The film ranks 37th on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Cheers, 71st on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies, and 76th on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies . 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 AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes.
Award Category Nominee Result
67th Academy Awards Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role Tom Hanks won
Best Director Robert Zemeckis won
Best Film Editing Arthur Schmidt won
Best Picture Wendy Finerman, Steve Starkey, and Steve Tisch won
Best Visual Effects Ken Ralston, George Murphy, Allen Hallmarker, and Stephen Rosenbaum won
Best Adapted Screenplay Eric Roth won
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role Gary Sinise nominated
Best Achievement in Art Direction Rick Carter and Nancy Haigh nominated
Best Achievement in Cinematography Don Burgess nominated
Best Makeup Daniel C. Striepeke and Hallie D'Amore nominated
Best Original Score Alan Silvestri nominated
Best Sound Mixing Randy Thom, Tom Johnson, Dennis S. Sands, and William B. Kaplan nominated
Best Sound Editing Gloria S. Borders and Randy Thom nominated
1995 Saturn Awards Best Supporting Actor Gary Sinise won
Best Fantasy Film won
Best Actor Tom Hanks nominated
Best Music Alan Silvestri nominated
Best Special Effects Ken Ralston nominated
Best Writing Eric Roth nominated
1995 Amanda Awards Best Film (International) won
1995 American Cinema Editors Best Edited Feature Film Arthur Schmidt won
1995 American Comedy Awards Funniest Actor in a Motion Picture (Leading Role) Tom Hanks won
1995 American Society of Cinematographers Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Theatrical Releases Don Burgess nominated
1995 BAFTA Film Awards Outstanding Achievement in Special Effects Ken Ralston, George Murphy, Stephen Rosenbaum, Doug Chiang, and Allen Hall won
Best Actor in a Leading Role Tom Hanks nominated
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Sally Field nominated
Best Film Wendy Finerman, Steve Tisch, Steve Starkey, and Robert Zemeckis nominated
Best Cinematography Don Burgess nominated
David Lean Award for Direction Robert Zemeckis nominated
Best Editing Arthur Schmidt nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Eric Roth nominated
1995 Casting Society of America Best Casting for Feature Film, Drama Ellen Lewis nominated
1995 Chicago Film Critics Association Awards Best Actor Tom Hanks won
1995 Directors Guild of Americamarker Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Robert Zemeckis, Charles Newirth, Bruce Moriarity, Cherylanne Martin, and Dana J. Kuznetzkoff won
1995 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama Tom Hanks won
Best Director – Motion Picture Robert Zemeckis won
Best Motion Picture – Drama Wendy Finerman won
Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Gary Sinise won
Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Robin Wright Penn won
Best Original Score Alan Silvestri won
Best Screenplay – Motion Picture Eric Roth won
1995 MTV Movie Awards Best Breakthrough Performance Mykelti Williamson nominated
Best Male Performance Tom Hanks nominated
Best Movie nominated
1995 Motion Picture Sound Editors (Golden Reel Award) Best Sound Editing won
1994 National Board of Review of Motion Pictures Best Actor Tom Hanks won
Best Supporting Actor Gary Sinise won
Best Picture won
1995 PGA Golden Laurel Awards Motion Picture Producer of the Year Award Wendy Finerman, Steve Tisch, Steve Starkey, Charles Newirth won
1995 People's Choice Awards Favorite All-Around Motion Picture won
Favorite Dramatic Motion Picture won
Favorite Actor in a Dramatic Motion Picture Tom Hanks won
1995 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role Tom Hanks won
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role Gary Sinise nominated
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role Sally Field and Robin Wright Penn nominated
1995 Writers Guild of America Awards Best Screenplay Adapted from Another Medium Eric Roth won
1995 Young Artist Awards Best Performance in a Feature Film – Young Actor 10 or Younger Haley Joel Osment won
Best Performance in a Feature Film – Young Actress 10 or Younger Hanna R. Hall won
Best Performance in a Feature Film – Young Actor Co-Starring Michael Conner Humphreys nominated
2005 American Film Institute AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes Mamma always said "Life is like a box of chocolate: You never know what you're gonna get". Ranked 40th


Author controversy

Winston Groom was paid $350,000 for the screenplay rights to his novel Forrest Gump and was contracted for a 3% share of the film's net profits. However, Paramount and the film's producers did not pay him, using Hollywood accounting to posit that the blockbuster film lost money—a claim belied by the fact that Tom Hanks contracted for points instead of a salary, and he and director Zemeckis each netted $40 million. Additionally, no one mentioned Groom's name in any of the film's six Oscar-winner speeches.

Symbolism

Feather

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 opinions that were 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."

Political interpretations

In Tom Hanks' words, "The film is non-political and thus non-judgmental". Nevertheless, in 1994, CNN's Crossfire debated whether the film promoted conservative values or was an indictment of the counterculture movement of the 1960s. Thomas Byers, in a Modern Fiction Studies article, called the film "an aggressively conservative film".

It has been noted that while Gump follows a very conservative lifestyle, Curran's life is full of countercultural embrace, complete with drug usage and antiwar rallies, and that their eventual marriage might be a kind of tongue-in-cheek reconciliation. Jennifer Hyland Wang argued in a Cinema Journal article that Curran's death to an unnamed virus "...symbolizes the death of liberal America and the death of the protests that defined a decade [1960s]." She also notes that the film's screenwriter Eric Roth, when developing the screenplay from the novel, had "...transferred all of Gump's flaws and most of the excesses committed by Americans in the '60s and '70s to her [Curran]."

Other commentators believe that the film forecast the 1994 Republican Revolution and used the image of Forrest Gump to promote his traditional, conservative values. Wang argued 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. In addition, presidential candidate Bob Dole cited the film's message in influencing his campaign due to its "...message that has made [the film] one of Hollywood's all-time greatest box office hits: no matter how great the adversity, the American Dream is within everybody's reach."

In 1996, National Review included Forrest Gump in its list of the "Best 100 Conservative Movies" of all time. Then, in 2009, the magazine ranked the film 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."

Soundtrack

The 32-song soundtrack from the film was released on July 6, 1994. The soundtrack includes songs from Elvis Presley, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Aretha Franklin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Doobie Brothers, 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 Sills, 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 second place on the Billboard charts. The soundtrack went on to sell twelve million copies, and is one of the top selling albums in the United States. The score for the film was composed and conducted by Alan Silvestri and released on August 2, 1994.

Restaurant



The film inspired a seafood restaurant called Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, named for the shrimping company formed by Gump in the film, named for himself and his friend, Bubba. The first restaurant opened in 1996 in Monterey, Californiamarker, and has since branched out to over 30 other cities in the U.S. and other countries. The restaurants' design feature memorabilia from the film and sell licensed merchandise.

Sequel

A screenplay based on the original novel's sequel, Gump and Co., was written by Eric Roth in 2001. Roth's script began 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 that Paramount producers took another look at the screenplay.

In the very first page of the sequel novel, Forrest Gump tells readers "Don't never let nobody make a movie of your life's story," though "Whether they get it right or wrong, it don't matter." The first chapter of the book suggests that 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 is the film's release, including Gump going on The David Letterman Show and attending the Academy Awards. It is mentioned Hanks plays Gump, and Forrest seems to have a positive look on the film.

References



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