14 Things You Might Not Know About Forrest Gump

Paramount Home Entertainment
Paramount Home Entertainment

On July 6, 1994, Forrest Gump arrived in theaters and became a box office behemoth (almost $1 billion worldwide in today’s dollars). The Oscar-winning film starring Tom Hanks as a lovable lummox entered the name “Forrest Gump” into the zeitgeist, and generated the simile catchphrase, “Life is like a box of chocolates.” Here are a few things you might not have known about the Robert Zemeckis classic.

1. SALES OF THE BOOK SKYROCKETED AFTER THE MOVIE CAME OUT.

Novelist Winston Groom published Forrest Gump the book in 1986. When it came out it sold a modest 30,000 copies in hardback, but by 1995—after the success of the film adaptation—it had sold 1.6 million copies in paperback. In 1995 Groom wrote a sequel, Gump & Co., and in 1994 The Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Cookbook was released, with a foreword written by Groom. The cookbook existed before the restaurant chain and has no affiliation with it.

2. THERE ARE BIG DIFFERENCES BETWEEN FORREST IN THE BOOK AND FORREST IN THE MOVIE.

In the book, Forrest ends up going into space, smoking weed, working with Raquel Welch, confronting cannibals, running for the United States Senate (his campaign slogan is “I Got to Pee”), and playing in a chess tournament. Also, in the book Forrest is described being 6'6" tall and weighing 240 pounds, which is why Groom wanted John Goodman to play Forrest in the movie.

3. THE MOVIE DIVIDED CRITICS.

The movie holds the #12 position on IMDb’s Top 250 movie chart, but many critics either loved the movie or really hated it. In his 1994 review, Roger Ebert gave Forrest Gump four stars and called it “a magical movie,” whereas Entertainment Weekly gave it a “C” rating and said it “reduced the tumult of the last few decades to a virtual-reality theme park: a baby-boomer version of Disney’s America.” In 2014, LA Weekly revisited the movie and said, “The film is so afraid to dredge up debate that when Abbie Hoffman hands Forrest the microphone at an anti-war rally, someone unplugs the speakers so we can’t hear him—fitting for a movie with nothing to say.” Ouch. 

4. DESPITE GROSSING MORE THAN $600 MILLION WORLDWIDE, THE FILM FAILED TO TURN A PROFIT BY THE END OF 1994.

How is that possible? Well, the Los Angeles Times broke the outlays down: Paramount had to pay $61.6 million in distribution fees to theater owners, then it had to subtract $73.5 million toward advertising and making prints of the film (today, digital is much cheaper). The budget cost Paramount $50 million. Then, Hanks and Zemeckis took about $61.8 million for their fees (they signed a back end deal where they’d receive a share of the profits instead of a salary), and finally, theater owners took their cut of $159 million. After all was said and done, Paramount’s gross receipts were about $191 million. When the movie was released on video in 1995, it sold millions of copies.

5. ONLY SONGS FROM AMERICAN BANDS APPEAR ON THE SOUNDTRACK AND IN THE MOVIE.

With over 32 songs on the official soundtrack and more used in the movie—including one song from The Doors on the soundtrack and four others in the film—all of the bands featured in the film were American, and that was not a coincidence. “All the material in there is American,” Joel Sill, the film’s executive music producer, told The Los Angeles Daily News. “Bob [Zemeckis] felt strongly about it. He felt Forrest wouldn’t buy anything but American.” Though formed in England and not in the U.S., Fleetwood Mac contributed a song to the film and the 2001’s Special Collector’s Edition soundtrack. Fans liked the soundtrack so much it went on to sell 12 million copies worldwide.

6. TOM HANKS WON BACK-TO-BACK BEST ACTOR OSCARS, WHICH ONLY ONE OTHER MALE ACTOR HAS EVER ACCOMPLISHED.

Hanks won his first Best Actor Oscar in 1994 for his performance in Philadelphia (1993), and he followed that up with another Oscar for Forrest Gump the next year. To this day, only Spencer Tracy has won two Best Actor Oscars in a row—one in 1938 for Captains Courageous and another in 1939 for Boys Town. Actress Luise Rainer was the first actor of any gender to win back-to-back Oscars (for The Great Ziegfeld in 1937 and The Good Earth in 1938), and Katharine Hepburn matched Rainer in 1968 and 1969 (for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and The Lion in Winter, respectively). Before Hanks won, Jason Robards was the last actor to win two consecutive Academy Awards in a row, when he won Best Supporting Actor statues for All the President’s Men in 1977 and Julia in 1978.

7. THE VIETNAM SEQUENCES WERE FILMED IN SOUTH CAROLINA.

Much of the movie was filmed in Savannah, Georgia and parts of South Carolina, including Hunting Island and Fripp Island. They were stand-ins for some of the Vietnam sequences—including where Bubba dies—because of their dense palm trees and jungle-like forests. The military film G.I. Jane was also filmed on Hunting Island.

8. FORREST GUMP MADE DAVE CHAPPELLE MAD.

It’s unclear if comedian Dave Chappelle auditioned for the Bubba role, but either way, Chappelle is not a fan of the movie. In 1999 Chappelle went on The Daily Show and explained his beef with the movie to Jon Stewart: “That movie made me mad, Jon … because it’s hard for me to watch a retarded dude out-achieve me for two and a half hours. Like, how is this fair? This guy is doing more by accident than I can do on purpose. And I started getting furious. Who can be dumber than Forrest Gump? His black friend, that’s who.”

9. MYKELTI WILLIAMSON COULDN’T GET WORK AFTER THE MOVIE CAME OUT.

“I couldn’t get a job after Forrest Gump,” Williamson told USA Today. “The industry didn’t realize that I was wearing a lip device and that I was the same guy who had appeared in 11 TV series. They thought the director had discovered some weird-looking guy and put him in front of a camera.” He eventually went on Letterman and soon after people realized he wasn’t just some “weird-looking guy.” Williamson successfully obtained roles in Con Air and Heat and had a recurring role on Justified.

10. FOR THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE MOVIE, THE FILMMAKERS DISCUSSED FORREST’S POST-1980S FATE.

In September, USA Today caught up with Forrest Gump screenwriter Eric Roth, director Robert Zemeckis, and Tom Hanks to ask them what adventures Forrest would’ve experienced later on. Roth stated that in the script for his unproduced sequel Forrest meets O.J. Simpson and Princess Diana. Hanks thinks Forrest “would have chatted up both Mark Zuckerberg and the Winklevoss twins about how it would be nice if you had a book that would show a person’s face and make a friend,” and that Forrest would’ve helped out in Hurricane Katrina. “Forrest would be the reason that the Navy SEALs find Osama bin Laden,” added Zemeckis.

11. FORREST’S INVESTMENT IN APPLE WOULD BE WORTH A LOT TODAY.

In the movie, Lieutenant Dan invests Forrest’s shrimp business money in “some kind of fruit company,” which is a nod to Apple. Business Insider calculated what the investment would be worth in 1994 and 2015. Because the movie doesn’t mention just how much was invested, they used the hypothetical amount of $10,000, which would come out to $18,173 in 1994 dollars. That doesn’t seem like a lot of chocolates until you consider that if Forrest held on to that investment, today it’d be worth $2.5 million.

12. YOUNG FORREST, MICHAEL CONNER HUMPHREYS, JOINED THE ARMY.

Humphreys’ first of only two movie roles was depicting Forrest as a child. Instead of pursuing a Hollywood acting career, Humphreys joined the Army and did an 18-month tour of duty in Iraq. After he joined the military, he tried to conceal the fact he starred in the blockbuster film, but his platoon discovered the truth. “I definitely got a lot of it in the ear after that and the drill sergeants would really mess with me about it,” he told the Daily Mail. Another fact: Humphreys’s Alabama-inflected drawl caused Hanks to base Forrest’s voice on it. “When I was a kid I had this deep Southern accent that the director, Robert Zemeckis, quickly picked up on and Tom Hanks liked so much that he ended up copying me and building his own accent around the way I spoke,” Humphreys said.

13. MANY OTHER PEOPLE HAVE RUN ACROSS AMERICA—INCLUDING ART GARFUNKEL.

Running across the country was among Forrest’s many accomplishments in the movie—and he’s not alone. A slew of other people have jogged or walked across the U.S., sometimes in the name of charity. In 1982 at the age of 16, Louis-Michael Figueroa traveled on foot from New Brunswick, New Jersey to San Francisco to raise money for cancer. Barclay Oudersluys is in the midst of running 3200 miles, starting from Forrest’s location at Santa Monica Pier and finishing at Marshall Point Lighthouse in Maine. In Britain this year, Ewan Gordon ran across his country dressed as Forrest, and most famously, singer-songwriter Art Garfunkel—whose song “Mrs. Robinson” appears in the movie—has been traversing the country for decades. Predating Forrest, in 1984, Garfunkel took eight days to walk across New Jersey. He spent the next 10 years wandering across the U.S. until 1996, when he celebrated his trek by performing a concert at Ellis Island.

14. CHRIS PRATT WAS DISCOVERED WHILE WORKING AT A BUBBA GUMP SHRIMP COMPANY.

Long before Pratt was “Pratt-ing” dinosaurs in Jurassic World, he was a waiter at a Bubba Gump restaurant in Maui. At the age of 19, Pratt was living in a van and waiting tables. “I don’t know if you’ve ever had a dining experience at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., but they love a gregarious waiter who will get in your face and sing you birthday songs and do trivia,” Pratt told Entertainment Weekly. One day he waited on actress Rae Dawn Chong, who subsequently offered him a role in her short film, the never-released Cursed Part 3. “I was like, ‘You’re in the movies, right? I always wanted to be in the movies,”’ Pratt said to Chong. “She said, ‘You’re cute. Do you act?’ I was like, f--k it, ‘Goddamn right I act! Put me in a movie!” Bubba Gump opened in 1996 and now has locations all over the world, including in the Philippines and Malaysia. Ironically, there isn’t one in Alabama, where Forrest grew up.

The 15 Best TV Series Finales of All Time

Ursula Coyote, AMC
Ursula Coyote, AMC

What makes a great TV series finale? It depends on the show, of course. But no matter what series you may be watching, you want a finale that ties up loose ends without being annoyingly completist, gives you heart without seeming overly sentimental, and of course makes you feel just as happy, sad, thrilled, or compelled as you did with each previous episode. It’s a very tricky needle to thread, and some series have undoubtedly done it better than others.

In celebration of what it takes to deliver a great final episode, here are (some of) the greatest series finales of all time.

1. The Sopranos // “Made In America”

“Made In America” is, infamously, the episode of television that made millions of viewers briefly think that their cable had just gone out at some crucial moment, when in reality what happened was creator David Chase simply decided one seemingly random moment was the exact second where Tony Soprano’s journey would end. The series finale of The Sopranos spent the better part of its runtime wrapping up a mob war that crippled the family, and then devoted its final minutes to a family dinner set to Journey. Fans still debate the meaning and merits of the final scene, but the sense of palpable unease Chase built up in those last moments—signifying Tony’s perpetual state of watching his back—were a brilliant way to end a show that began as a meditation on existential dread in the first place.

2. Six Feet Under // “Everyone’s Waiting”

The final minutes of “Everyone’s Waiting” are among the most famous in the history of television, and even if the rest of the episode had been a disappointment, they would still rank among the greatest farewells in the medium. As it is, Six Feet Under's final episode with the Fisher family is a gripping, heartfelt, and bitterly funny gem, all building to that last montage. As Sia’s "Breathe Me" plays, we see the deaths of every member of the main cast, which reminds us that death takes many forms beyond mere tragedy, all culminating in the last breaths of Claire. Just thinking about it is enough to make fans of the show burst into tears.

3. Breaking Bad // “Felina”

Few series finales have ever faced such high expectations and managed to rise to meet them so powerfully as Breaking Bad did with its final episode in 2013. “Felina” has everything you could ever want from a Breaking Bad send-off: Walt’s final conversation with Skyler, that incredible revenge shoot-out featuring the rigged machine gun, Jesse’s defiant cry of freedom as he drives away, Walt’s collapse, and that little smile of victory on his face. Some series finales deliver what you want; others deliver what you need. “Felina” somehow manages to do both.

4. M*A*S*H // “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen”

M*A*S*H was on longer than the Korean War was actually fought, and was more than 250 episodes into its run by the time “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” aired and became one of the most-watched television events in the history of the medium. You’d think the staff of the 4077th might have run out of things to say after such a run, but the series finale manages to be absolutely jam-packed, featuring everything from Hawkeye’s dark repressed memories to Klinger’s wedding. It all builds to that final shot of “GOODBYE” written in stones, which still ranks as one of the most iconic moments in TV history.

5. The Americans // “START”

The Americans quietly became one of the best shows on TV before finally winning a bunch of awards for its final season, and with good reason. The final adventures of Philip and Elizabeth Jennings as they contemplated a return to Russia and an end to their double lives in America were among the best the series ever delivered, all building to a final episode that stuck the landing in every possible way, from the thrills of their final escape to the emotional payoff of their daughter Paige’s big decision.

6. The Wire // "-30-"

The Wire was never going to end anything in a clean, cut-and-dried way, but its series finale did mange to wield the various talents at play in the series to end everything on an ambitious and fairly comprehensive note. The finale reckoned with many of the same questions the entire series did—from the nature of justice to the fragility of power systems and how far people will go to keep them in place—as it worked to resolve the homeless serial killer hoax, illegal wiretapping, and the all-important future of Tommy Carcetti. One last montage reminds us that life goes on in Baltimore, whether the show’s characters have reshaped it for the better or not.

7. Seinfeld // “The Finale”

The series finale of Seinfeld is also among the most divisive in the history of television, and it all begins with an amusing swerve. The show leads off by making us think Jerry and George are about to embark on a typical sitcom sendoff, bidding New York City farewell as they head to California to make a television series, but then the real plot kicks in as the show’s quartet of main characters is arrested for literally doing nothing as a man is carjacked.

The brilliance of the show’s protagonists getting in trouble for the very same thing they’d been doing for nine seasons in a “show about nothing” then pivots to a trial that does play by the sitcom rule of allowing old fan-favorite characters to come back as witnesses, then launches into a wrap-up that mocks the characters, the show’s fans, and the show’s own place of seeming importance in the pop culture landscape. Sitcom finales are usually more like curtain calls; "The Finale" was a provocative final joke.

8. Battlestar Galactica // “Daybreak Parts 1-3”

The finale of Battlestar Galactica might be a little too metaphysical in nature for some viewers, but there’s something about the sense of totality running through it that makes it a perfect sendoff for a series that always placed everything on the line with every single story it told. As the surviving humans of the fleet finally defeat their Cylon enemies, Starbuck sends them to a new home, and they agree to abandon all of their old technology and live among the primitive humans already present on what turns out to be our Earth. It’s a beautiful blending of victory, bittersweet goodbyes, seismic changes to everyone’s lives, angels, the future, and—believe it or not—“All Along the Watchtower.”

9. Star Trek: The Next Generation // “All Good Things…”

“Encounter at Farpoint,” the series premiere of Star Trek: The Next Generation, is a famously slow, bloated affair that was a sign of things to come for the relatively weak first season. “All Good Things…” brilliantly repurposes that story as a time travel saga in which Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) learns that Q, the alien being who put humanity on trial back in the premiere, is continuing his test of the human race by placing Picard in three different eras of his life. It’s a brilliant conceit that makes an elegant circle out of the series while also allowing Picard to give viewers a grand tour of the series’ entire history, including his own future.

10. Buffy the Vampire Slayer // “Chosen”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer spent weeks setting up its series finale, laying out a last stand that would either end Buffy and her gang of allies forever or wipe Sunnydale off the face of the Earth—or both. The final battle itself has since been dwarfed by more epic series like Game of Thrones, but what makes “Chosen” so magical isn’t its fight scenes, but its heart. With her own army of potential Slayers at her back, Buffy asks Willow to perform a spell that will give them all the powers of a Slayer, leading to one of the most empowering montages in the history of television. Then, even while mourning absent friends, Buffy is able to look toward tomorrow.

11. Newhart // “The Last Newhart”

So many sitcom series finales are all about final goodbyes. Very often characters leave their longtime TV homes for somewhere new, leading to tearful farewells or at least a final moment for everyone to spend one last day together. Newhart absolutely blew that premise up with a twisty, joke-filled finale that includes the entire town being turned into a resort, a five-year time jump, and that brilliant final scene which reveals all of Newhart to have been the dream of Dr. Bob Hartley, Newhart’s character from The Bob Newhart Show. The level of ambition is admirable. That the ambition translated to genuine laughs is wonderful.

12. Twin Peaks: The Return // “Part 17 and Part 18”

Twin Peaks famously ended its early ’90s run with a cliffhanger, which then led to the joyous reception that accompanied The Return, an 18-hour monument to creative freedom which everyone hoped would finally provide some answers. In true David Lynch fashion, though, the answers we got were often difficult to parse. And by the time it was all over, we were left with even more questions. The final two hours of The Return are among the most mind-meltingly intense episodes of television ever devised, all building to a daring and stunning final scene that still has fans talking.

13. The West Wing // “Tomorrow”

The West Wing played the long game with its series finale thanks to a year-long election storyline, which meant that its final episode was always going to be the combination of both an end and a beginning. The intense election story—which included a live debate episode—culminated in the inauguration of a new president, and a farewell to Martin Sheen’s President Josiah Bartlet, but the sense of transition inherent in the plot managed to imbue the series with a new sense of potential energy as it made the turn toward home. Watching “Tomorrow,” you can’t help but fantasize about what it will be like for Josh Lyman and Sam Seaborn to be together in the White House again, changing the world in all new ways. That emotional weight meant that, after seven years, we actually all felt like we could use a little more of The West Wing.

14. Halt and Catch Fire // “Ten of Swords”

Mackenzie Davis as Cameron Howe in Halt and Catch Fire
Bob Mahoney, AMC

Halt and Catch Fire never got the audience it deserved when it was airing, which means many people likely don’t know just how brilliant and daring the show got in its final seasons, which included a time jump, a shocking death, and the dawn of the internet age. “Ten of Swords” is all about closing old chapters and starting new ones, and sends the show’s trinity of remaining major characters in promising new directions, even as they all come to terms with the fact that they can never again recapture what they once had.

15. 30 Rock // “Last Lunch”

30 Rock was one of the most acclaimed comedies of its era in part because of its outright refusal to ever be straightforward about anything. Every plot was jokes on top of jokes and references on top of references, creating a show that rewards viewers who can’t get enough of rapid fire wit (and deserves rewatching). “Last Lunch” continued that tradition while also managing to inject some genuine emotion into the affair, as Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) and Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) reconcile their friendship in a half hour packed with so many gags and callbacks you could watch it half a dozen times and still not catch everything.

10 Surprising Facts About J.R.R. Tolkien

Phil Romans via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Phil Romans via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

There are plenty of things even the most ardent fans don't know about The Lord of the Rings author John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. In honor of Tolkien Reading Day (March 25th), here are 10 of them.

1. Tolkien had a flair for the dramatic.

As a linguist and expert on Old English and Old Norse literature, Tolkien was a professor at Oxford University from 1925 until 1959. He was also a tireless instructor, teaching between 70 and 136 lectures a year (his contract only called for 36). But the best part is the way he taught those classes. Although quiet and unassuming in public, Tolkien wasn't the typical stodgy, reserved stereotype of an Oxford don in the classroom. He went to parties dressed as a polar bear, chased a neighbor dressed as an axe-wielding Anglo-Saxon warrior, and was known to hand shopkeepers his false teeth as payment. As one of his students put it, "He could turn a lecture room into a mead hall."

2. Tolkien felt many of his fans were "lunatics."

Tolkien saw himself as a scholar first and a writer second. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were largely Tolkien's attempt to construct a body of myth, and their success caught him largely unaware. In fact, he spent years rejecting, criticizing, and shredding adaptations of his work that he didn't believe captured its epic scope and noble purpose. He was also utterly skeptical of most LOTR fans, who he believed were incapable of really appreciating the work, and he probably would have been horrified by movie fandom dressing up like Legolas.

3. Tolkien loved his day job.

To Tolkien, writing fantasy fiction was simply a hobby. The works he considered most important were his scholarly works, which included Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics, a modern translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and A Middle English Vocabulary.

4. He was quite romantic.

At age 16, Tolkien fell in love with Edith Bratt, three years his senior. His guardian, a Catholic priest, was horrified that his ward was seeing a Protestant and ordered the boy to have no contact with Edith until he turned 21. Tolkien obeyed, pining after Edith for years until that fateful birthday, when he met with her under a railroad viaduct. She broke off her engagement to another man, converted to Catholicism, and the two were married for the rest of their lives. At Tolkien's instructions, their shared gravestone has the names "Beren" and "Luthien" engraved on it, a reference to a famous pair of star-crossed lovers from the fictional world he created.

5. Tolkien's relationship with C.S. Lewis was complicated.

Tolkien's fellow Oxford don C.S. Lewis (author of The Chronicles of Narnia) is often identified as his best friend and closest confidant. But the truth is, the pair had a much more troubled relationship. At first, the two authors were very close. In fact, Tolkien's wife Edith was reportedly jealous of their friendship. And it was Tolkien who convinced Lewis to return to Christianity. But their relationship cooled over what Tolkien perceived as Lewis's anti-Catholic leanings and scandalous personal life (he had been romancing an American divorcee at the time). Although they would never be as close as they were before, Tolkien regretted the separation. After Lewis died, Tolkien wrote in a letter to his daughter that, “So far I have felt ... like an old tree that is losing all its leaves one by one: this feels like an axe-blow near the roots.”

6. Tolkien enjoyed clubbing.

Well, the extra-curricular, after-school sort. Wherever Tolkien went, he was intimately involved in the formation of literary and scholarly clubs. As a professor at Leeds University, for example, he formed the Viking Club. And during his stint at Oxford, he formed the Inklings, a literary discussion group.

7. He wasn't blowing smoke about those war scenes.

Tolkien was a veteran of the First World War, and served as a second lieutenant in the 11th (Service) Battalion of the British Expeditionary Force in France. He was also present for some of the most bloody trench fighting of the war, including the Battle of the Somme. The deprivations of Frodo and Sam on their road to Mordor may have had their origins in Tolkien's time in the trenches, during which he contracted a chronic fever from the lice that infested him and was forced to return home. He would later say that all but one of his close friends died in the war, giving him a keen awareness of its tragedy that shines through in his writing.

8. Tolkien invented languages for fun.

A philologist by trade, Tolkien kept his mind exercised by inventing new languages, many of which (like the Elvish languages Quenya and Sindarin) he used extensively in his writing. He even wrote songs and poems in his fictional languages. In addition, Tolkien worked to reconstruct and write in extinct languages like Medieval Welsh and Lombardic. His poem "BagmÄ“ BlomÄ" ("Flower of the Trees") might be the first original work written in the Gothic language in over a millennium.

9. Tolkien been published almost as prolifically posthumously as he was when he was alive.

Most authors have to be content with the works they produce during their lifetime, but not Tolkien. His scribblings and random notes, along with manuscripts he never bothered to publish, have been edited, revised, compiled, redacted, and published in dozens of volumes after his death, most of them produced by his son Christopher. While Tolkien's most famous posthumous publication is The Silmarillion, other works include The History of Middle Earth, Unfinished Tales, The Children of Hurin, and The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún.

10. Tolkien called Hitler a "ruddy little ignoramus."

Tolkien's academic writings on Old Norse and Germanic history, language, and culture were extremely popular among the Nazi elite, who were obsessed with recreating ancient Germanic civilization. But Tolkien was disgusted by Hitler and the Nazi party, and made no secret of the fact. He considered forbidding a German translation of The Hobbit after the German publisher, in accordance with Nazi law, asked him to certify that he was an "Aryan." Instead, he wrote a scathing letter asserting, among other things, his regret that he had no Jewish ancestors. His feelings are also evidenced in a letter he wrote to his son: "I have in this War a burning private grudge—which would probably make me a better soldier at 49 than I was at 22: against that ruddy little ignoramus Adolf Hitler ... Ruining, perverting, misapplying, and making for ever accursed, that noble northern spirit, a supreme contribution to Europe, which I have ever loved, and tried to present in its true light."

This piece originally ran in 2017.

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