Tom Hanks revealed that he didn’t initially think his Oscar-winning role in 1994’s “Forrest Gump” would resonate with audiences.
“I say, ‘Hey [director] Bob [Zemeckis], I’ve got a question for you. Is anybody going to care about this movie?'” the “A Man Called Otto” star told the New Yorker at New York’s Symphony Space on Tuesday night of what he was thinking while making the movie, according to People magazine.
“‘This guy sitting on a thing in these goofy shoes and this cuckoo suit with a suitcase full of ‘Curious George’ books and stuff like that. Are we doing anything here that is going to make any sense to anybody?'” Hanks said he wondered.
Hanks said Zemeckis called the movie a “minefield.”
“‘We may be sowing the seeds of our own destruction,’” he said Zemeckis told him “’Any footstep we take can be a Bouncing Betty that’ll blow our n— right off.'”
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At the time, Zemeckis had already directed “Back to the Future,” “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and “Romancing the Stone” before making “Forrest Gump.” He would later direct Hanks again in “Cast Away,” “The Polar Express,” last year’s “Pinocchio” and the upcoming “Here.”
Hanks added that Zemeckis taught him to have “faith” in what they’re shooting and worry about the rest later.
“Bob Zemeckis – God bless him, I’ve worked with him more than once – landed on the absolute truth of anybody who has gone forward and said, ‘We are going to commit something to film today, and eventually we’ll cut this into something.’ You do not know if it is going to work out. You can only have faith.”
In 1994, “Forrest Gump” producer Wendy Finerman told the New York Times the movie took nearly a decade to get done and at first no one was interested.
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“Actors, directors, agents, studio people were just not interested in the project,” Finerman said, adding that it was “partly because of ‘Rain Man,'” which came out in 1988. “People would ask me what I was working on, and I’d say, ‘Forrest Gump,’ and they’d get that glazed look. I knew they were thinking, ‘When is she going to give up?'”
But she called it “beyond anyone’s dream” when the movie tied with “The Lion King” for first place at the box office on its opening weekend in July 1994.
The movie ended up winning six Academy Awards, including best picture and best actor and director for Hanks and Zemeckis.
Last year, the 66-year-old actor defended the “Forrest Gump” Oscar wins against criticism that it rode a wave of “Boomer nostalgia” against nominees like “Pulp Fiction” and “The Shawshank Redemption.”
“The problem with ‘Forrest Gump’ is it made a billion dollars,” Hanks told the New York Times in 2022. “If we’d just made a successful movie, Bob [Zemeckis] and I would have been geniuses. But because we made a wildly successful movie, we were diabolical geniuses. Is it a bad problem to have? No, but there’s books of the greatest movies of all time, and ‘Forrest Gump’ doesn’t appear because, oh, it’s this sappy nostalgia fest. Every year there’s an article that goes, ‘The Movie That Should Have Won Best Picture’ and it’s always ‘Pulp Fiction.’ ‘Pulp Fiction’ is a masterpiece without a doubt.”
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But he said there’s a moment of “undeniable heartbreaking humanity” in “Forrest Gump” when Gary Sinise’s character, Lt. Dan – who lost his legs in Vietnam – comes to Forrest’s house on his wedding day and shows him his new titanium “magic” legs.
“I might get weepy thinking about it now,” Hanks said. “Forrest and Lt. Dan, in those four words – ‘magic legs,’ ‘Lt. Dan’ – understand all they had been through and feel gratitude for every ounce of pain and tragedy that they survived. That’s some intangible [expletive] right there. That is not just running along to Duane Eddy’s ‘Rebel Rouser.’”
When asked by the Times about the “first” “memory” that comes to mind from his career, he said that when he was shooting the park bench scenes from “Forrest Gump,” he was wondering if anyone would care.
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“It’s summertime in Savannah, Georgia. We had shot 27 straight days. It was brutal. We were sitting there, and I got this haircut, we’re trying to make sense of this dialogue, and I had to say, ‘Bob, man, I don’t think anybody’s going to care,’” Hanks said, which he reiterated on Tuesday.
He continued, “And Bob said, ‘It’s a minefield, Tom. You never know what’s good. Are you going to make it through safe? Or are you going to step on a Bouncing Betty that’s going to blow your b—- off?’ There’s never any guarantee. I’ll be 66 in July, and I’ve been acting for a paycheck since I was 20. Forty-six years and I now know what was evident when I was 20 years old is what Spencer Tracy said: ‘Learn the lines. Hit the marks. Tell the truth.’ That’s all you can do.”