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How Tom Hanks created Forrest Gump 25 years ago

Forrest Gump "just doesn't understand an awful lot about how the world works," said the actor that portrayed him in the 1994 film of the same name.

'We had to build this guy piece by piece'

Tom Hanks talks Forrest Gump

28 years ago
Duration 3:14
The actor tells the CBC's Brian Johnson how he created the eponymous chatacter of the 1994 film.

Forrest Gump "just doesn't understand an awful lot about how the world works," said the actor that portrayed him in the 1994 film of the same name. 

The movie is about a "simpleton, basically" — in the words of CBC arts reporter Brian Johnson — who finds himself in pivotal moments in 20th-century American history. 

It opened on Canadian screens 25 years ago on July 6, 1994.

'Sense of serendipity' 

Johnson was interviewing Hanks on a press junket for the film.

"When you look at your own career, do you have a sense of destiny, where it's taken you?" asked Johnson.

"Oh, none," replied Hanks with a laugh. "None whatsoever. I have a sense of serendipity, which is like, 'How did I end up here?'" 

The former star of the cross-dressing sitcom Bosom Buddies had won Best Actor at the Academy Awards that year for his work in Philadelphia.   

"I've always said 'I don't have any goals. I don't have any five-year plans. I don't know how to do this, except to try to do something that is surprising somewhere down the line."

"Forrest just doesn't understand'

Johnson asked Hanks where he found the character in Forrest Gump.

"We had to build this guy piece by piece," said Hanks, describing it as a collaboration between himself, director Robert Zemeckis, and screenwriter Eric Roth. "Even after we were done shooting it, we were laying down some of the new narration tracks.

"Because Forrest just doesn't understand an awful lot about how the world works, so he can't be too knowledgeable."

Forrest Gump would go on to become the highest-grossing film of 1994 and the fourth-highest for the 1990s, and Hanks would win a second Academy Award in a row for his acting in it.

The macho alternative

Later in the interview, Johnson said Hanks had created an alternative to the "macho tradition of American screen heroes."

Hanks said as a moviegoer he had grown weary of films where conflict was solved with "a slug to the face."

"In real life, very few people dangle from helicopters firing machine guns at terrorists in a boat. I can't do those parts anyway so I have to be attracted to something else." 

Hanks's most recent film reprises his role as the cowboy Woody in Toy Story 4.

Tom Hanks, left, poses with his character Woody as he arrives at the world premiere of "Toy Story 4" on Tuesday, June 11, 2019, at the El Capitan in Los Angeles. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/The Associated Press)

 

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