It's 25 years ago today that the six-Oscar-winning Forrest Gump was released in cinemas in Los Angeles, with the film going on general release across the USA two weeks later over Independence Day weekend. The film marks perhaps Tom Hanks' most memorable role – quite an achievement in a career packed with memorable roles. As it goes, my personal favourite is as Uncle Ned in the Michael J Fox-starring 1980s sitcom Family Ties, but for some reason that never makes the lists.
To mark the auspicious anniversary, here are some interesting facts about the movie you might not have known ...
1. 'Forrest Gump' was Paramount’s fastest grossing film
Produced on a budget of $55m, Forrest Gump grossed $678m in cinemas on its initial release. It held the number one spot at the US box office for 10 consecutive weeks on release, and was, at the time, the fastest ever Paramount movie to pass the $100m, $200m, and $300m marks at the US box office – that's particularly impressive given that Paramount can count properties including the Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Trek franchises among its library.
2. The film actually made a loss
Despite these impressive box office figures, the film actually made a loss, at least that’s what the studio’s creative souls in accounts would have us believe. The way in which Hollywood studios file their accounts is notoriously contrived, opaque and impenetrable, and has even led to the term “Hollywood accounting” becoming commonly used in the American lexicon. By reporting high gross profits on a movie, studios can keep shareholders happy, but then deduct millions in overheads to report a smaller net profit, or even a net loss, meaning less royalties or profit-sharing fees have to be paid out.
3. The 'Forrest Gump' novel writer was never paid
Which brings us neatly to Winston Groom, who wrote the novel Forrest Gump is based on. Groom was paid $350,000 up front for the rights to his book, with a further three per cent of net profits to follow. The film, of course, did not make a net profit, and Groom didn’t receive another cent. Groom and Paramount were involved in a high-profile dispute until the author finally accepted the studio’s version of its accounts in June 1995. Coincidentally, this climb down coincided with Groom receiving a six-figure sum from Paramount for the rights to his sequel, Gump and Co.
Groom isn’t the highest profile personality to fall foul of the “net profits” trick, which Eddie Murphy has referred to as “monkey points.” In 2002, Stan Lee didn’t receive a penny from Spiderman 2 despite having rights to 10 per cent of net profits, as the $800m-grossing film’s producers classed it as loss making. Lee eventually received $10m in 2005 following a lawsuit.
4. The sequel never actually got made
Groom’s follow up novel sees Gump become an NFL star, reinvent Coca-Cola and solve the world’s energy crisis. Screenwriter Eric Roth, who also wrote the screenplay for the first film, submitted his initial script on September 10, 2001, a day before the World Trade Centre attacks.
Following the attacks, Roth, director Robert Zemeckis and star Tom Hanks all announced that they felt the script was no longer relevant and the film has remained in development limbo ever since. Reports in 2007 claimed that Paramount had dusted the script off and were taking another look at it, but so far the sequel still seems to be dead in the water.
5. Hanks didn't suffer at the hand of 'Hollywood accounting'
Tom Hanks and Robert Zemeckis evidently had better representation than Groom. They both waived a salary for the film in exchange for a share of the film’s gross profits, or profits before all the cunning accountancy skills turn the movie into a loss on paper (the net profits). The director and star are reported to have received over $40m each from the film.
The case of Forrest Gump was even used as the basis for a 1997 article in the trade journal Journal of Accounting Education, entitled Accounting is Like a Box of Chocolates: A Lesson in Cost Behaviour.
6. Not everyone loved it
The film was a huge success, picking up six Oscars including the triple whammy of Best Picture, Best Director and Best Leading Actor. Critics were generally on board too, leading to the film’s highly respectable 72 per cent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Not everyone loved Zemeckis’ schmaltzy brand of all-American sentimentality, however. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly said that the film was "glib, shallow, and monotonous" and "reduces the tumult of the last few decades to a virtual-reality theme park: a baby-boomer version of Disney's America," while The New Yorker’s Anthony Lane described the film as “wearisome as hell.”
Looking back on the film’s 10th anniversary in 2004, EW noted the film’s divisiveness, saying “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.”
7. The film was technologically ground-breaking
George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic effects company was brought on board for the special effects in which Gump meets a host of famous figures from the 1950s and 1960s, including presidents John F Kennedy, Lyndon B Johnson and Richard Nixon. 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 actors were filmed and special effects were used to alter lip-syncing for the new dialogue. Archival footage was used and with the help of such techniques as chroma key, image warping, morphing and rotoscoping, Hanks was later integrated into the scenes. Incidentally, the movie scooped the Best Visual Effects Oscar at the 67th Academy Awards.
8. The film saw Hanks equal Spencer Tracy's Oscars record
Forrest Gump marked the second year in a row Hanks won the Oscar for Best Lead Actor. He had won the award for his role in Philadelphia the previous year too. He became only the second actor in history to achieve that feat, following Spencer Tracy with wins for Captains Courageous (1937) and Boys Town (1938). No one has managed it since either, although Eddie Redmayne came close with a win for The Theory of Everything in 2014, and a nomination a year later for The Danish Girl.
9. 'Gump' has been honoured by the US Library of Congress
In 2012 Forrest Gump was added to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry, which seeks to preserve and promote the US’ film heritage. Announcing Gump’s addition, the LoC said: “As Forrest Gump, Tom Hanks portrays an earnest, guileless 'everyman' whose open-heartedness and sense of the unexpected unwittingly draws him into some of the most iconic events of the 1960s and 1970s. A smash hit, Forrest Gump has been honoured for its technological innovations (the digital insertion of Gump seamlessly into vintage archival footage), its resonance within the culture that has elevated Gump (and what he represents in terms of American innocence) to the status of folk hero, and its attempt to engage both playfully and seriously with contentious aspects of the era’s traumatic history. The film received six Academy Awards, including Best Picture.”
10. It is the basis for an ongoing scientific study
Since 2014, Forrest Gump has been the subject of the German Studyforrest scientific project which is involved with "studying high-level cognition in the human brain under complex, natural stimulation."
Participants in the study listen to the German audio version of the movie, then watch the full audio-visual version, while scientists monitor their responses and the data is freely shared. As of March this year, the data has been used in 28 scientific publications.
We’re not entirely sure exactly what any of this means, so we’ll let the experts at Studyforrest have the last word.
"The human brain is designed to process vast amounts of diverse input that are continuously gathered across the senses. However, most experiments study the brain via simplified stimuli that do little to resemble the complexity of a natural environment – a mismatch that must be addressed if we are to better understand how the brain works.
"This project centres around the use of the movie Forrest Gump, which provides complex sensory input that is both reproducible and is also richly laden with real-life-like content and contexts,” they say on their website.
Source: The National