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Top 5 Facts About Classic Tom Hanks Films

Top 5 Facts About Classic Tom Hanks Films

The iconic film “Forrest Gump” premiered 30 years ago, featuring strong ties to Tuscaloosa and the University of Alabama. The character of Forrest Gump was conceived by Winston Groom, one of the University of Alabama’s biggest fans and historians. Groom wrote the novel on which the movie was loosely based. Here are five things to know about Gump and the movie that made him famous:

At the 1995 Academy Awards ceremony, the 1994 blockbuster “Forrest Gump” won six Oscars, including Best Actor for Tom Hanks, Best Supporting Actor for Gary Sinise, Best Director for Robert Zemeckis, Best Picture, and Best Adapted Screenplay for Eric Roth. However, none of the many who appeared on stage to take credit for the film’s success so much as hinted at Winston Groom.

Groom, the Alabama-raised University of Alabama graduate and Alabama Writers Hall of Fame member, created the slow-thinking, action-forward character for his 1986 novel of the same name.

Groom, who died in 2020 at his home in Fairhope, engaged in various tangled legal disputes with Paramount Pictures. Paramount claimed that the $678 million the film earned in its initial release (not including later tape/DVD sales and other revenue streams) did not amount to a profit.

The movie cost about $55 million to make, largely because of Zemeckis’ reliance on special effects to insert Hanks into various historical scenes, including Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace’s infamous Stand in the Schoolhouse Door, which took place on June 11, 1963, on the UA campus.

Although Gump attends college as “an idiot” with an IQ of about 75, the novel describes him as a muscular 6-foot-6-inch, 242-pound man, rather than Hollywood’s gangly Hanks-sized runner. The college Gump attends isn’t directly identified in either the book or the movie, but it is clearly meant to be UA, with red (not crimson) uniforms and called “the state university,” led in the early ’60s by legendary coach Paul W. “Bear” Bryant.

The Capstone did not allow Paramount to film on campus due to what it perceived as historical inaccuracies in early versions of the script, such as UA admitting someone unable to meet basic academic standards based solely on athletic ability. UA denied the use of its name, logos, or colors, though the filmmakers felt clever by costuming actor Sonny Shroyer in a sort-of houndstooth hat.

The state of Alabama followed suit, shutting out Paramount. Though much of the movie took place in Alabama, including Gump’s fictional hometown of Greenbow and the non-fictional Bayou La Batre, where Forrest and Lt. Dan establish a shrimping business, the film was shot in the Carolinas, Georgia, Maine, Arizona, Utah, and Montana. Campus scenes were mostly filmed in Los Angeles, at the University of Southern California.

Groom tried unsuccessfully to make the filmmakers understand the significance of UA. “I told them that the University of Alabama, believe it or not, is bigger than Paramount Pictures.” Although some of the script issues were revised, UA still objected. “I was proud of my alma mater for telling them to go to hell,” Groom said.

Many viewers were apparently dazzled by effects that seemed to place Gump at the Stand in the Schoolhouse Door, with John Lennon on Dick Cavett’s talk show, near the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during his “I Have a Dream” speech, and shaking hands with President John F. Kennedy. Some even believed Forrest Gump was a real person.

For decades, visitors to the Paul W. Bryant Museum on the UA campus have asked to see Gump’s Crimson Tide playing records. Ken Gaddy, the museum’s longtime director who retired in 2021, spent many hours patiently explaining that neither young Tom Hanks nor Groom’s more R-rated Gump can be found in the museum’s records. “They think you’re hiding something,” Gaddy said.

Though Forrest cannot be found in archives except as a footnote about those who do not understand fiction from non-fiction, he can sometimes be seen in and around Tuscaloosa on Alabama football game days. A jogger dresses as mid-film Tom Hanks, growing his hair and beard out for seemingly endless cross-country runs. Up and down University Boulevard, through The Strip, and past Bryant-Denny Stadium, “Forrest” runs by in red shorts, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. cap, and lush, flowing locks that may not be real. He appeared as games slowly returned during the pandemic and more, saying hello to folks in passing but preferring to remain enigmatic, ever on the run.

The Tuscaloosa News first spotted jogging Forrest in fall 2020; it may have been intended as a tribute to Groom, who had died just weeks before at age 77, as well as a spirit-lifter for fans. The old UA Fan Days, in which avid fans sprinted across the turf to get autographs from then-coach Nick Saban and players, was informally and lovingly known as the “Running of the Gumps.”

Visit Tuscaloosa’s Bill Buchanan invoked running Forrest in a published open letter to Sally Field, the actor who played young Forrest’s mom — and in heavy age makeup, as Hanks’ Gump’s mom — after she made an untoward crack about how, had she not become an actress, she may have instead been a “really, really unhappy overweight person somewhere deep in Tuscaloosa.” As Buchanan underlined, stardom or depressed obesity are not the Druid City’s only options.

Reach Mark Hughes Cobb at [email protected].

This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: Forrest Gump turns 30: Five things to know about classic Tom Hanks film

Source: The Tuscaloosa News