For many people, 1994’s Forrest Gump is a classic. But that doesn’t mean the production was easy or untroubled. So much so, in fact, that on a recent interview on In Depth With Graham Bensinger (via THR), star Tom Hanks revealed that he and director Robert Zemeckis each had to pony up some personal cash in order to finish the project.
Zemeckis was adamant that certain scenes needed to be in the movie, particularly Forrest’s mid-movie cross-country run, but Paramount understandably had concerns about going over budget. After back and forth negotiations, Paramount still wouldn’t budge and Zemeckis still insisted on the scenes. Thus, they were at a stalemate. So Zemeckis hatched a plan for him and Hanks to fund the scene themselves. As Hanks recalled
“And he said, ‘Well, this run is going to cost X amount of dollars.’ And it wasn’t cheap. And I said, ‘OK’. He said, ‘You and I are going to split that amount, and we’re going to give it back [to Paramount]. We’ll give you the money back, but you guys [Paramount] are going to have to share the profits a little bit more.’ Which the studio said, ‘Fabulous, great. OK.’ And it was good for us, too.”
There was one other unspecified scene that they fronted the cost for, said Hanks. “They said, ‘The weather is such that we can’t get the insurance coverage on it,’ the studio said, ‘So you guys can’t shoot,'” recounted Hanks. “And Bob and I said, ‘We’ll cover the insurance.’ And we did.”
Their gamble paid off and it paid off big: The original 1994 release of the film went on to make a whopping $677.4 million dollars worldwide on a budget of just $55 million, with Hanks himself netting an estimated $65 million alone by the terms of their agreement. With later rereleases, the film has since made over a billion dollars at the global box office. Not only that, Forrest Gump went on to be nominated for an astounding 13 Oscars at the 67th Academy Awards and won half a dozen, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director.
Astonishingly, considering Hanks’ prestigious win, he was convinced he was failing miserably the first few days on set. In fact, he struggled so much with finding the character of Forrest Gump that footage from the entire first three days of filming was completely scrapped. Hanks explained something Zemeckis said to him finally got it to click:
“Bob said, ‘Look, I know what you are trying to do. I know how nervous you are and how self-conscious this can be before we get into the groove. But we’re not going to use any of these first three days because I don’t think you’ve got it. You haven’t got the character.’ And I said, ‘I don’t. I don’t. You’re right.’ And he just said, ‘Don’t try so hard.’ And from that, everything settled down in a moment’s notice.”
It’s hard to imagine America’s Dad and legendary actor Tom Hanks as ever being nervous or failing at a role. But it’s worth remembering that at the time he shot Forrest Gump, Hanks had not yet had that long a career doing the dramatic roles he’s now known for. His entire career had been build on comedies and rom-coms. He’d only just done Philadelphia, his first dramatic role, the year before in 1993. In so many ways, he was brand-new to the kind of work Forrest Gump required of him; his muscle memory for dramatic, historically-based roles wasn’t there yet.
In a way, it’s comforting. Hanks and other actors make it look so easy that it’s easy to forget that creating something, whether writing or acting or painting, is hard. Everyone struggles from time to time. But eventually, like Hanks, we figure it out.
You can check out the full segment below: