Tom Hanks Singles Out The Forrest Gump Scenes He Feared No One Would Care About, And Boy Was He Wrong

We all know the line, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” Tom Hanks delivers it to a stranger joining him on a park bench in his Oscar-winning Forrest Gump, directed by Robert Zemeckis. There’s even a Box Of Chocolates version of the film on a DVD somewhere. And while the scene has become legendary, and perhaps one of the most famous moments in Hanks’ storied career, he actually didn’t think that the park-bench scenes in Forrest Gump were a sure thing, and questioned Zemeckis on if anyone was going to care about them. 

Tom Hanks has seen more behind the scenes elements of filmmaking than more people ever will experience, so when he opens up about the process of moviemaking, it’s smart to stop and listen. The Elvis co-star was in Memphis recently to promote the upcoming musical biopic from Baz Luhrmann, and sat down with CinemaBlend’s official ReelBlend podcast for a discussion about the new movie and his career. It was during this conversation that Hanks talked about filming moments out of sequence and never really knowing how they are going to play in the final film. He brought up Forrest Gump, a movie he reportedly saved, and elaborated:

I will tell you, in Forrest Gump, all the stuff that we shot on the park bench in Savannah, Georgia, we were just shooting interstitial stuff. We were just shooting fodder for a possible narrative piece of it. And I said to Bob (Zemeckis), ‘Is anyone going to care about this nut sitting on a (bench)? What is this? No one knows what's in this (box) I mean…’ And we ended up shooting, it was probably like, you know, 13 pages of dialogue that we had to shoot in a day and a half. And so it was written on cue cards. (And) I didn't need the cue cards after a while because you get into it. But Bob says, ‘I don't know, it's a minefield, Tom, it's a minefield. You never know what people are gonna take away from it!’ And it ends up being, you know, that thing.

Forrest Gump is a sprawling narrative that covers so much ground, from the character’s childhood in Alabama in the 1950s all the way up until the present day… when Forrest is sitting on that park bench. Hanks probably knew the sheer amount of footage that they were shooting for the historical journey that his main character goes on, and wondered how these seemingly out-of-rhythm park bench scenes related to the larger story. But as he goes on to explain to ReelBlend:

There is a moment where, I think, an actor making a movie realizes that you have to forget everything. You have to forget all the distractions about what's going on, because it really is shots. It's a moment in real time, captured in real time. It's 13 seconds, or it's two minutes of a scene. And it's not just slate, say it, cut, action. You actually have to be there in a way… you don't want to toot your own horn, but it has to be, it has to carry with it, in that scene, every moment of the theme of the movie. It has to represent that. And if you're not able to go there, you're screwed, man. You're screwed. And so you have to forget all this stuff and just, you just try to get there.

You will figure out how far Tom Hanks went into the process of playing Col. Tom Parker in the upcoming Elvis biopic, which is earning major praise from the Presley family (the best possible review this movie could get). You might not like Tom Hanks in this movie, as Tom Parker is an evil man who manipulates Elvis (Austin Butler) at every turn. You have to see for yourself how good Austin Butler looks in the role, as the movie is dropping into theaters beginning on June 24.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.