It’s been 20 years since we first fell in love with Tom Hank’s portrayal of the adorable, dopey Forrest Gump. An audition tape has recently surfaced on the web of Tom Hanks and other characters from the heartwarming classic. It is great fun to watch and see the similarities and the contrasts between the first steps and the finished product.
Most noticeable, perhaps, is the complete absence of Forrest’s southern drawl. According to Zimbio, Tom Hanks originally did not want to include the thick southern accent that author Winston Groom wrote in for Forrest Gump’s character in the novel by the same name. Gump hails from the fictitious rural town of Greenbow, Alabama, and would certainly have spoken with a heavy accent.
However, Hollywood is notorious for getting southern accents wrong, to the chagrin of many from the deep south. Though the rest of the world may not recognize the difference, southerners most assuredly do.
Forrest just wouldn’t be the endearing Forrest we know and love without the accent. The audition tape makes that fact crystal clear. Fortunately, director Robert Zemeckis was able to convince Tom Hanks to do the accent. It wasn’t QUITE an Alabama accent, but it was close enough to make it believable that he was from the south.
According to an ET interview with the stars, Tom Hanks got his inspiration for the accent from young Michael Conner Humphreys, the boy who played young Forrest. In the audition, he nailed the accent, as well as that characteristic syntax that everyone now associates with the character. The FW reports that Humphreys is from Mississippi, so his southern drawl is genuine. It is not difficult at all to hear grown-up Forrest in Michael Humphrey’s audition voice.
Tom Hanks’ audition Forrest didn’t have the depth and richness that he later developed for the character, but the filmmakers obviously recognized that it was coming. As The Inquisitr has observed, Tom Hanks “is one of the most respected, sought after actors in Hollywood and has proven time and time again that he has the acting chops to tackle any role.”
And tackle he does. Even for his audition version, Hanks’ portrayal of Forrest has a large dose of what Digital Spy calls “naive charm.” It is that enduring quality that propelled Forrest Gump into a blockbuster hit that has become part of the cultural fabric.
Grown-up Jenny, played by Robin Wright, is easily recognizable in the audition clip. Robin became Jenny right from the start.
The audition clip also shows one of the earliest glimpses of the now iconic phrase, “Run, Forrest, run,” that young Jenny shouts to young Forrest when bullies start chasing him. It was the film debut for both Hannah Hall and Michael Conner Humphreys, and they both did quite well right from the start.
Adorable Haley Joel Osment had been a part of a couple of small projects before landing his role as Forrest, Jr., but it was his terrific performance with Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump that launched a busy career for the young actor.
It is difficult to imagine anyone else in the role of Forrest Gump besides Tom Hanks, but ET reports that John Travolta, Bill Murray, and Chevy Chase all turned down the role. Thank you, gentlemen, for that. Even though even Tom Hanks wasn’t quite Forrest Gump in his audition yet, there is little doubt that no one else could have pulled off that character like the Oscar-award winning Tom Hanks. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.