Hopefully, There's a Bit of Forrest in all of Us.
Producer Wendy Finerman discovered the Winston Groom novel. Screenwriter Eric Roth reworked the Groom novel into something with great potential. Robert Zemekis agreed to direct the film, and we are all the better for it.
"Forrest Gump" is one of the top five films ever made. It is the best of American art ... in scope, in tone, in message.
"Forrest Gump" opens the partly painted window, in the wisp of a distant memory of America's iconic South, and shows the world what is worst, and best of the romantic core of who we are, and who we shall remain.
Director Robert Zemekis once remarked: "So much of the history of that period (America's) really revolved around the South. So it was a real journey through our times, especially our times with a Southern perspective."
As a Southerner, who lived through Forrest's time, Director Zemekis, who is not a Southerner, nailed that period just as I remembered it: from the Live Oak lined dirt roads, to the elegant white open-porch homes, to the low, warm swampy waters, to the rickety tenant farmer shacks set out in the middle of an intersection of corn and tobacco fields, to real people with nasty cigarettes hanging out of their mouths, to the college campuses that were much less spectacular than today. I lived all of it.
With "Forrest Gump," I get to live it again. With this film, I see it through a separate, but similar light. I see it through Forrest's total abject innocence, and it reminds me of a time that I lived, but sadly, will never exist again.
Remarkably, "Forrest Gump" was filmed, almost in its entirety, in an area that very much resembles my eastern North Carolina home, uncannily accurate. Actually, much of it was filmed in Beaufort County.
But not my boyhood home of Beaufort County, from the Coastal Plains of North Carolina, but Beaufort County (Boofert County), in the Coastal Plains of South Carolina. I actually spent a good number of summers in south Georgia, visited Savannah, and a sleepy pre-developed Hilton Head Island, just across the Savannah River, in Beaufort County, South Carolina.
From a purely geographical perspective, the filming location in, and around the Savannah River Delta of South Carolina and Georgia, not only reminded me of my boyhood home, but obviously, must have reminded the producers of this film of a good many other places as well: From Forrest's boyhood home in Greenbow, Alabama, to the city Streets of Savannah, Ga. to the fields and swamps of Vietnam, the Savannah River Delta Region was the perfect backdrop of America's perfect film.
The semi-tropical Savannah River region was not the only perspective that lent so much depth to this iconic American film, but the historic testament of will of the present day people, who have inhabited this region, in force, since the late 17th Century.
Director Robert Zemekis continued about the South: "There is something about the Gothic South that we depict in the movie. In a strange way, it's sort of the most patriotic part of America in the way it is slow to change. The South was always in the script. It's where these characters came from. The one constant that we had in the movie is that the characters kept coming home (to the South). It (the South) is that one place that seems to never change, when the rest of the world does."
Forrest Gump: "Hello. My name's Forrest, Forrest Gump. You want a chocolate?"
For me personally, that is the intrinsic theme of Forrest Gump. How we look at the world through the innocent eyes of Forrest Gump. How we see the rest of the world through his staid Southern perspective, as if the world is like this fluid panoramic snow-globe that whirls ever-changing, and Forrest, expressionlessly just watches it, transfixed by its complex ever changing unique beauty.
This unique quality of perspective through the story-telling by film images was achieved by every conceivable tool within the director's, the screenwriter's, the cinematographer's, Don Burgess's, and the music director's, Alan Silvestri's, bag of tricks. But first, beyond the familiar tethers of this most remarkable story, there are the characters.
Just who is Forrest Gump?
Forrest was named for a distant relative, Alabama's most celebrated Confederate General, Nathan Bedford Forrest. Forrest's IQ was just a beard hair less than 80, which is central to the theme of this film on many levels: Forrest's overarching innocence, his ability to accept and understand simple premises, his unbridled wonder-lust and his complete inability to say no, and all the predicaments it got him into.
Forrest Gump was played by Tom Hanks, which was his greatest achievement as an actor, and less face it, from Philadelphia to Saving Private Ryan, Tom Hanks one of the most exceptional runs of any actor ever. In fact, Tom Hank's Forrest is one of the greatest, and there is just a handful of others equal to this, jobs of fleshing out a character in the over 100 years of all cinema. He understood the sweet essence of Forrest, and completely projected that transcendental cadre of perfect values to their essential core.
From the perfect philosophy of singleness of purpose, Tom Hank's Forrest was able to transcend his handicap and have an innocent and perfect relationship people and the resulting situations. From an almost idiot-savant perspective of purpose the mentally handicapped Forrest was able to become immersed in fractured, frozen moments in time that was most comical, as exhibited by his unusual relationship with his gruff drill instructor in basic training.
Forrest Gump: [narrates] Now for some reason I fit in the army like one of them round pegs. It's not really hard. You just make your bed real neat and remember to stand up straight and always answer every question with "Yes, drill sergeant."
Drill Sergeant: "...Is that clear?"
Forrest Gump: "Yes, drill sergeant!"
Drill Sergeant: "Gump! What's your sole purpose in this army?"
Forrest Gump: "To do whatever you tell me, drill sergeant!"
Drill Sergeant: "God damn it, Gump! You're a god damn genius! This is the most outstanding answer I have ever heard. You must have a goddamn I.Q. of 160. You are goddamn gifted, Private Gump."
And there was this second interaction of Forest with his D.I.
Forrest Gump: "DONE, DRILL SERGEANT!"
Drill Sergeant: "GUUUUUUMP! Why did you put that weapon together so quickly, Gump?"
Forrest Gump: [confused] "You told me to, Drill Sergeant?"
Drill Sergeant: "Jesus H. Christ!" [looks at stopwatch]
Drill Sergeant: "This is a new company record! If it wouldn't be such a waste of a damn-fine enlisted man I'd recommend you for OCS! You are gonna be a general someday, Gump, now disassemble your weapon and continue!"
There is no doubt that there is nothing resembling Norman Rockwell's masterful illustrations in this frank and funny exchange between Forrest and the Drill Sergeant; however, it was the intent of the Director to story board a number of scenes that resemble the spirit of Rockwell's vintage Americana. This subtle measure, along with the aforementioned South, employed to near allegorical status, were used to keep the film socially centered, so that broader messages could be explored.