Forrest Gump lived a famously full life. Maybe a little bit’ mashed potato full, if you ask Tom Hanks.
Appearing on a panel a The New Yorker live this week, the actor recalled the long journey it took for the role that earned him his second Oscar. As Hanks recalls, the grueling editing filming process of Forrest racing across America made it difficult for him to show up for the film’s biggest scenes.
“I was so exhausted because we had been shooting twenty-seven days straight,” Hanks said. “Remember how Forrest ran across the country? Well, there’s only one way to get those scenes, those days. You had to fly to that damn place, put on your costume, run for an hour and a half, then come back, get on the plane, and then fly to, say, New Hampshire, and do it all over again. So I’m exhausted. I don’t know what’s going on. The park bench scenes have oceans of dialogue and we shot them in a day and a half.”
Hanks revealed that he was seriously concerned about his ability to remember all of his monologues in his exhausted state.
“I said to Bob – the director, Robert Zemeckis – ‘Bob, my head is fragile, exhausted. We’re doing all these scenarios with different people, and each of them has a page and a half of dialogue. I’ll never be able to keep it in my head.’”
Luckily, his director had a plan. Hanks said Zemeckis chose to shoot some scenes in the style of a multi-camera sitcom, getting multiple angles at once and allowing Hanks to rely on cues, in order to speed things up for his lead.
“‘Oh, don’t worry, Tom. We will shoot it as “I Love Lucy”. We will have four cameras. We will put the words on the cards if you need. You can just read them.’” Hanks recalled Zemeckis telling him. “I said, ‘Oh great, thanks. Let’s make this an equal Moreover artificial atmosphere!’”
Hanks’ concerns ended up being unfounded, and ‘Forrest Gump’ became one of his most recognizable roles (presumably not on the list of movies he hates). While the actor said he didn’t know if the film would be a hit while they were working on it, he admires Zemeckis for being willing to take creative risks on the film.
“And so Bob Zemeckis, God bless him — I’ve worked with him more than once — he came to the absolute truth of whoever went ahead and said, ‘We’re going to get busy filming something today,'” Hanks said. “You don’t know if it will work. You can only have faith.”