Watch Tom Hanks Rehearsal Tape for ‘Forest Gump’

June 20, 2015

In this footage of Tom Hanks rehearsing for his Oscar-winning role of Forrest Gump with co-star Robin Wright, you can hear him speaking without the characteristic Southern drawl we all now associate with his endearing character. That’s because when Hanks initially accepted the role, he was thinking of easing Forrest’s distinctive accent. Was this creative decision as powerful as the eventual choice to replace it with a heavy drawl?

Well, it was the director, Bob Zemeckis, who convinced Hanks to adopt the familiar twang as it was established in the novel from which the movie was adapted. But specifically, Hanks went on to pattern his character’s manner of speech to match the unique accent of the young actor who played Forest in his early years, Michael Conner Humphreys. As you can hear in this video clip, the adorable Humphreys sounds much like the Forrest we’ve come to know.

This illustrates the collaborative process it often requires for a character to evolve. Writer Winston Groom who authored the 1986 novel Forrest Gump, envisioned a Forrest with some “rough edges” and he pictured John Goodman playing the part. However, it was John Travolta who was offered the title role; but he passed on it. Although this video clip is described as an audition for Hanks, he never actually auditioned for the part. He had finished working on A League of Their Own, Sleepless in Seattle, and Philadelphia and so was simply given the role. However, this clip is reportedly a screen test for Wright as well as Humphreys, Hanna R. Hall who portrayed the young Jenny, and Haley Joel Osment who played Forrest Gump, Jr..

Forrest Gump went on to win many accolades including Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Lead Role, Best Director, Best Visual Effects, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Film Editing.

Do you have a personal story of collaboration and evolution of a special character? Was it a positive and transformative experience as it was for Hanks and his co stars? Did it empower your art or advance your career? Or in retrospect do you wish you’d listened to your own instincts and ignored the input of others? Enquiring minds want to know!

You’re More Than an Actor

November 27, 2013


Almost Human cast: Karl Urban, Michael Ealy, Minka Kelly, Mackenzie Crook, Michael Irby, and Lili Taylor

As an actor, you study your lines, you show up on set, you deliver your lines, and then you exit stage left or right. That’s pretty much the extent of it, right? Horse poop! As an actor you are an artist, a collaborator, and an inventive force in any given production. J.J. Abrams and fellow executive producer, Joel Wyman talked recently about their upcoming sci-fi cop show, Almost Human. The Fox drama centers on officers in the not-too-distant future that are partnered with robots who have human traits and characteristics. (Incidentally, we hope those robots don’t decide to become actors en mass–but that’s another blog.) When asked if the Almost Human actors had influenced the show’s content, Joel Wyman replied:

“You always start with something and then when, based on your casting, at least for me and my experiences, it always transcends it and makes it better.  You can learn what you were trying that wasn’t working, or all of a sudden, you’re surprised by something that works incredibly well that you didn’t anticipate. In the casting process, it was so interesting, because when we were finding these guys, each one of them had something that was just so perfect for the character. We knew that fundamentally they were right for the roles, but just who they are, and what they bring to it, and what they’ve examined now having these roles as actors, and what they dug into, has just made the show that much more rich, and provided us with a lot of opportunities and avenues that we didn’t even dream of.  Yes, we’re always influenced by the people that are bringing the work and the characters to the program.”

Even the best, most prestigious of writers and producers have their limitations. Actors are not just clay for them to sculpt; but rather, actors–by their sheer presence and personalities–enhance the raw material and give writers and producers story, character, and scene ideas and an elemental energy off which to feed. This is not to say you enter the set with a mind to change the tenor of the story or to determine the net result of the film, but instead, just by bringing your authentic self to the creative process (strengths, weaknesses, disposition, psyche) you can inspire a variance of approach or style. And you can influence the project in a powerful, and indeed, fundamental way.

You, young Thespian, should never underestimate the power of your own particular persona; it is the very marrow of the film, television, and theatrical world.