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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!