Oscar-winning box office smash Forrest Gump was one of the most successful films of the mid-1990s. And Tom Hanks’ beloved character was all set to hit cinemas once again until the tragic events of 9/11 gave producers pause for thought. Here’s a look at the Forrest Gump sequel that never was.
Released in 1994, Forrest Gump was adapted from Winston Groom’s 1986 novel about a slow-witted Alabama native. Tom Hanks famously played the titular lead character who somehow finds himself in the midst of several major 20th Century historical events. Although the premise is the same, the film does make several changes from the novel.
Indeed, the movie only stays with the book up to chapter 12, then races ahead to its touching finale with Forrest’s young son. It also incorporates several new elements into the story. These include the character’s epic run across America and the leg braces he wore as a youngster. And it misses out the parts where Gump becomes a wrestler, spaceman and chess master.
Forrest Gump was helmed by Robert Zemeckis but he wasn’t the first choice to take the director’s chair. Indeed, former Monty Python member Terry Gilliam passed on the chance to work on the movie. And then Barry Sonnenfeld decided that he’d be better off using his talents for Addams Family Values instead.
The film begins with Forrest sitting on a bench in the Georgian city of Savannah. There, he tells incredible stories about his life to various strangers. We first see him as a young man living in his single mother’s boarding house, alongside several random guests. One of these just happens to be the future King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, who finds himself inspired by the kid’s jerky way of dancing.
Sadly, Forrest is routinely bullied for his ungainly appearance and perceived lack of smarts. However, it’s while being chased by some of his tormentors that he discovers he can run like an Olympic sprinter. Alabama University subsequently offers him a scholarship for playing football and he later earns All-American honors.
Forrest’s incredulous story continues when he signs up to the U.S. Army. There, he becomes best pals with Bubba, a soldier who has ambitions of becoming a shrimping magnate. Tragically, Bubba loses his life in the Vietnam War. But Forrest receives the Medal of Honor for his bravery in rescuing many of his other platoon mates in action.
The character then becomes a ping pong champion, meets John Lennon on a chat show and inadvertently forces President Nixon to hand in his resignation after the Watergate scandal goes public. He also becomes unlikely best buds with his grumpy former lieutenant, Dan. The lieutenant is one of several men whose life the unlikely hero saved in Vietnam. Together, the pair eventually achieve success as the founders of a shrimp company named after Forrest’s late friend, Bubba.
Dan plunges most of their profits into a burgeoning start-up known as Apple Computers. He and Forrest subsequently make millions of dollars, although in a heartfelt gesture the latter donates half of his share to Bubba’s nearest and dearest. Forrest then suffers heartbreak when his mother passes away from cancer.
But it’s the enduring relationship between Forrest and his longtime friend, Jenny, that provides the heart of the film. The pair initially meet on their first day of school. After losing touch, they temporarily reunite at an anti-war rally. A decade later, Jenny heads back to her hometown to pay her friend a visit. And despite turning down his marriage proposal, she ends up sleeping with him.
Following Jenny’s hasty departure the next morning, Forrest deals with his heartbreak with running, running and more running. Indeed, he embarks on a marathon across the country which ultimately lasts three years. We then find out why the Vietnam vet is sitting at the bus stop. His friend, it seems, has sent him a letter inviting him for a visit.
The meeting proves to be both an incredibly happy and desperately sad experience for Forrest. On one hand, he learns that the pair’s night of passion resulted in a child, Forrest Gump, Jr. On the other, Jenny is now desperately ill. A year after returning to her hometown with both of her boys, she tragically passes away. The film then brings things full circle with a closing shot of our hero waving off his son as he heads to school for the first time.
Forrest Gump became nothing short of a box office phenomenon on its 1994 release. It knocked The Lion King off the top spot its first week and then stayed there for a further nine. Only Jurassic Park, Star Wars IV: A New Hope and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial had grossed a higher figure at the time.
Critics were slightly less enthusiastic, though, with Entertainment Weekly describing it as “glib, shallow and monotonous.” And The New Yorker called it “warm, wise and wearisome as hell.” However, there were several far more favorable reviews, too. Indeed, Roger Ebert wrote, “[Hanks’] performance is a breathtaking balancing act between comedy and sadness, in a story rich in big laughs and quiet truths…What a magical movie.”
Despite the mixed critical reception, Forrest Gump still became a major awards favorite. Indeed, it picked up no less than six Oscars in 1995. This included Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture. Tom Hanks also won his second consecutive Best Actor in a Leading Role Academy Award for his standout performance.
You may not know, however, that Winston Groom wrote a follow-up to Forrest Gump after the film’s release. Gump and Co. hit the shelves in 1995 and explored what Forrest got up to during the 1980s. It also opened with the very meta line, “Don’t never let nobody make a movie of your life’s story. Whether they get it right or wrong, it don’t matter.”
And that’s not the only time that Gump and Co. goes super meta. Indeed, the book acknowledges the film that the original novel spawned, as well as the impact it had on Forrest. The titular character also meets the man who played him, Tom Hanks, and later shows up at the Oscars.
As with its predecessor, Gump and Co. sees Forrest become deeply embroiled in the world of politics. He meets President Reagan after being recruited for an Iranian clandestine mission. He’s also part of the tank crew that ends up capturing dictator Saddam Hussein. And he rubs shoulders with Bill and Hillary Clinton after building a successful oyster business from the ground up with his son, Forrest Jr.
Unsurprisingly, Hollywood initially wanted to adapt the book into another money-spinning Academy Awards favorite. Eric Roth even penned a screenplay based on the novel in 2001. But the project was ditched after being submitted just 24 hours before one of the darkest days in America’s recent history.
Screenwriter Roth revealed all in a 2019 interview with Yahoo! Entertainment. He told the site that the planned sequel wouldn’t have stuck to the source material as closely as the original. However, from the sounds of it, Forrest Gump’s second big screen outing would certainly have been just as incredible.
Speaking shortly after picking up a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar nod for A Star Is Born, Roth began with something of a bombshell. Forrest Jr. was written as having AIDS. This cleared up once and for all the doubt about Jenny’s unspecified illness at the end of Forrest Gump.
Roth said that the sequel would address many of the problems dealing with the condition as a youngster. Speaking about Forrest Jr., he said, “People wouldn’t go to class with him in Florida.” The writer also stated that the movie would handle such tough subject matter with a sense of humor.
Indeed, the writer went on to add, “We had a funny sequence where they were [desegregation] busing in Florida at the same time. So people were angry about either the busing, or [their] kids having to go to school with the kid who had AIDS. So there was a big conflict.”
Away from the tragedy of Forrest Jr.’s illness, the sequel would yet again put his father at the center of many historical and cultural events. But whereas the book followed Forrest’s adventures in the 1980s, the movie moved forward a decade. And one particular scene would no doubt have grabbed all the headlines.
Indeed, the second Forrest Gump movie would have dropped its lovable hero into America’s most famous real life car chase. “I had him in the back of O.J.’s Bronco,” Roth revealed. This was, of course, referring to the notorious incident involving former footballer O.J. Simpson that hooked the nation back in 1994.
Frustratingly, the screenwriter didn’t explain how Forrest managed to find himself in such a precarious situation. But he did reveal that the character remained hidden from police at all times. Roth said, “He would look up occasionally, but they didn’t see him in the rearview mirror, and then he’d pop down.
And fallen hero O.J. Simpson wasn’t the only household name that Forrest rubbed shoulders with during the proposed sequel. But the other famous face mentioned by Roth was far more regal. Indeed, none other than the late Princess Diana would have made a posthumous appearance had the film gone ahead.
Roth explained to Yahoo! Entertainment just how Forrest and the much-loved royal would have come into contact. He said, “I had him as a ballroom dancer who was really good. He could do the [rotation] ballroom dancing. And then eventually, just as sort of a charity kind of thing, he danced with Princess Diana.”
Of course, cinemagoers never got the chance to see how these fantastical scenes would have played out. Roth handed in his screenplay on September 10, 2001. And the events that unfolded less than 24 hours later ultimately prompted the writer to scrap all of his hard work in an instant.
Indeed, Roth went on to reveal that one of the sequel’s major events also included a terrorist attack. “He meets on a bus a Native American woman and finds his calling, as a bingo caller on a reservation,” the screenwriter explained. “And the big event in that, which you could see was diminished only in tragedy, I guess, because it’s the same tragedy, but every day he’d go wait for his Native American partner.”
“[His partner] taught nursery school at a government building in Oklahoma City,” Roth went on. “And he was sitting on the bench waiting for her to have lunch and all of a sudden the building behind him blows up… So when 9/11 occurred… Everything felt meaningless.”
And Roth’s decision to entirely cancel the Forrest Gump sequel wasn’t a decision he made alone. Indeed, the screenwriter revealed that following the tragic events of 9/11, he met up with both the original’s star and its director. And they all agreed that it was the right thing to do
As the screenwriter told Yahoo! Entertainment, “Tom and I and Bob got together on 9/11 to sort of commiserate about how life was in America and how tragic it was. And we looked at each other and said, ‘This movie has no meaning anymore, in that sense.’” And the trio haven’t changed their opinion in the subsequent two decades.
Roth, Hanks and Zemeckis may have wisely decided against bringing Forrest Gump back for a second big screen adventure in 2001. But just six years later the project was very nearly revived. However, Paramount studio bosses ultimately decided against taking on the sequel and nothing has been heard of it since.
The writer had previously spoken about the abandoned screenplay in a 2014 interview with USA Today for the film’s 20th anniversary. Both Hanks and Zemeckis were also asked where they would like to see Gump, should they ever change their minds. Hanks said, “Forrest would have chatted up both Mark Zuckerberg and the Winklevoss twins about how it would be nice if you had a book that would show a person’s face and make a friend.”
And Hanks ideas’ didn’t end there. He added, “Forrest would have been in New Orleans for [Hurricane] Katrina [in 2005] where his own common sense would have saved him and others. Momma would have told him to go high when the waters rise. Bubba would have taught him about boats and Lt. Dan would come and find him.”
Robert Zemeckis answered, “Forrest would be the reason that the Navy SEALs find Osama bin Laden. [At some point] he opens a children’s orphanage in Jenny’s name in Pakistan. And this orphanage happens to be across from this compound where Osama bin Laden is. Forrest and this tall guy pace around this compound together. And Forrest calls him in to the CIA.”
Coincidentally, in the same month that Roth opened up about the abandoned sequel, news emerged that Forrest Gump would be returning to cinemas after all. However, the character would appear on the big screen in a remake, not a follow-up. And he would be swapping the bright lights of Hollywood for the smooth moves of Bollywood.
Bollywood legend Aamir Khan was announced as the leading man in Lal Singh Chadha, with Advait Chandan confirmed to sit in the director’s chair. With more than three decades’ experience, the former is widely regarded as one of Indian cinema’s finest actors. At a Mumbai press conference, he revealed that shooting on this version of Forrest Gump would take place in October 2019.
Khan also revealed how excited he was to be taking on the role previously occupied by Tom Hanks. He said, “We have bought the rights from Paramount. I have always loved Forrest Gump as a script. It is a wonderful story about this character. It’s a feel-good film. It is a film for the whole family.”