‘Forrest Gump’: Gary Sinise’s Lieutenant Dan Character Inspired Him to Start a Life-Changing Foundation

Tom Hanks is Hollywood’s most loved actor. Gary Sinise has to be a close second. The two have a history of taking on important roles, and giving them their all. One of Sinise and Hanks’ three projects, Forrest Gump, is enduring. It won Best Picture at the Academy Awards, but more importantly it has withstood the test of time. According to IMDBForrest Gump had a long-lasting impact, in more ways than one. It inspired Sinise to start his own foundation to help wounded soldiers. 

Lt. Dan was a personal character for Gary Sinise

In Forrest Gump, we see the world as it is through the eyes of Forrest, played by Hanks. It isn’t always pretty, especially not when Forrest is sent to fight in Vietnam. Alongside him is Lieutenant Dan. Sinise slays in his performance of the rough soldier, who has his legs blown off in an explosion. In real life, making Sinise look like he really lost his legs was no easy feat. 

For scenes without legs, Sinise’s lower legs were wrapped in a blue fabric, similar to a green screen, that made them easier to digitally remove after filming. He also needed a special wheelchair. Dan appeared in his wheelchair with no legs, but Sinise had legs. The crew needed the bottom of the wheelchair in the shot, so simply wrapping and deleting Sinise’s legs was a no-go. Instead, a special wheelchair was designed specially for the film.

A magician made Sinise’s Lt. Dan wheelchair, so the illusion worked much like any disappearing trick. Sinise had trouble sitting in it, since it required him to hold his body in an uncomfortable position. He could only film in ten minute increments if the wheelchair was being used. 

After September 11th, Gary Sinise formed the Gary Sinise Foundation 

Sinise had a special connection to Vietnam. His brother in law fought in the war, and Sinise even wore his rosary during filming. His portrayal of Lt. Dan opened his eyes to the issues soldiers face when returning home, especially if they’ve been injured. He began supporting non-profits that helped soldiers, and became known for his advocacy. According to the Gary Sinise Foundation’s website, he was inspired to start his own foundation after meeting a first responder who was injured in the September 11th terrorist attacks. 

The FDNY firefighter was a quadruple amputee, and needed an accessible home. Sinise raised the money, and hasn’t stopped since. Now, the Gary Sinise Foundation raises more than $30 million a year for wounded soldiers. The non-profit even owns 12 jets, which they use to fly families of fallen soldiers to different events throughout the world. 

Hanks and Sinise are the perfect pair 

Gary Sinise
Gary Sinise | Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

It is no surprise that Sinise has done such amazing work thanks to Forrest Gump. He and Hanks seem to have a habit of working together on powerful projects that go on to be mega-successful. Although Forrest Gump is the only one to win, Hanks and Sinise also worked on Apollo 13 and The Green Mile together, which were also nominated for Academy Awards. 

Hanks insisted on historical accuracy for Forrest Gump, which may have led to more exposure to real soldiers. If Hanks hadn’t been so adamant about the historical accuracy of the film, The Gary Sinise Foundation may not exist. 

Hanks contributed to the inspiration behind the foundation in another big way. His favorite scene in Forrest Gump is when Lt. Dan gets his new legs. Sinise saw how moving that moment could be, and now gives thousands of soldiers ‘new legs’ through his foundation. 

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