John Travolta, Bill Murray, and Chevy Chase All Passed On ‘Forrest Gump’ and Missed Out on Tom Hanks’ $40 Million Pay

Forrest Gump will go down as one of the most beloved movies of all time. It has it all: comedy, drama, romance, and everyone’s favorite actor and movie star, Tom Hanks. But did you know the film could have been wildly different if the studio had gotten their first choice in some key roles? There were some big-name actors who passed on the part that eventually went to Tom Hanks. Here are the actors who passed not just on the role of Forrest, but also some other key supporting roles in the film. 

Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump sitting on a bench
Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump | Sunset Boulevard/Getty Images

The worldwide phenomenon of Forrest Gump

At the time of its release in 1994, Forrest Gump was one of the most popular movies of all time and still to this day remains a favorite among movie fans. According to IMDb, it grossed well over $24 million its opening weekend, $330 million domestically, and $1 billion worldwide. It also cleaned up during the Oscar season. The film received Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Tom Hanks), Best Director, Best Editing, and Best Visual Effects. To call this film a classic is almost an understatement. 

The actors who passed on the role of Forrest Gump

Amazingly enough, as iconic as Hanks was in the role, he was not the studio’s first choice to play the role of Forrest. John Travolta was reportedly their first choice. He passed it up to star in another classic film — Pulp Fiction, directed by Quentin Tarantino. No one could fault him for that, and it was likely the right career move for Travolta. While he may have done a fine job in the role of Gump, Pulp Fiction help put him back into the public consciousness, making him a star again after his career hit a cold streak. 

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Other actors who were up for the role include Bill Murray and Chevy Chase. Both of those actors have their background in improvisational comedy. Seeing their take would have been interesting, but it was Hanks’ dramatic chops that helped ground the character. 

The actors who passed on the role of Bubba and Jenny

As much as Forrest is defined by what happens to him, he’s also defined by the people in his life that he loves. Two of those people were his childhood sweetheart, Jenny, and his war buddy in Vietnam, Bubba. 

Jenny was played expertly by Robin Wright, but as with Hanks, she wasn’t the first pick. The studio offered the role to both Jodie Foster and Demi Moore, who ultimately passed. They also expressed interest in Nicole Kidman, but she wouldn’t even read for the part or do a screen test.

An all-star crew of actors also passed on the role of Bubba, including Tupac Shakur, David Alan Grier, Ice Cube, and Dave Chappelle. Mykelti Williamson landed the role, and his touching but understated performance as Bubba was another great component of the film. 

How Forrest Gump would have been different with other principal actors

Forrest Gump is such an iconic film that it’s impossible to imagine it being the success it was with different actors in the major roles. For one, Tom Hanks did a great job skirting the line between a great comedic performance and a fine dramatic one. The role of Forrest is a precise one — while in some respects he’s got below-average intelligence, in other aspects he seems wise beyond his years. Few actors could pull off that role with the same skill that Hanks did. While the film may have been successful with someone else, it’s safe to say no one else playing Forrest would have led the film to be as successful as Hanks did. 

While the roles of Jenny and Bubba were also critical and well done, they could have been played by other performers. Forrest Gump is Tom Hanks’ movie through and through, and he’s the main reason it was the cultural touchstone it was.