Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump Improvised These Classic Scenes

Forrest Gump is one of the most quotable Tom Hanks movies. “Life is like a box of chocolates.” “Stupid is as stupid does.” “I got to pee.” Many of those lines come from screenwriter Eric Roth’s adaptation of Winston Groom’s book. However, Hanks improvised some of the film’s memorable moments himself. 

[Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for Forrest Gump.]

Tom Hanks and Sally Field meet a military recruiter in Forrest Gump
Sally Field, Tom Hanks and Daniel C. Striepeke | Sunset Boulevard/Getty Images

Hanks was part of a panel for the 15th anniversary of Forrest Gump at USC in 2009. That panel is on the Blu-ray edition, which is also included in Paramount’s 10 Best Pictures collection. Here are some scenes Hanks improvised in Forrest Gump.

This ‘Forrest Gump’ quote is a Tom Hanks original

Forrest spends much of the movie waiting for a bus on a park bench, telling strangers his life story. He’s waiting to meet Jenny (Robin Wright), who shows him he has a son from one night they spent together. Hanks said he added a line to the scene where he meets Forrest Jr. (Haley Joel Osment).

“Part of it is absolute we know that it’s the emotional core of the movie and we sure hope that we’re hitting the emotional core of the movie,” Hanks said. “At the saame time we’re able to ad lib a line. [Director Robert Zemeckis] says, ‘What would Forrest think when he first walks in here, Tom?’ ‘I think he’d say hey, you have air conditioning.’”

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Hanks proceeded to explain the ad lib, which may seem like a non sequitur.

“That wasn’t in the thing but first of all, it was so hot in South Carolina that day that was something,” Hanks said. “But that’s what Forrest would say because that’s a big deal to Forrest. Oh you live in a house with air conditioning.”

Tom Hanks added this move to an emotional scene

Earlier in the film, Forrest asks Jenny to marry him. She says no, but still spends the night with him. The moment Forrest receives her rejection, Hanks did something by instinct.

“Forrest goes out on the porch through the screen door and slams,” Hanks said. “He goes out and he stands like this. Bob says, ‘Why’d you put your hands on your hips like that? It’s kind of goofy. Pretty serious scene. It’s kinda like a silly pose.’”

Gary Sinise and Tom Hanks in 'Forrest Gump'
Gary Sinise and Tom Hanks in ‘Forrest Gump’ | Sunset Boulevard/Getty Images

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Hanks explained he copied the pose from Michael Humphreys, who played Forrest as a little boy. 

“I said, ‘Well, I saw Michael doing it on the set. He was an eight year old kid standing around like this.’ I thought that when Forrest has something on his mind, he puts his hands in that very effeminate way on his hips and stands.”

Bubba’s big speech was improvised too

Gary Sinise, who played Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump, was on the panel too. He revealed that a major moment was a complete ad lib. When Bubba (Mykelti Williamson) lists all the different ways you can prepare shrimp, he made that up.

Forrest and Bubba
Forrest and Bubba | Sunset Boulevard/Getty Images

At one point we get to this one second and [Zemeckis] goes, ‘Now wait a minute. What’s the deal with this shrimp?’ If you remember that, we didn’t quite know why Forrest gets sort of driven to go down and work on a shrimp boat. The stuff about Bubba was not acctually in there where all Bubba talked about was shrimp. So in those meetings, they came up wtih the idea to have Bubba have nothing else on his mind besides shrimp. Because Bubba had nothing on his mind besides shrimp, that’s all Forrest Gump remembered was shrimp. So he’s driven to go fulfill that dream of Bubba’s. That came out of a meeting where it was spitballing and a lot of ideas were coming out. It ended up being a pretty significant part of the storyline. 

Gary Sinise, Forrest Gump Blu-ray