Is Tom Hanks’ Movie ‘Cast Away’ Based on a True Story?

Tom Hanks‘ role in Cast Away is still one of his most iconic performances. The legendary actor spent the majority of the nearly two and half hours of the movie alone. Though the movie also had major stars like Chris Noth and Helen Hunt, the disaster drama is still very much a Hanks vehicle.

Like his roles in Philadelphia and Forrest Gump, Hanks’s role in Cast Away also earned him an Academy Award nomination. Is the Robert Zemeckis directed film based on a true story? After all, the harrowing tale feels very close to true life.

Tom Hanks washed up on the beach of an island in a scene fro
Tom Hank in ‘Cast Away’, 2000. | 20th Century-Fox/Getty Images

What is ‘Cast Away’ about?

The film follows Chuck Noland (Hanks), a FedEx systems analyst executive who is obsessed with time and punctuality. Spending the majority of his time in the air, and ignoring aspects of his personal life, Chuck travels across the globe solving productivity issues at various FedEx hubs.

Called away from work during the holiday season, Chuck flies off to Maylasia in the middle of a horrific storm that causes his FedEx cargo plane to go plunging into the Pacific Ocean.

The sole survivor of the crash, Chuck finds himself alone on a deserted island, with only a Wilson volleyball as a companion. He remains isolated, taking up shelter in a cave for over four years before he’s finally spotted and rescued by a passing cargo ship.

“I made Cast Away because I wanted to examine the concept of four years of hopelessness, in which you have none of the requirements for living — food, water, shelter, fire and company,” Hanks told The Hollywood Reporter in 2017.

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Why did the plane in ‘Cast Away’ crash?

Upon first glance, it appears that the plane in Cast Away went down due to poor weather. However, after being rescued, Chuck learns that the crash was more than likely due to some mislabeled hazardous materials aboard the aircraft that led to an explosive decompression aboard the aircraft.

This led to the pilots falling off course since they were already trying to avoid turbulence and eventually led to the airplane plunging into the cold ocean.

As much as FedEx is an intricate character all on its own in the film, the company got a ton of free publicity from Cast Away. “People find it hard to believe, but we didn’t pay a dime to be in the movie,” said Sandra Munoz, a FedEx spokeswoman at the company’s Memphis headquarter.

Is ‘Cast Away’ based on a true story?

Though there are some true-life cases with similar elements, Tom Hanks’ Cast Away is not based on a true story. Many fans have compared the movie to the famed Daniel Defoe novel, Robinson Crusoe. However, there are real-life cases that could have been looked toward for example.

Alexander Selkirk was shipwrecked in 1704 and lived in isolation for four years. Marguerite de La Rocque was on a ship to Newfoundland when her uncle kicked her off in Quebec after she was discovered having a sexual relationship with a man on the ship.

She was “rescued” two years later after the man had died and she’d given birth. She later returned to France to become a school teacher.