Tom Hanks Earned About $40 Million for ‘Forrest Gump’ Because He Negotiated His Contract a Specific Way
Released in the summer of 1994, Forrest Gump is an iconic movie representing the life of a simple-minded boy growing up during the 1950s and 1960s in the South. He was raised by a single mother, served in the Army, and later becoming a successful, rich shrimp boat entrepreneur.
It is hard to imagine anyone else in the starring role of Forrest other than the impeccable Tom Hanks. He wasn’t the first choice for the role though, nor was his initial potential pay noteworthy.
Tom Hanks cast as Forrest Gump
Author of the book “Forrest Gump,” Winston Groom, imagined John Goodman acting in the starring role of a screenplay adaptation of his novel, according to IMDb. The film’s director wanted Harry Anderson to portray Forrest, but he was tied up with another film. John Travolta, Bill Murray, and Chevy Chase all turned down the role.
After reading the script, the former Bosom Buddies, Splash, and Big star, however, agreed to the role within 90 minutes. The catch for Hanks was that the film portrays history accurately.
In the movie, a young Forrest dances while Elvis Presley creates his song, “Hound Dog,” plays football for the University of Alabama, rescues his unit’s lieutenant, and loses his best friend in Vietnam, becomes a star table tennis player, and meets presidents Kennedy, Nixon, and Johnson. He develops the shrimping company he and his army friend, Bubba Gump, dreamed of and eventually marries the love of his life, Jenny, only to lose her while left to raise their son alone.
Already a highly successful actor, Hanks negotiated a contract to take a portion of box office receipts rather than a flat paycheck for his work. On top of that, Hanks, and Forrest Gump director Robert Zemeckis, each invested their own funds to keep scenes in the movie that Paramount Pictures was not willing to pay for, according to The Hollywood Reporter. One example is the collection of scenes while Forrest was running back and forth from one coast to the other. Along the way, he develops the iconic Smiley Face and coined the phrase, “S— Happens.”
‘Forrest Gump’ earnings and Hanks’ contract
Warner Bros. loss was Paramount’s gain. Warner Bros. initially bought into producer Wendy Finerman’s pitch to have Groom’s book developed into a screenplay. Five years later, the studio decided not to move forward putting the script in turnaround status, which allowed Finerman to look elsewhere, according to the LA Times. Paramount took her bait.
Upon its July release, Forrest Gump became 1994’s #1 blockbuster hit netting six Oscar wins including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor. It was Paramount’s fastest grossing film, passing former speed milestones of $100 million and $200 million.
Paramount claimed it was still out $62 million at the time due to promotion, distribution, and interest costs. Yet the movie ended up grossing $683 million at the box office, according to IndieWire.
How much did Hanks earn for portraying Forrest?
There are several estimates as to just what Hanks earned for his interpretation of Forrest. Some sources claim it was an estimated $40 million, others say he earned more like $65 million. Probably only Paramount, Hanks, and his accountant know for sure.
According to Business Insider, the role of Forrest places Hanks ninth of the Top 20 paid movie roles of all time. It is estimated he earned $60 million. Of note, Hanks also placed #15 on the list for his role as Captain John Miller in Saving Private Ryan. Hanks had a similar contract for the 1998 film and earned around $40 million.