One of Tom Hanks’ most popular movies was Forrest Gump. It was a huge hit in 1994, second only to The Lion King. Hanks won his second Oscar only one year after his win for Philadelphia. Decades later, people still wonder about the way Forrest Gump (Hanks) spoke, though.
When Paramount released Forrest Gump on Blu-ray, they addressed Forrest Gump’s accent. Hanks, director Robert Zemeckis and more filmmakers discuss Forrest’s accent on the Blu-ray, which is available from Paramount separately and as part of their 10 Best Pictures collection.
What accent does Tom Hanks have in ‘Forrest Gump’?
Forrest Gump comes from the fictional Greenbow, Alabama. However, the voice Hanks uses as Forrest is no Alabaman accent.
“We talked about Forrest’s voice, his accent, his cadence,” Hanks says at a USC panel on the Blu-ray. “We could’ve slapped something together. As an actor, I was prepared to say, ‘What do you want, Bob?’
In an interview from the set of Forrest Gump, Zemeckis explained why he was against that.
“The one thing we didn’t want to do is we just didn’t want to have Tom Hanks doing a southern accent,” Zemeckis said.
On the set, Hanks continued, “We had a lot of discussion about this, not doing anything or doing something that was really heavy. We never had the real template for how Forrest needed to sound for good or for bad.”
Who played Forrest Gump in the 1994 movie?
Two actors played Forrest. Not only Tom Hanks, but Michael Humphreys played Forrest as a child. Hanks said he modeled adult Forrest after Humphreys.
“He was 8, 9, he was a little kid,” Hanks said during the panel. “We got together and [Zemeckis] said, ‘You gotta talk to this kid, Tom. Make sure he does what you want him to do.’ I realized that was going to be impossible. Rather than that, why don’t I do what he does? So you get a natural kid being himself. Michael talked the way, when he was 8 or 9, Forrest talks as an adult.”
Hanks could still do the Forrest Gump voice 15 years after the film. He imitated Humphreys’ enunciation.
I had a tape recorder. We took young Michael Humphreys out to the Gump House in South Carolina for the first time. I was talking to him, ‘So, what does your dad do, Michael?’ ‘Well, my daddy makes greassse.’ I said what do you mean he makes grease? ‘Well, he works in a faaactory and makes greeease.’ I said what do you have to use grease for? ‘Oh, there’s all kinds of uses for greeease. They use it in oils and they use it in lubricants and they put it in liiipstiiicks.’ So it’s like I’m done.”Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump Blu-ray bonus features
So, what was Michael Humphreys’ accent?
Producer Wendy Finerman is on the Blu-ray saying they tried to identify Humphreys’ accent after the fact. There was no frame of reference.
“It was an original accent,” Finerman said. “If we went to a dialect coach and they were trying to break down is this Alabama? Is this Mississippi? This kid had his own accent And it was perfect because this is who Forrest is too. Forrest is his own original person and you couldn’t kind of expect him to come from anywhere other than Forestville which is what Michael Humphrey sounded like.”
Humphreys, now an adult, reflected on teaching Hanks how to speak like Forrest Gump.
“Me and Tom Hanks spent a lot of time together,” Humphreys said. “I guess he was trying to feed off me and get an idea for the Forrest Gump character. I was an actual southern kid to begin with, I was kind of quirky, already fit the young Forrest role. In the end, it was just me exaggerating myself to display that.”
Thar process took months behind the scenes. In the film, Zemeckis cuts from Forrest Gump sitting on the bench to young Forrest in Greenbow, Alabama.
“It’s got to be really powerful to see Tom doing Forrest with that accent in the first couple minutes of the movie, then there’s little Forrest on the bus,” Zemeckis said on the panel. “He opens his mouth and speaks exactly the same way. Subconsciously, I think there’s a thing that just clicks there and it all just works.”