Why Dave Chappelle Turned Down Role In ‘Forrest Gump’ and Later Regretted It

Most people love a story in which the underdog comes out on top and Forrest Gump is a classic example of such. The friendship between Forrest and Bubba was central to the film and warmed viewers hearts.

Dave Chappelle
Dave Chappelle | NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

Ironically, Dave Chappelle was one of the actors who was offered the role of Bubba but turned it down because he felt Bubba caved into racial stereotypes of Black men. Chappelle later regretted skipping out on the film.

Dave Chappelle was offered the role of Bubba in ‘Forrest Gump’ 

After Chappelle made his splash on Def Comedy Jam, the Hollywood film industry was so impressed that they began sending movie scripts his way. Chappelle accepted roles in Robin Hood, Men In Tights, and Undercover Blues are roles that he accepted, but when he read the script for Forrest Gump, he was not interested.

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

Chappelle was offered the role of Bubba, Forrest Gump’s best friend whom he meets while training in the army. The film follows the two as they are sent to Vietnam and while there, Bubba convinces Forrest to start a shrimp business with him upon their return back to the states.

Dave Chappelle turned down a role in ‘Forrest Gump’ because he felt the Bubba character fed into racial stereotypes

According to Chappelle, he felt that playing a character named Bubba was racially demeaning. He was not on board with playing characters that he felt gave into racial stereotypes, which was the main reason he turned down the film.  

The role eventually went to Michael T. Williamson, who adjusted Bubba’s level of intelligence. In the book, Bubba was smarter than Forrest but Willamson suggested that he only be slightly smarter to have them on equal terms and make for a better connection for them. 

Source: YouTube

The idea of playing a Black man who has a learning disability was not appealing to Chappelle either. His agent promised him the role would be critically acclaimed and lead him to an Oscar win, but Chappelle was not convinced, especially because the script he said he read featured Bubba’s character having less intelligence than Forrest.

“That must not be the script I read. The hero is retarded. I don’t know about you but I don’t have any retarded heroes,” Chappelle said in a standup special that was included in YouTube’s Comedy Hype documentary. “Who could be dumber than Forrest Gump? His best friend that’s who. No matter how dumb a white dude is they’ll always find a n***a that’s dumber than him,” Chappelle exclaimed.

Dave Chappelle regrets not taking the role in ‘Forrest Gump’ because of the film’s critical acclaim and financial success

Forrest Gump was a box office smash, making over $670 million worldwide. The film also won six Oscars and was praised by critics. 

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“Pic offers up a non-stop barrage of emotional and iconographic identification points that will make the postwar generation feel they’re seeing their lives passing by on-screen,” a 1994 review in Variety read. 

Chappelle later admitted that he regrets not taking the role because of the success of the film.