Twenty years ago this weekend, Robert Zemeckis’ sweeping tale Forrest Gump cleared up at the Academy Awards, winning Best Picture and Best Actor for lead actor Tom Hanks’ turn as the eponymous hero. But one of the unsung heroes of the movie was Young Forrest. Played by Michael Connor Humphreys, he was the sweet but simple Forrest in his early years. But Michael and his family didn’t lead a glamorous Hollywood lifestyle…
He had to watch the Oscars from his Mississippi home – his family couldn’t afford to attend. And now? He’s a soldier – just like Forrest was!
Michael says: ‘The tickets were going to cost a lot of money, so we decided to just watch it on TV like everyone else. At the time I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go or not, but it would be a different situation now. I would try and go. As an eight-year-old I didn’t mind, that’s the perspective, I guess, of a child. But we did watch it at home and were glad that it received as many awards as it did.’
Some years later, following in the footsteps of his character Forrest, Humphreys joined the army as an infantry soldier.
‘I would often tell the director and producers how cool I thought all the helicopters were and then one weekend they actually arranged for some of the Marine Corps to take me over to Parris Island and show me the fighter jets. I remember we weren’t allowed to take photos of the F18s and all that stuff.’
‘It was basically all the stuff that regular kids my age would never have got the opportunity to do, and I can honestly say that experience directly motivated me to join the military later. It was definitely one of the little perks of working on the movie. ‘
Michael spent four years in the army, and – you won’t be surprised to hear – his nickname was ‘Gump’!
Forrest Gump’s Oscars:
Best actor in a leading role: Tom Hanks
Best director: Robert Zemeckis
Best writing, screenplay based on material previously produced or published
Best film editing
Best visual effects