Tom Hanks signed onto the film after an hour and a half of reading the script but agreed to take the role only on the condition that the film was historically accurate. He initially wanted to ease Forrest's pronounced Southern accent, but was eventually persuaded by director Robert Zemeckis to portray the heavy accent stressed in the novel and patterned his accent after Michael Conner Humphreys (young Forrest) who actually talked that way.
The park bench that Tom Hanks sat on for much of the movie was located in historic Savannah, Georgia, at Chippewa Square. The fiberglass bench he sat on, since then, has been removed and placed into a museum to avoid being destroyed by bad weather, or possibly stolen. The church where the feather first falls was about 100 yards just down the street from the bench. To this day, the bench is held in the Savannah History Museum, Savannah, Georgia.
Gary Sinise's character tells Tom Hanks's character that the day Forrest works on a shrimp boat is the day he'd be an astronaut. This is a reference to the book, where Forrest actually becomes an astronaut, and the following year, Sinise and Hanks appeared together as astronauts in Apollo 13. Gary Sinise is also the commander/narrator of the ride "Mission: Space in Epcot" in Walt Disney World, and also starred as an astronaut in Mission to Mars.
When Forrest gets up to talk at the Vietnam rally in Washington, the microphone plug is pulled and you cannot hear him. According to Tom Hanks, he says, "Sometimes when people go to Vietnam, they go home to their mommas without any legs. Sometimes they don't go home at all. That's a bad thing. That's all I have to say about that."
The actor who plays the reporter on the scene when Tom Hanks visits Washington DC after his tour in Vietnam was, himself, an actual tourist from Atlanta, Georgia. He happened to be on Capitol Hill that day with his wife, and was asked to read.
In the opening shot of the film, the feather floats down over Madison Square in Savannah, Georgia. It then floats up to the sky where there is a dissolve, barely visible, and then it sweeps down past the Protestant Church and then heads for Chippawa Square, about half a mile away from the first square (although we are left to believe it's the same square).
The disco and strip scenes were shot in the Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles, California, as was the archive footage (1968) of Robert F. Kennedy, after he won the California Primary. RFK was gunned down in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel just minutes later.
Robert Zemeckis decided to leave out several planned effects shots. One shot in particular involved Forrest running into Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his supporters. Forrest distracts several dogs trying to attack King and his supporters by playing fetch with them and rendering them harmless to King and himself as well as his supporters.
All of the boat scenes, including the hurricane scene, were shot on location in the waters off the coast of South Carolina. A jet engine was used to generate the hurricane winds. The still/news reel shots of the trawlers on land are news shots of the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo in South Carolina 1989.
The Doors have more songs in the movie than any other band with a total of six. These are, "Soul Kitchen" (in one of the Vietnam scenes), "Hello, I Love You" (first song in Gump's first ping pong sequence), "People Are Strange" (second song in Gump's first ping pong sequence), "Break On Through" (third song in Gump's first ping pong sequence), "Peace Frog" (during a New York scene with Lt.Dan) and "Love Her Madly" (when Jenny is leaving her abusive boy friend).
Chippewa Square, the setting for the famous bench scene, does not actually have any benches on the outside of the square that faces the street, only inside the square. The bench was placed there for that scene only by the production team.
Robert Zemeckis used the paintings of Norman Rockwell as the design inspiration for the town of Greenbow, Alabama. The scene where Forrest sits in the hallway of his school while his mother talks to the principal is a direct re-creation of Rockwell's painting "Girl with a Black Eye".
The vintage microphones that Forrest speaks into while in DC and the sound rig that the uniformed man pulls cables out of were all provided by Brandywine Electronics, LTD (now known as BEL.com) and are still on display in its offices in New Castle, DE.
Jenny's last name, Curran, is never said in the film. The only places you can find it are on the back of an envelope that Forrest mailed to Jenny while he was in Vietnam, on her mailbox when she is a child, and on the letters that are returned to him in the hospital.
Contrary to popular belief, the feather was not entirely CGI. The effects team digitized film of a real feather blowing and twisting in front of a blue-screen. This was then edited into segments, which the computer could link and morph together, allowing the "virtual" feather to move however the filmmakers needed. Thus, there was a real feather, but its performance in the movie was computer-based. This is demonstrated in the DVD supplementals.
If Forrest "ran three years, two months, fourteen days and sixteen hours" and left his front porch early in the morning of Monday, July 5th, 1976 because he "felt like running", his entire transcontinental running marathon commenced on Monday, July 5th, 1976 at 7:00 AM EDT (approximately) in Greenbow, Alabama and terminated 1,171 days later (167 weeks and 2 days), on Wednesday, September 19th, 1979 at 8:00 PM MDT (approximately) in Monument Valley, Utah.
The shrimp boat used in the film now resides in the moat surrounding the Planet Hollywood restaurant in Downtown Disney, at the Disneyworld Resort in Florida. Also, one of the ping-pong paddles used in the film is signed by Tom Hanks and hung up on one of the walls inside the restaurant.
Forrest's awards and decorations, as worn in his Class A uniform are: the Medal of Honor, Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, Infantry Shoulder Cord, Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Badge (probably for rifle), and Meritorious Unit Commendation.
The running scene was inspired by an actual event. In 1982, Louis Michael Figueroa, aged 16, ran from New Jersey to San Francisco for the American Cancer Society, unknowingly inspiring a line for Forrest Gump's famous run on the silver screen. "I just put one foot in front of the other," it goes. "When I get tired I sleep. When I get hungry I eat. When I have to go to the bathroom, I go."
In Vietnam, Forrest was assigned to 4th Platoon (LT. Dan welcomes him and Bubba), Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment (as seen in the wooden sign by the tent), 9th Infantry Division (shoulder patch).
Following the success of the movie, Winston Groom wrote a sequel novel, 'Gump & Co.' (1995), which referenced the movie as if it had been released in Forrest's world (he mentions that the movie was inaccurate - that is, compared to the first novel's canon - and brought him unwanted press attention). Forrest also meets Tom Hanks in the novel.
When this film became wildly successful, talk of a sequel naturally arose. However, at the time, Tom Hanks adamantly refused to work in any sequel (and making the sequel with another actor was not a consideration). Although Hanks has since reconsidered his stance on sequels/prequels (Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3, Angels & Demons), a sequel remained in "development hell" for years. As of 2010, Gump & Co. is in development.
Inspired by Lieutenant Dan Taylor, the military veteran character he played in this movie, actor Gary Sinise co-founded a rock and roll cover band during the mid-2000s called "The Lt. Dan Band." The band often goes on USO tours to play for US military personnel stationed around the world, and also plays various benefits for veteran-related causes.
Gump's Medal of Honor ceremony uses the footage of the actual ceremony for Sammy L. Davis, who was awarded the Medal of Honor on 19 November 1968 by President Lyndon Johnson for his actions in Vietnam a year earlier. Tom Hanks head was superimposed on Davis' body.
When Jenny is throwing stones at the house where she grew up, she suddenly collapses onto the ground in front of the house. The image of Jenny on the ground is almost identical to that captured in the famous Andrew Wyeth painting, Christina's World.
Robin Wright was sick with a cold while shooting the nightclub scene. In spite of this, she was still able to perform her own singing during a non-stop twenty-four hour shoot in which she was nearly nude except for her guitar.
When Forrest first learns to play ping-pong in the infirmary, he is told the trick is to "keep his eye on the ball" by another soldier. After that moment, whenever he is shown playing ping-pong, he never blinks.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Attention to detail: When Gump calls to report the Watergate burglary, the security guard answering the phone says, "Security, Frank Wills." He was the actual guard on duty during that night, and he was the person who discovered the break-in, on Saturday, June 17th, 1972.
The condition that Jenny was being treated for at the end of the movie was probably HIV. She says in the movie that the doctors do not know what the virus is and that they can do nothing about it. She mentions that she is being treated in Atlanta; the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta did some of the first US research on the epidemiology and treatment of HIV/AIDS; and the time that she died was the time the virus was first being discovered. Based on what we see of her life, she is in several of the categories that were at the highest risk for contracting HIV, including IV drug users and women who have unprotected sex with many partners.