The movie Forrest Gump dominated the Oscars two decades ago. It won six Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Tom Hanks and Best Director for Robert Zemeckis.
But Michael Conner Humphreys, the boy who played the young Forrest in leg braces, missed out on his chance to attend one of the glitziest showbiz events on the planet. His parents couldn’t afford to buy the tickets and eight-year-old Michael watched the show at home.
Fast-forward twenty years and just days before this year’s Academy Awards, Michael recalls the experience in an interview with The Daily Mail. (Scroll down for the video.)
1. Michael Conner Humphreys was introduced to the world as the young Forrest Gump and became famous for his surgical braces.
2. Tom Hanks was Best Actor in the 1995 Oscars for playing Forrest Gump, the hero who — inadvertently — shaped history.
I was eight when this all went down, but my parents were asked if they wanted to buy an Oscar ticket and they couldn’t afford it.
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.
Despite missing out on the glitz of the Academy Awards in 1995, Michael said Hollywood star Tom Hanks and director Robert Zemeckis both congratulated him for his part in the movie.
3. As well as Tom Hanks taking best actor, Robert Zemeckis was named best director and presented with the golden statuette by Steven Spielberg.
Two decades later, he isn’t bitter about missing his chance in the spotlight and insists that the movie opened up many doors and enabled him to travel the world.
Michael tells an inspirational story of how he shunned Hollywood, choosing a career in the military instead, much like his movie character. He said:
The success of Forrest Gump at the Oscars benefited me a lot.
Once the movie had done so well in America, and had been through the Oscars, they were getting ready to promote it overseas and they upped the tempo on that.
They made much of a bigger deal in Germany, the UK and Japan, so I got to travel the world and help promote the movie.
They’d send me to a few countries in Europe, a few in Asia and I’d go for about a week. I went to premieres in Japan, Germany and England — or wherever they were promoting it — and I was put up in the nicest hotels.
I got a lot out of it as a kid — a lot more if I had just gone to one Oscar show. So I think that worked out for me — being exposed to world travel and that made me worldly.
In those countries Michael’s work didn’t go unnoticed as he collected a number of awards for his role in Forrest Gump.
4. Michael Conner Humphreys rehearses for his role with the braces which made Forrest Gump famous.
I attended the equivalent of the Oscars in other countries. I went to the BAFTAs [The British equivalent] so I attended some of the ceremonies
And I was awarded a couple. I have the equivalent of a German Oscar and the equivalent of a Japanese Oscar that I was given in those countries.
They look similar to Oscars, but they’ve just got different languages written on them.
He wasn’t surprised by Forrest Gump’s huge success at the Oscars. Considering its 13 nominations, he was sure it was going to get at least one award.
5. Hanna R Hall played Jenny, of whom Forrest said: ‘Me and jenny goes together like peas and carrots.’
6. Michael Conner Humphreys as he filmed the hit movie in Mississippi – and where Tom Hanks used his mannerisms as inspiration for his character.
Once it started getting the nominations it did, it was apparent that Forest Gump was going to do well at the Oscars.
It was once I’d seen the whole film, I had a feeling that it was going to do very well, even as a child.
Michael reveals that he was blown away by the movie’s spectacular success. And now he can only dream of what it might have been like if he had attended the Oscars on the big night. He said:
I wouldn’t have been surprised if one of them [Tom Hanks etc] had taken me out on stage or something, which would’ve been nice.
Michael’s life after the movie mirrored Forrest’s. Rather than accepting a number of high-profile offers, he signed up for military service instead.
7. Forrest served in Vietnam in the US Army, having enlisted rather than being drafted. He served under Lt Dan, the platoon leader who he saves (played by Gary Sinise, left) but who would rather have died.
8. Michael Humphreys served in Iraq on an 18-month tour of duty as a Specialist in the 1st battalion 36th Infantry Regiment and was congratulated for his service while on duty.
Where we were filming was very close to Parris Island, the Marine Training Camp in South Carolina where all the helicopters that were used in the Vietnam scene came from.
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.
The Marine captain who flew the jet in the movie, had just got back from the Gulf War and I still have the patches from his shoulders, which he kindly gave to me.
Michael went on to serve for four years in the U.S. Army as an infantry soldier, which featured an 18 month tour of duty in Iraq. Unsurprisingly, his nickname in the military was “Gump”.
9. Humphreys enlisted in 2004 and went on to be stationed in Germany and serve in Anbar Province, Iraq.
10. At the wheel of his armored Humvee while in Anbar province with the 1st Battallion, 36th Infantry Regiment.
I have never had any regrets about joining the military and I think, compared to some people, I was quite well prepared for it as many of my family members have served in the military over the years.
I also got stationed in Germany, which was a big perk for me, as I’d always wanted to be stationed in Europe.
When I joined the military I did my best to avoid being recognized or word getting out about the movie, but I think that lasted about two weeks before somebody figured it out.
I definitely got a lot of it in the ear after that and the drill sergeants would really mess with me about it.
It got aggravating there for a little while, but in a lot of ways it was all part of the basic training and definitely got me to where they want you to be.
When his term in Iraq came to an end, Michael finished his reserve status and enrolled at the University of North Alabama (UNA) to study International Relations.
11. One of the most moving scenes of the film was when Forrest rescued Gump and said: ‘You got shot.’ Bubba replied: ‘I wanna go home.’
Now 29, Michael is single, lives in Independence, Mississippi, and is still studying international relations at college. He says he’s not sure what life holds for him next but hinted that Hollywood might still be knocking. He said:
I don’t know what job I will do as I still have nine months left of school.
I’d ideally like to work for a private company that does overseas sales, or for the government, but those jobs are usually in Washington, so that wouldn’t work for me.
I’ve been looking in to working in the entertainment field and often get people calling me about being in their movies.
He said that he is on standby for a few movie projects and added:
There are more movie projects launched than actually get off the ground.
I think my combined experience of being in the movie, and serving in a war, and traveling overseas, and now studying International Relations, have all helped me understand the world a lot better.
I feel like I am more in touch with the outside world and have probably had more experiences than the average person.
Michael’s time in service has not only brought him life experience, but has also won him the respect of many people he has met, who have even compared him to some all-time Hollywood greats.
12. After the filming, the young actor was taken to awards ceremonies and promotional activities around the world, including in London.
13. The movie depicted Forrest as a ping pong protege whose tour of China ultimately prompts John Lennon to write ‘Imagine’ and to be invited to meet President Richard Nixon.
I’ve been surprised over the years about how much respect I have gotten for choosing the Army over Hollywood.
People often tell me how cool they think it is and some have even gone as far as to compare me to Clark Gable, the famous actor who, when World War two began, broke out of acting to join the Air Force and I believe he flew bombers over Germany.
And he definitely doesn’t regret any of the decisions he’s made. He said:
I grew up a lot quicker than the average kid, from being in the movie.
Acting as a child is a lot easier than acting when you’re an adult. You don’t take things so seriously and you just have fun with it.
14. Forrest and Lt Dan when they work together at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.
15. Run, Forrest, run!
Michael has only fond memories of making the film, but confesses that there have been times over the past two decades when his role has been a cause for ridicule by the public. He said:
All my life I have been mocked by people about the role. People ask me about the movie a lot but their actions can range from, “That’s so cool.” to “Hey, say that line.”
It just depends, some people will mock you just because they don’t have good manners or are ignorant people. I don’t get those reactions from nice, intelligent people.
The ignorant people will walk around spurting-out lines from the movie, or will walk by shouting “Run Forrest, run.”
But fortunately, even after they say that, those same people will still tell me I did a good job — they just won’t say it as eloquently as some other people.
16. Forrest Gump became the defining movie of 1995.
Source: The Daily Mail.
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