Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Novel vs. Movie: Film Makes Many Changes in Tone, Fact

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Novel vs. Movie: Film Makes Many Changes in Tone, Fact

Article excerpt

Myriad changes separate Winston Groom's 1986 novel "Forrest Gump" from the 1994 movie.

In the book, Gump, who tells his story in first person, is more active, less innocent, more vulgar and probably a little less easily likeable, sort of a cross between Hercules and Huck Finn, sharing his chameleonic nature with Woody Allen's "Zelig" and Jerzy Kosinski's Chance (Chauncey Gardiner in the film version) of "Being There."

One of the famous lines from the movie, warped from its literary roots, is "Life is like a box of chocolates: You never know what you're gonna get." From the outset, that establishes life for Gump as an experienced series of events, blown about like the feather on the wind.

Groom's Gump starts with a more complex tone: "Let me say this: Bein' a idiot is no box of chocolates. People laugh, lose patience, treat you shabby. Now they says folks s'posed to be kind to the afflicted, but let me tell you -- it ain't always that way. Even so, I got no complaints, cause I reckon I done live a pretty interestin' life, so to speak."

Some other changes from novel to movie:

- Gump has no physical challenges and grows huge in the novel. He hits 6 feet 6 inches and 242 pounds as a full-grown man. His massive size and strength helps him become a football star, champion arm wrestler and later professional wrestler (The Dunce).

- He's more involved in differing adventures in the novel, becoming, among other things, an astronaut, befriending a NASA orangutan named Sue. Their spacecraft crashes into a jungle, where they're captured by cannibals. It's with Sue, not Bubba, that Forrest starts a shrimp business, and not by fishing, but by farming in shallow pools.

- Although he does have a low IQ (around 70), Gump demonstrates savant capabilities in music, chess and physics in the novel.

- Though kindhearted, Groom's Gump is not the saintly figure of the film. He smokes dope, has sex (several times, rather than once, with Jenny), curses and, perhaps worst of all, plays rock 'n' roll.

- His pal Bubba is a white man, because they meet on the University of Alabama football team, about a decade before the Crimson Tide signed black players.

There are more alterations, of course. Groom wrote a sequel, "Gump & Co.," published in 1995, which both responded to the film and sought to correct inaccuracies in Gump's life story. And Gump does meet Tom Hanks in the second book.


- "Forrest Gump," the novel, garnered critical praise and sold well on initial release, a healthy 30,000 or 40,000 copies (accounts vary). But the movie tie-in re-release of the book sold more than 2.5 million copies in the U.S., and millions more worldwide, being reprinted in 18 languages. Also, 1995's sequel "Gump & Co. …

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