Forrest Gump Was Almost Played By John Travolta

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Tom Hanks in Forrest GumpParamount Pictures

Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get next, but we do know Forrest Gump is a modern masterpiece. 

Oh sure, it’s more sentimental than a drunk grandma at a wedding, but the story of Forrest – a slow-witted but kind man, bumbling his way through some of the defining moments of the 20th Century – is wonderfully captivating.


Of course, it helps the film’s leading man happens to be Tom Hanks – one of the most talented actors of the last decade, and dare I say, the nicest man working in Hollywood.

Actor Tom HanksGetty

Yet did you know the film almost had a different leading man?

John Travolta was actually offered the part of Forrest and according to the BBC, Forbes and number of other reputable sources, Travolta was offered the part before Hanks.


He turned it down to appear in Quentin Tarantino’s classic Pulp Fiction.

The rest, is of course, history. Travolta went on to enjoy a massive career resurgence following Pulp Fiction while Forrest Gump went on to dominate the 67th Academy Awards.

John travolta in Pulp Fiction Miramax

Perhaps most notably, Hanks won his second Best Actor Oscar, something which clearly rankled Travolta who admitted afterwards he regretted not taking the role of Gump.


Would the film have worked with Travolta in Forrest’s well-worn running shoes though?

Well, one person who ought to know is Winston Groom who wrote the book Forrest Gump is based on. He’s got some pretty strong opinions on Travolta playing his most iconic character.

Actor John TravoltaPA

Mr Groom told UNILAD:


If the part was offered to Travolta I was never told and can’t imagine him in it either.

There were all sorts of people interested, including Henry Winkler, who played ‘the Fonz’ on the TV show Good Days or some such.

But When Bob Zemeckis took over he immediately cast Tom Hanks, who performed brilliantly and there is no one else who could take his place.

So there we have it. The man who created Forrest couldn’t imagine Travolta in the role, nor does he think anyone else could take his place.


That said, Mr Groom didn’t really have Tom Hanks in mind for the part either based on the book’s description of Forrest Gump – a  6’ 6″, 242 pounds giant of a man.


For the record, it would make Hanks six inches too short and nearly 70 pounds too light to play Gump. So who did Mr Groom have in mind?

Well, you may see it said most notably in the New York Times how Mr Groom wanted none other than John Goodman to play the role of Forrest but according to him, he’s been misquoted.

Gage Skidmore via Flickr

He said: 

If I was quoted in the NYT (and I have been seriously misquoted there over the years) as saying I wanted John Goodman to play Forrest Gump, then that was a total misquote.

What I probably said was that because the character I had written in my book was so large, only a few Hollywood actors could play him as such, and I probably mentioned Goodman, along with such other unlikely characters as Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Wayne (deceased) and a few others.

I never envisioned John Goodman playing Gump.

Well, there’s another piece of IMDb trivia debunked.

Actor Tom HanksActor Tom HanksLionsgate

Regardless, it’s interesting to think how different Forrest Gump could’ve been if Travolta had starred, would he have danced across the country rather than ran?

He wasn’t the only other person considered either – both Chevy Chase and Bill Murray were in the running for the role but it eventually went to Hanks, although he had certain demands if he was going to play the character.

According to Internet apocrypha, Hanks signed onto this film after an hour and a half of reading the script, but he only agreed to take the role if Robert Zemeckis would guarantee the film was historically accurate.

Wait, does that mean Forrest really did give an anti-Vietnam speech?

If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]

Topics: Featured


BBC and 2 others
  1. BBC

    9 stars who turned down great film roles

  2. Forbes

    In Pictures: 10 Career-Changing Roles That Almost Weren't

  3. New York Times

    Following the Star Of a Winsome Idiot

Tom Percival
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