Tom Hanks Says Robert Zemeckis Shot ‘Forrest Gump’ Scenes Like ‘I Love Lucy’ to Combat His Exhaustion

Forrest Gump lived a famously full life. Perhaps a little too full, if you ask Tom Hanks.

Appearing on a panel at The New Yorker Live this week, the actor recalled the extensive travel that was required for the role that won him his second Oscar. As Hanks remembers it, the grueling process of filming the montage of Forrest running across America made it difficult for him to show up for the film’s most important scenes.

“I was so exhausted because we had shot twenty-seven days straight,” Hanks said. “Remember how Forrest ran across the country? Well, there’s only one way to get those scenes, in those days. You had to fly to the goddamn place, put on the costume, run for an hour and a half, then go back, get on the plane, and then fly to, say, New Hampshire, and do it all over again. So I’m exhausted. I don’t know what’s going on. The scenes on the park bench have oceans of dialogue, and we shot them in a day and a half.”

Hanks revealed that he was seriously concerned about his ability to remember all of his monologues in his exhausted state.

“I said to Bob — the director, Robert Zemeckis — ‘Bob, my head is fragile, frazzled. We’re doing all these scenarios with different people, and every one of them has a page and a half of dialogue. I will never be able to keep this in my head.’”

Fortunately, his director had a plan. Hanks said that Zemeckis opted to shoot certain scenes in the style of a multi-camera sitcom, getting multiple angles at the same time and allowing Hanks to rely on cue cards, in order to speed things up for his leading man.

“‘Oh, don’t worry, Tom. We’ll shoot it like ‘I Love Lucy.’ We’ll have four cameras. We’ll put the words up on cards if you need it. You can just read ’em,’” Hanks recalled Zemeckis saying to him. “I said, ‘Oh, great, thank you. Let’s make this an even more artificial atmosphere!’”

Hanks’ concerns ended up being unfounded and “Forrest Gump” became one of his most recognizable roles (it presumably isn’t on the list of movies that he hates). While the actor said that he didn’t know if the film would be a hit while they worked on it, he admires Zemeckis for being willing to take creative risks on the film.

“And so Bob Zemeckis, God bless him — I’ve worked with him more than once — landed on the absolute truth of anybody who has gone forward and said, ‘We are going to commit something to film today,’” Hanks said. “You do not know if it is going to work out. You can only have faith.”

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