There’s barely a soul on the planet who hasn’t heard of the movie ‘Forrest Gump,’ the famously saccharine tale of a slow witted American Everyman who somehow manages to turn up at all the great events over 30 years of American history.
The movie’s title has become a byword for nice, essentially stupid people whose stupidity, while irritating, does no real harm. It garnered a second Oscar on the trot for Tom Hanks. Its sweetness won plaudits from all over the globe, even if, as a friend of mine perceptively pointed out, for a feelgood movie, it was curiously heartless.
One of the true measures of FG’s success is the way it gave phrases to the culture. “Life is like a box of chocolates” is probably the movie’s one single lasting contribution, for better or worse, to humanity.
But am I the only person who thinks the producers missed out on a chance for true immortality? It might have led to some temporary inconvenience at the box office. It would probably have cost Tom that Oscar, but had they gone down this alternative route, people would still be enjoying and quoting Forrest Gump with true gusto.
There would be Forrest Gump parties, Forrest Gump talent shows, Forrest Gump lookalike events, Forrest Gump themed partner swapping weekends. There wouldn’t be a self-respecting hipster on the planet who hadn’t spent at least one of his phases talking and dressing exactly like Forrest.
The trick is this: what if they had made Forrest Gump a bastard? What if, instead of all that cloying, vaguely Aspergers niceness, Forrest had been a full on psycho: the evil Forrest Gump?
The movie’s iconic phrase would now go something like “mah momma used to say that life was like a box of chocolates, and they’re all for me. No one else is gettin’ any. If yew try and take one ahm gonna lop off yewr arm with this here meat cleaver.”
The hero’s plangent pleadings to the unrequited love of his life would take on an extra edge. Instead of feeling sorry for Forrest when Jenny insists on hanging out with hippies and playing guitar in the nip, we could savour such dialogue as:
Forrest: Wah don’t yew lurv me Jenny?
Jenny: Well, uh, it’s not that I don’t. I just need time to …
Forrest: Caurse if yew don’t lurv me ahm gonna have to kill yew and chop yew into all lil bits and bury bits of yew all over momma’s back garden. Maybe ah’ll even sell other bits of yew to businessmen in Chayna. Ah won’t do no time or nothin’ on account of me bein’ simple like.
Jenny: Oh well, if you put it like that.
He could have responded to Gary Sinise’s taunts about his slow wittedness by mercilessly mocking Gary’s wartime disability. His Vietnam war experience could have been rendered all the more fascinating by the revelation that some of his war buddies ‘warn’t vurry nace to me. So ah shot ’em and fed ’em to some o them thar carnivorous pigs.’
A truly badass Forrest would have been a hero for our age. His possibilities would have been endless. He could have been a serial killer, or President, or both. He could have been the subject of a Marvel movie franchise.
An opportunity has been tragically lost, although there will be some who will say that reality has, as always, moved in to fill the void left by art.