the book, 'Forrest Gump' opens a whole different box of chocolates

March 27, 1995|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,Sun Staff Writer

He curses. He smokes pot. He dreads calling his weepy mom. He ends up in jail, outer space, a mental hospital, and in the French Quarter with a stripper named Wanda and an ape named Sue.

Meet the real Forrest Gump. Not the "Forrest Gump" that has made more than $300 million at the box office and is expected to dominate tonight's Academy Awards ceremony.

The movie, which is up for Best Picture and 12 other Oscars, took the main character from an obscure book, sanitized him and transformed him in to a cultural phenomenon.

Continents of people know Forrest as Tom Hanks on a bad hair day, who says philosophical things such as "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get."

The real Forrest Gump is not as clean-cut or as perfectly idiotic. Forrest is occasionally greedy, vain and feisty. He fails sometimes.

He's human.

It's not surprising that Hollywood's "Forrest Gump" and Winston Groom's 1986 novel of the same name have their differences. After all, Hollywood doesn't make books; it makes movies. And no one -- including Mr. Groom -- is complaining about the changes in Gump's character. They're all too busy cashing in on the film's success.

Mr. Groom's book initially sold about 10,000 copies before fading. Since the movie came out last year, the Alabama author has sold 1.6 million copies of the 248-page paperback. He's also TC sold 650,000 copies of "Gumpisms" -- which Blockbuster Video freely hands to anyone ordering the Gump video.

Mr. Groom, who took six weeks to write "Forrest Gump," is working on a sequel. But it won't be a sequel to his book; it's a sequel to the movie. He'll be at the Oscars tonight, by the way.

Generally, book and movie are both about a rural Alabama man with an IQ of 70 who becomes a football star, war hero and successful businessman. But the book and movie split on the details:

The Gump Look

The movie: Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump looks dorky-by-design. He's "in the water" -- what we said in high school when someone's long pants were too short. Mr. Hanks is maybe 6 feet tall and his weight is somewhere between his "Philadelphia" and "A League of Their Own" roles.

The book: By 16, Forrest is 6 feet 6 inches and weighs 242 pounds. An "Adonis." Many characters in the book refer to him as "a fine specimen of man." Forrest is asked on several occasions to disrobe. It's a running joke.

Dear old Mom

The movie: Forrest was a mama's boy. He had a close relationship with his mom (Sally Field), who taught Forrest he was special and fed him the chocolate line (see below). Between his fantastic travels, Forrest would come home to see his mama.

The book: Forrest rarely drops in on the ol' homestead. He thinks about going home, wonders how Mom is doing. "I figger I got to find her, but to tell the truth, I ain't in no big hurry, cause sure as it's gonna rain, she'll be bawlin and hollerin an fussin at me . . ."

Like Forrest for chocolate

The movie: "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."

The book: "Bein a idiot is no box of chocolates." Said once. Forrest's signature line in the book is, "I got to pee."

Odd jobs

The movie: Forrest masters many things, such as football, Ping-Pong, jogging and the shrimp business.

The book: Add: championship chess player, actor in "King Lear," harmonica player, astronaut, professional wrestler named "The Dunce" and extra in a science fiction movie starring Raquel Welch.

And look, Mom, no jogging.

(While in Hollywood, he meets a major character in the book -- a male orangutan named Sue. Sue is a wonderful beast. Sue harasses Ms. Welch. Sue crashes the space shuttle into the Indian Ocean, forcing Sue and Forrest to live with the native cannibals for several years. Sue also crashes Forrest's championship chess match, making him lose.)

The Midas touch

The movie: Forrest can do no wrong. Everything he touches or stumbles into turns into gold for him or others. Apple Computer, etc. He's a rich hero.

K? The book: Forrest does save Chairman Mao from drowning, and

he does save many men in Vietnam from the "gooks," as Forrest calls them. But he also does jail time, lands in a mental hospital and loses thousands of dollars by losing a rigged "rasslin" match. He also loses the girl in the end.

Jenny

The movie: Jenny has been abused by her father. Later throws dirt at the old family house. Does a lot of crazy and stupid stuff in life. Gets slapped around by another peacenik. Marries Forrest. Has his boy. She dies of AIDS.

The book: Like the movie, Jenny is Forrest's main squeeze. But he doesn't marry her. Jenny happily marries Donald, an assistant sales manager for a roofing business. She loves Forrest, but he's not dependable. There was the time she caught him with those music groupies -- although he says nothing happened. And he got so big-headed when he kept winning all his rasslin matches. Jenny hated that rasslin business.

And Forrest was smoking too much marijuana.

Yes, fragile readers, the real Forrest Gump was temporarily a pothead.

The end

The movie: Forrest grows a beard while running cross-country. He marries Jenny, finally. She dies. He is sad.

The book: None of that interminable running and I-Was-a-Teenaged-Werewolf beard. Forrest doesn't marry Jenny, and she doesn't die of AIDS or anything else. In the end, Forrest is hanging out in New Orleans' French Quarter with his pal Sue. Forrest also makes some new friends:

"They is a girl here that works as a waitress in one of the strip joints an ever once in a wile we get together and . . ."

But that's another story.

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