The Woodshed: Forrest Gump Turns 20
July 2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the release of the blockbuster movie Forrest Gump. The film swept the nation and the Academy Awards, winning six Oscars, including one for best picture. With an engaging storyline, an all-star cast (Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Sally Field, Gary Sinise, and Mykelti Williamson), plus amazing visual effects, the movie connected with audiences in a big way.Alan Silvestri’s iconic orchestral score was integral to the movie’s emotional appeal. Sometimes sweeping, sometimes introspective, Silvestri’s themes plumbed the emotional depth of both the characters and the storyline, assisting director Robert Zemeckis in telling the fantastic tale of an endearing Alabama native with an IQ of 75.
As the film opens, a feather falls lazily from the sky above Savannah, GA, and wends its way to earth ultimately coming to rest against Forrest Gump’s muddy sneaker. Accompanying that scene is Silvestri’s memorable theme played delicately by pianist Randy Kerber and orchestra. Silvestri’s simple melody, diatonic harmony, and light orchestration set the stage for what will unfold as Tom Hanks (as Forrest Gump) narrates the story of his life to whoever happens to sit next to him on a park bench as he waits for a bus.
In a phone conversation from his home in Carmel, CA, Silvestri shared details about composing the movie’s wistful opening theme. “I wrote it in about 15 minutes,” Silvestri says. “But that’s not always how these things go. Bob [Zemeckis] asked me to come to his cutting room in Santa Barbara to see the opening sequence where a feather floats down from the sky. Then he said, ‘So the music just needs to be something that expresses the essentials of the entire film.’ He’s never shy about wanting it all! Bob is a great human being with a tremendous work ethic, and he makes everyone want to bring him their best game.”