Filmmaker Barry Sonnenfeld ‘Took a Long Time’ To Make Peace with Decision To Turn Down ‘Forrest Gump’

by Matthew Memrick

Film director Barry Sonnenfeld said he took “a long time” to make peace with his decision not to make the film “Forrest Gump.”

The Tom Hanks film won six Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Hanks), Best Adapted Screen Play, Best Visual Effects, and Best Film Editing. It also picked up many nominations before earning a worldwide box office take of $679,838,260, according to the box office earnings website The Numbers. Robert Zemeckis directed the film version of Winston Groom’s book.

Sonnenfeld went on to have successes with “Men In Black,” “Wild Wild West,” and “Get Shorty.” He also directed “The Addams Family.” 

“It was not the movie I would have made,” Sonnenfeld told Variety recently. “Maybe mine would have been worse. Maybe it would have been better.”

He also said his “Forrest Gump” version would have been shorter. Zemeckis put together a two-hour, 22-minute film masterpiece. 

The director watched it after years of putting off the film and soon found peace after his decision.

The Decision To Pass on ‘Forrest Gump’

Sonnenfeld was hot off the success of 1991’s “Addams Family.” The movie, which starred the late Raul Julia and Angelica Huston, made $200,612,027 in worldwide box office money.

The director said he wanted to stick Paramount Pictures if they had big plans for any sequel.

A movie producer sent him the “Forrest Gump” book, and he hated it. Sonnefeld told Variety he hated eight scripts of the movie.

Sonnenfeld wanted to change the plot. But he sent it to Hanks. The two did the 1988 film “Big” together, and Hanks loved the Gump script. Hanks signed on and then, Paramount said the “Addams Family Values” sequel was on.

The director chose the sequel, and the rest is history.

Almost Director Recalls Watching ‘Forrest Gump’

Years later, a chance meeting at actor Danny DeVito’s Christmas Party gave Sonnenfeld the chance to watch the movie.

Sonnenfeld, who admitted he couldn’t see the film after its success and his emotions over passing on it, talked with another director.

“Midnight Run” director Marty Brest talked about his experiences of getting fired or quitting productions that went on to find massive success. Brest jumped ship on the Tom Cruise flick “Rain Man.” During 1983’s “WarGames,” producers fired Brest. Finally, Brest lost Hollywood’s interest altogether after his 2003 box office bomb “Gigli.”  

Sonnenfeld thought Brest would know about his “Forrest Gump” experience.

“I went to him, and he looked at the time like a rabbi, and in a rabbinical way, he said, “have you seen the movie?” I said, “no, I can’t.” 

Brest demanded that Sonnenfeld watch the movie so that “only then can the healing begin.”

Sonnenfeld rented the movie, watched it, and admitted to feeling “clear of it.”

He credits Brest for making him face his emotions.