The real reason we never got to see a Forrest Gump sequel

By all accounts, the success of Forrest Gump was a major fluke. It was adapted from a novel that was far from friendly to a general audience, and the project had to be passionately shepherded for over a decade by producer Wendy Finerman. Her long bet paid off when the film earned almost $700 million worldwide—a number that, in Hollywood, almost always guarantees a sequel. There was a follow-up novel, Gump & Co., already written and ready to adapt, so why didn't Hollywood double down on what seemed like a sure thing? 

Tom Hanks never wanted to do it

Tom Hanks famously eschewed sequels until Pixar backed a dumptruck of cash into his driveway and persuaded him to return for Toy Story 2. But in the case of Forrest Gump, Hanks claims he never considered a sequel for a second. Not for Jenn-ay, or a hot new pair of Nikes, or all the boxes of chocolates in the world. He even went so far as to tell Entertainment Weekly that Forrest's famous catchphrase "'Stupid is' makes me kind of sick," and that a sequel would "ruin what we had done." That's bridge-burning language if there ever was any.

But none of this is to say Hanks dislikes the film or has any regrets as it did, after all, earn him the second of his back-to-back Best Actor Oscar Awards. In his Reddit AMA, he described how he was brought to tears during the scene where Lt. Dan walks on his prosthetic legs, and he was so fired up about the script, he described himself as "absolutely bent" after reading it, according to Turner Classic Movies. So, his 'hard no' towards a sequel seems to be entirely hinged on an effort to leave well enough alone, which is a lesson many Hollywood executives—particularly anyone involved with Blues Brothers 2000—could stand to learn.

Rumored feud between Winston Groom and Paramount

Winston Groom, the author of the Forrest Gump novel that inspired the film, was famously left fuming by his licensing agreement with Paramount Pictures, a "net points" deal in which Paramount didn't have to pay him any back-end profits until they recouped all of their costs. This resulted in some perceived financial chicanery by the studio, who claimed they were still in the hole after hundreds of millions in grosses. Not surprisingly, Groom sued. They eventually settled and even purchased the rights to Gump & Co., Groom's follow-up novel, for an unspecified amount rumored to be somewhere between $1 million and $4 million. Groom even got himself a "gross points" deal, like Hanks and director Robert Zemeckis had for the first Gump, which means he'd start making money as soon as the box office receipts rolled in. That deal might seem like an obvious sign of the studio's intentions to move forward with a sequel, but a Gump & Co. movie would have to surpass its predecessor, a feat that belated sequels to classic films rarely accomplish. 

The follow up book, Gump & Co., was bananas

If you thought it was outlandish how many times Forrest Gump accidentally stumbled into moments of grand historical significance the first time around, that was nothing compared to what he gets up to in Gump & Co. Set in the '80s and '90s, this novel sees Forrest getting involved with the Iran-Contra affair, accidentally taking out the Berlin Wall, and crashing the Exxon Valdez. Kind of makes the scene where he flashes his butt to LBJ seem quaint by comparison, right? And sure, the filmmakers would obviously adapt the material into a more screen-friendly narrative, but how would they handle the self-referential commentary which places the original film into the second book, and a sequence in which the character of Forrest Gump actually meets Tom Hanks? That's some pretty meta stuff right there, not to mention the fact that Gump & Co. literally opens with derogatory language about never letting anyone make a movie about your life story, whether they get it right or wrong. Not sure how the studio and the author would get on the same page about that one.

Robert Zemeckis wouldn't have been able to make the movie he wanted

In an interview with Den of Geek, director Robert Zemeckis discussed, among other things, the state of modern filmmaking. In reference to Forrest Gump, which was released in 1994, he agreed that he knew he was making a movie fueled by baby boomer nostalgia, and that the film was lucky to strike a chord with so many other viewers. These days, he argued, a movie has to appeal to such a broad audience that "it can't be about anything." Forrest Gump was about a simple man who stuck to his simple principles, which guided him through some very turbulent times. It wasn't in any way the traditional movie narrative, in which a character moves through a story, experiences adversity, and comes through changed, having learned some kind of moral. Forrest was basically Forrest from fadein to fadeout, and a sequel would have been more of the same, leaving no real reason to film it. Remember, Zemeckis is the guy who told The Telegraph any sequels, prequels, or reboots to his Back to the Future franchise will be impossible until after he's dead.

9/11

Screenwriter Eric Roth told Slashfilm that he put his finished screenplay for the Forrest Gump sequel in the mail on September 10, 2001. Overnight, America fundamentally changed, and suddenly the idea of a half-wit stumbling his way through wars and other crises didn't seem as entertaining. But Roth actually did sit down with Hanks and Zemeckis, despite the fact that both had publicly expressed little or no interest in a sequel, and their conclusion was "we don't think this is relevant anymore." Interestingly, some of the harshest criticism of the original Forrest Gump echoed this exact sentiment. In a scathing column about the celebrations surrounding Forrest Gump's 20th anniversary, L.A. Weekly critic Amy Nicholson argued that as Forrest fails his way to winning at life, war and personal tragedy literally destroy everyone around him. How that ever translated into a light-hearted romp through modern history is kind of incredible, and the odds of pulling it off again in a post-9/11 world are nearly nonexistent.