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What The Actor Who Played Young Forrest From Forrest Gump Looks Like Now

More than 25 years have passed since moviegoers first caught a glimpse of Michael Conner Humphreys playing a young Forrest Gump, in the heartfelt classic that launched a thousand catchphrases. And look, we're not going to talk about boxes of chocolate, but we do think it's worth noting that life for Humphreys has taken more than a few interesting turns since we first saw him falling in love with Jenny on the school bus. 

The path from child actor to functioning adult can be a perilous one. While some Hollywood kids successfully make the transition to grownup stars, others, like Humphreys, decide to forge a different path. For the actor who played young Forrest, that has meant a rather unexpected career choice, college, and a brief return to the movies. 

But before we get to all that, let's take a look back at Humphrey's role in a worldwide phenomenon — and director Robert Zemeckis' casting choice of a precocious eight-year-old non-actor from Alabama, who brought his deep southern accent to the role.

Unpacking the Forrest Gump phenomenon

If you weren't around in 1994, or are too young to remember the cultural force that was this quirky (and sometimes syrupy sweet, let's be honest) film, let us bring you up to speed. 

Forrest Gump was a smash at the box office, and it was an even bigger hit during awards season. The film was nominated for 13 Academy Awards and took home six (including Best Actor for Hanks, Best Picture, and Best Director). Forrest Gump's popularity continues today, with frequent rebroadcasts on TV and cable — thanks in part to its stellar cast of stars who are still working today. But Humphreys, beloved though he was on set, was not a member of Hollywood royalty. In fact, as he shared in a 2015 Daily Mail interview, his family was too poor to attend the Oscars ceremony. "As an eight-year-old I didn't mind, that's the perspective, I guess, of a child," he explained, adding, "But we did watch it at home and were glad that it received as many awards as it did." 

Though Humphreys may not have gone to the Academy Awards, he did get to have an experience on set that influenced the course of his life.

Young Forrest runs to join the army

Every fan of the film recalls that a pivotal plot point finds Forrest enlisting in the U.S. Army and being sent to fight in the Vietnam War. And while the young Humphreys version of Forrest never overlaps with this part of Forrest's journey, the real Humphreys recalls being enamored with the movie's Vietnam sequences.

According to a CBS interview (via Newsweek), Humphreys' decision to join the military in 2005 was motivated partly by his own family's military service, partly as a response to the continuing trauma from 9/11 – "I feel like there was a duty to go do it," he explained, as his reasoning, "Because it's just part of being the citizen of a country. That's what you gotta do." — and also partly influenced, intriguingly enough, by his time working on Forrest Gump in South Carolina as a young boy: during production, he was given the opportunity to check out the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, South Carolina, and it seems this experience left quite an impression. 

That's right. Just like the man he portrayed as a young boy, Humphreys went on to join the military. According to the Daily Herald, Humphreys joined the army in 2005 as an infantryman in a tank battalion, and he spent a year stationed in the Anbar Province of Iraq. 

Could the young Forrest make a return to Hollywood?

After his time in the Army, Humphreys went to college at the University of North Alabama, per the Daily Herald. It turns out though, that Hollywood wasn't quite finished with Humphreys. Later on, he won a role in 2011's Pathfinders: In the Company of Strangers, playing a part he was quite familiar with — a young guy in the military, sent on an incredibly dangerous mission. Humphreys' character, Eddie, is a paratrooper on a critical mission amid the horrors of D-Day

Though this was a far cry from the role he's most known for, there's little doubt Humphreys drew on his experiences in war to channel the fear Eddie must have felt. In a YouTube video from 2019, Humphreys talked candidly about the struggles he had as a vet returning from war, admitting at one point that he realized he had "never felt right" since he came back from Iraq. On the video, his trademark accent is still there (though perhaps a little more subtle than it was back when he starred in Forrest Gump) as he closes out the video on a note of hope, sharing that "If I can, I want to be a part of helping them find the right direction." It's an encouraging and full-circle message from someone who first inspired us more than 25 years ago.