‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, ‘The Godfather’, ‘The Exorcist’, ‘Harry Potter’, ‘Fight Club’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’ are all equally famous in print and on celluloid. Still, you wouldn’t put “Forrest Gump” on this list, because the book of the same name it’s based on isn’t nearly as famous as the movie. According to The New York Times, author Winston Groom had only one legitimate complaint about the film and that was the lack of readers picking up his 1986 novel for the first time. “Where were you eight years ago? It’s the same fucking book,” exclaimed Groom. Prior to the film, the book was still selling 30,000 hardback copies. However, after Hollywood sprinkled its magic dust, it took off into the stratosphere and sold millions.
The author got the idea for the book after his father told him a story from his childhood about a boy pianist who was not as quick-witted as everyone else. Groom then watched a documentary about savant syndrome and the seeds of “Forrest Gump” were born. The novel was done and dusted off in six weeks. Groom explained, “It just wrote itself. It’s almost like the lizard part of my brain kicked into high gear… It’s never gonna happen to me again.” The novel is darker and much more complex than the film, and a marijuana-smoking Gump adds the astronaut and chess grandmaster to his portfolio of accomplishments.
Still, while there are many differences between the book and the film, Groom pointed out, “They kept the character pretty much as I intended. To me, it’s a story about human dignity. and the fact that you don’t have to be smart or rich to maintain your dignity even when pretty undignified things are happening all around you.”