THE words “Run, Forrest, run” launched his career and made him the hottest child star on the planet.
But after shunning big-money movie offers to remain at school then fulfil a dream of joining the US army, Michael Humphreys, who played the young Forrest Gump in the Oscar-winning film, is eyeing a comeback.
Exactly 25 years since shattering those leg braces running away from bullies, Michael, now 34, spoke to The Sun from his home in Portland, Oregon, about his decision to step away from the limelight.
He said: “I’m not sure I would have wanted to be a child star — it doesn’t always seem to turn out that well for a lot of them.
“I reckon I am right, looking at some of them today.
“I don’t think Hollywood is a healthy lifestyle for kids and you do not have a childhood or mature quickly. I was much better off going the route I did.”
Now back on the acting scene after time serving in the military, Michael has his sights set on a part in a future James Bond film.
He said: “I have a degree in international relations so doing something in a spy genre would be of interest, and obviously being a Bond villain would be cool.
“Some people think I look like Tom Hiddleston, and he is tipped to be the new Bond. That could be interesting. I am wide open for most things.”
Michael accepts lead roles are some way off following his extensive break and he is happy to learn his trade by attending acting classes — something he never did before Forrest Gump.
He was plucked from obscurity to play Forrest after attending a casting call for a “a young Tom Hanks with light eyes and a quirky disposition”.
Tom, who won a Best Actor Oscar for the role, took the bumbling, big-hearted character through adulthood, as he appeared at significant moments in US culture and delivered memorable lines including: “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know which one you’re gonna get.”
Michael’s thick southern drawl was Tom’s inspiration for Forrest’s accent in the film, which also starred Robin Wright as love interest Jenny.
Looking back at those times, Michael insists he does not regret turning down other films on the back of Forrest Gump’s box office success.
A major factor behind his decision to stay in school was his parents who — unlike many who guide the acting careers of their kids — were not pushy despite the huge sums of money on offer.
Michael said: “Back then, my parents just let me decide for myself what I wanted to do next and they never pushed me to pursue other acting roles.
“I honestly think that was a good thing, as I never thought of Hollywood as anything glamorous or fame as something I wanted to chase. It was the opposite.
“I loved my home and was just interested in having fun and playing with my friends, especially as I liked school.
“Offers came in but I really wasn’t that concerned with trying to pick up more roles after that.
“The Brady Bunch movie is one I turned down and our family had no intention of moving to LA full-time either.
“I was a kid and did not have the mentality of a Hollywood actor, being self-centred about making it above anything.”
Single Michael lives on his own in a Spanish-style blue-fronted house in the centre of Portland.
He spends his free time hiking and loves being “so close to the metropolis with access to the amazing landscape”.
Like Forrest, Michael saw active service in the US army, where he was nicknamed “Gump”, discovered a personal link to Elvis Presley and developed a passion for running.
While in the army, he was stationed at the same camp in Germany as Elvis in the late Fifties. Michael says: “It’s funny how many connections to Forrest’s life have popped up in mine. Is it destiny? Something kept making those coincidences happen.”
Michael kickstarted his education at college, choosing to study international relations in East Asia. Graduating with a degree, he now spends the early hours of the day teaching English to Chinese students online.
Michael said: “It’s full-time work. The only catch is that their 7pm is my 4am, so it’s basically a graveyard shift. But it’s also very flexible.
“I’ve been pursuing acting during the day, so the flexibility has given me time to take acting classes and do theatre, and all that sort of stuff, which is great because there is a big theatre scene in Portland.”
Michael received no royalties for Forrest Gump, despite it making a total of £530million worldwide.
He compares his fee for the role to an annual salary “for an average American” and is keen to point out he did not make millions.
Earning a considerable wage from the film may have made up for the flak he has received in later life for playing a young Forrest.
He is dismissive of “ignorant people” who blurt out “Run, Forrest, run!”, adding he “doesn’t get that from nice, intelligent people”.
His army drill sergeants were particularly brutal, drawing comparisons to the adult Forrest who also joins the military and becomes a war hero while serving in Vietnam. Michael said: “When I joined up I did my best to avoid being recognised or word getting out about the movie, but that lasted about two weeks.
“I definitely got a lot of it in the ear after that and the drill sergeants would really mess with me about it.
“It got aggravating for a little while, but in a lot of ways it was all part of the basic training and definitely got me to where they want you to be.”
Yet Michael also received plenty of respect for his military ties, saying: “I’ve been surprised over the years about how much respect I’ve got for choosing the army over Hollywood.”
Despite the mocking, he looks back fondly at the film, which marks its 25th anniversary in the US on July 6.
Michael believes that while Forrest Gump was successful in the Nineties, film bosses would struggle to make the same feel-good movie in 2019, owing to the current political climate.
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He said: “I think the lead character’s innocence may not work if you tried translating it into the modern world. There’s so much polarisation and anger about world events and domestic events now.
“I would find it hard to imagine somebody putting that character in the current situation and the viewer just being like, ‘Oh, that was funny.’
“Somebody would try to inject too much of their own views into it, which is what happens now.
“The polarised view couldn’t just watch Forrest accidentally meet the President so-and-so. It’s cute, but it just wouldn’t be believable now.
“If that happened, people would think that guy was an a**hole.”
Where are cast now?
LIEUTENANT DAN (Gary Sinise):
Moody army lieutenant who Forrest saves in Vietnam. Actor Gary has since starred alongside Tom Hanks in hit films Apollo 13 and The Green Mile. Also appeared in the TV series CSI: New York.
JENNY CURRAN (Robin Wright):
The love of Forrest’s life. Robin has featured in recent big box office movies Wonder Woman and Blade Runner 2049, plus Netflix series House Of Cards.
BUBBA (Mykelti Williamson):
Forrest’s shrimp-loving best pal who dies in Vietnam. Mykelti starred in huge TV series 24 and Nashville, while also reuniting with Gary in CSI: New York.
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