By Brett Gillin
Sometimes, the old saying is true: Life imitates art. In the case of one young actor, who had countless doors opened for him when he scored a starring role in one of the most successful movies of all time, he chose an uncommon and unexpected path. He chose to serve his country rather than give in to the temptation to continue a Hollywood career. Now, 20 years after the film he starred in won six Academy Awards, Michael Humphreys doesn’t seem to have a single regret about his decision.
The Daily Mail recently caught up with Michael Conner Humphreys, the now 29-year-old man, who starred as the young Forrest Gump in the 1994 smash hit. Humphreys played the young Gump, leg braces and all, and performed in one of the film’s most iconic scenes where he ran from bullies as the braces fell off his feet. “Run Forrest Run,” became one of the most quotable moments from the film, and it’s certainly followed Humphreys around as well.
After the film was finished shooting and it began raking in the box office dollars and critical acclaim, it was time for the 1995 Academy Awards. The group that runs the award ceremony reached out to Humphreys’ family with a chance to buy tickets to the extravaganza, but they did not have enough money to spare. Instead, they stayed home and watched as Forrest Gump brought home six Oscars.
“The tickets were going to cost a lot of money, so we decided to just watch it on TV like everyone else. At the time I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go or not, but it would be a different situation now… But we did watch it at home and were glad that it received as many awards as it did,” Humphreys told The Daily Mail.
Although Humphreys missed his chance at attending the Oscar ceremony, his time on the set did shape his future. Only in a different way than you might expect. Rather than get caught up in the glitz and glam of the bright lights and people falling all over themselves to make you happy on the set, Humphreys was much more interested in the helicopters they were using to film the Vietnam scenes.
“Where we were filming was very close to Parris Island, the Marine Training Camp in South Carolina where all the helicopters that were used in the Vietnam scene came from. I would often tell the director and producers how cool I thought all the helicopters were and then one weekend they actually arranged for some of the Marine Corps to take me over to Parris Island and show me the fighter jets,” Humphreys told reporters. “I can honestly say that experience directly motivated me to join the military later.”
Humphreys did just that, serving four years in the U.S. Army as an infantry soldier. During his time, he served an 18 month tour of duty in Iraq, where he was harangued about his former profession and given the nickname ‘Gump.’
“When I joined the military I did my best to avoid being recognized or word getting out about the movie, but I think that lasted about two weeks before somebody figured it out.”
After his time in the Army, Humphreys finished off his reserve status and enrolled in college. As he rounds toward the end of his degree, Humphreys thinks that Hollywood might still be in the cards after all.
“I’ve been looking in to working in the entertainment field and often get people calling me about being in their movies. I think my combined experience of being in the movie, and serving in a war, and travelling overseas, and now studying International Relations, have all helped me understand the world a lot better.”