Tom Hanks' Brother Played An Important Role In Forrest Gump (But You Probably Didn't Notice It)

In Robert Zemeckis' 1994 film "Forrest Gump," Tom Hanks plays Forrest, a good-hearted but low-intelligence rube who, thanks to impeccably constructed American institutions, stumbles repeatedly into athletic, financial, and military success. Forrest is friendly, strong, and hapless, happy to tell his life story to anyone who sits on the bus bench next to him. Hanks won an Academy Award for playing Forrest, and the film itself won four additional Oscars, including Best Picture. Years later, many had started to reappraise "Forrest Gump" for its treacly tone, its sentimentality, and its unabashed conservative bent. This author was in high school when "Forrest Gump" was released and recalls a teacher sagely pointing out that the title character's "innocence" was only perceived by audiences due to his wealth. Had Forrest's decisions led to financial ruin, his "innocence" would not be positively touted. 

But in 1994, "Forrest Gump" was the bee's knees, representing mainstream Hollywood filmmaking at its finest and most polished. Hanks certainly devoted himself to the role, and he was rewarded with his second Best Actor Oscar in as many years (in 1993, he won for his role in Jonathan Demme's "Philadelphia").

Among Forrest's many successes was his ability to run fast. As a child, he walked with braces on his legs. He eventually healed to the point of possessing near-superhuman speed and stamina, and he quickly became a high school football star. Later in the film, Forrest would enter a Zen-like period wherein he would run from coast to coast multiple times, just to clear his head. 

Hanks, it seems, has a very peculiar run that no stand-in was able to replicate during the many "Forrest Gump" running scenes. No stand-in, that is, except for Hanks' own brother Jim Hanks, profiled in a 1995 issue of People Magazine.

Jim Hanks

Jim Hanks, Tom's brother, has also acted in numerous films, although his career doesn't match in terms of volume or acclaim. As of this writing, Jim Hanks has received no Academy Award nominations. Immediately prior to "Forrest Gump," Jim Hanks made his feature film debut in Mark Pirro's low-budget sex farce "Buford's Beach Bunnies." In that film, Hanks plays Jeeter Buford, a sex-averse rube who will only be able to inherit his rich father's company if he copulates. Jeeter's father offers $100,000 to the first woman who can seduce him. The film features characters with names like Beula Lugosi, Boopsie Underall, Dr. Van Horney, Amber Dextrous, and The Amazing Foreskin. Having not seen the film, I can only assume it's presented in good taste. Jim Hanks would also play a character named Buford in a 2008 horror film called "Deadwater."

Jim Hanks also, being Tom's brother, possessed a similar voice, face, and gait. The latter was of particular interest to the makers of "Forrest Gump," who required a "running stand-in" for Hanks. It seems no other actors could quite nail the Hanks brothers' peculiar running style. As Jim himself said in People: "Tom had other doubles, but they couldn't do the run. [...] That's a stupid Hanks thing." It's worth noting that Jim and Tom did not grow up together, as Jim stayed with his mom after his parents got divorced, and Tom went to live with his dad. They eventually started interacting more after "Forrest Gump."

On a 1995 episode of "A Current Affair," it was posited that Jim and Tom shared a lot of physical mannerisms between Forrest Gump and Jeeter Buford, and that Tom either took notes or, more likely, perhaps just had a particular way of moving that neither brother could avoid.

More Jim Hanks

The stupid Hanks thing also extended to the brothers' matched voices. While Tom played Woody the cowboy in the "Toy Story" feature films and shorts, it was Jim who would step in to play the part in ancillary "Toy Story" media, like straight-to-video shorts and video games. Jim played Woody in "Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The First Year," as well as 1996's "Toy Story Treats," and no fewer than 16 video games. He also played the roles Tom portrayed in the game version of Zemeckis' "The Polar Express."

Jim's career standing in for his brother, of course, was a mere fluke of genetics. His brother became famous and celebrated, and Jim was there to pick up extra acting work the studios needed. In the People article, Jim was pragmatic, saying "I know why I'm getting publicity [...] But it's not my fault who I'm related to." 

Jim Hanks has continued to get acting work outside of Tom-related projects as well. He has appeared on hit sitcoms like "Sabrina: The Teenage Witch," "Smart Guy," and "Scrubs." The latter was a Tom Hanks joke, however, in that he played a character named Dr. Turner and was paired with a character named Hooch. "Turner & Hooch" was a 1989 Tom Hanks film wherein he starred opposite a large, messy dog. He also showed up on two episodes of "JAG," and played voice roles in "Milo Murphy's Law" and "Goldie & Bear." Jim has also sat in the director's chair numerous times, having made six short films from 2008 to 2014. His 2010 film "Collision" can be found online

Jim currently runs his own film studio, Feet First Films, that helps up-and-coming shorts directors get their films made. He seems to be doing well for himself.