Forrest Gump author Winston Groom passes away aged 77 in hometown Alabama

A journalist and noted author, Winston Groom wrote 16 books across fiction and nonfiction.

The Associated Press September 18, 2020 10:43:38 IST
Forrest Gump author Winston Groom passes away aged 77 in hometown Alabama

Winston Groom. Image from Andrew Wardlow/News Herald via AP

Winston Groom, the writer whose novel Forrest Gump was made into a six-Oscar winning 1994 movie that became a soaring pop-cultural phenomenon, has died at age 77.

Mayor Karin Wilson of Fairhope, Alabama, said in a message on social media that Groom had died in that south Alabama town. A local funeral home also confirmed the death and said arrangements were pending.

“While he will be remembered for creating Forrest Gump, Winston Groom was a talented journalist and noted author of American history. Our hearts & prayers are extended to his family,” Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said in a statement.

Forrest Gump was the improbable tale of a slow-witted but mathematically gifted man who was a participant or witness to key points of 20th Century history — from Alabama segregationist Governor George Wallace’s “stand at the schoolhouse door,” to meetings with presidents.

It was the best-known book by Groom, who grew up in Mobile, Alabama, and graduated from the University of Alabama in 1965, according to a biography posted by the university.

Groom served in the Army’s Fourth Infantry Division from 1965 to 1969, the university said. His service included a tour in Vietnam — one of the settings for Forrest Gump.

He wrote 16 books, fiction, and nonfiction. One, Conversations with the Enemy, about an American prisoner of war in Vietnam accused of collaboration, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, according to the university.

It was Forrest Gump — and the success of the 1994 movie starring Tom Hanks in the iconic role of Gump, as well as Sally Field and Gary Sinise — that earned him widespread fame and some financial success.

The novel is considerably different from the film. Don Noble, University of Alabama professor emeritus of English, and a 40-year friend of Groom’s told The Tuscaloosa News that the novel was “darker” and “richer” than the movie.

“You can make a lot of money as a comic writer, but you can’t get no respect,” Noble said. “But Forrest Gump is really actually quite a fine novel. It’s more subtle and more complicated ... richer than the movie.”

The movie, which also starred Robin Wright and Mykelti Williamson, became deeply embedded in the American psyche and has remained an enduring television staple and huge cultural phenomenon since.

“It touched a nerve,” Groom told the Tuscaloosa News in 2014.

The film dominated the 1995 Academy Awards, winning six Oscars including best picture, best director for Robert Zemeckis, and best actor for Hanks.

It was 1994’s No. 2 grossing film at the box office, second only to The Lion King.

The basic outlines of Gump’s life are the same as they are in the book: Gump plays football under Paul “Bear” Bryant at the University of Alabama, serves in Vietnam, and starts a major shrimp business.

But the film made major departures. Gump was not a math savant as he was in the book, and was a more saintly soul. The film took away Gump’s size — Groom said he envisioned John Goodman playing him — along with his profanity, and most of his sex life.

They “took some of the rough edges off,” Groom told the New York Times in 1994.

Groom also wrote non-fiction on diverse subjects including the Civil War, World War I, and Alabama’s Crimson Tide football.

In 2005, Groom released 1942: The Year That Tried Men’s Souls, which chronicled the first year of US involvement in World War II.

In 2009 he released Vicksburg 1863, an account of the Union siege that brought a novelist’s touch to historical figures like Ulysses S Grant, William T Sherman, and Jefferson Davis, president of the confederacy.

His most recent novel, El Paso, was published in 2016.

Groom got $350,000 for the rights to Forrest Gump plus 3 percent of the net profit of the movie. But he got into a serious dispute with Paramount Pictures when they told him a film that had earned over $600 million was in the red after expenses.

But years later he wasn’t bitter.

“They did an excellent job,” he told the Tuscaloosa News. “I would have probably preferred my version of it, but that thing never would have opened.”

The book became a major best-seller in the wake of the film, and Groom got a much better deal for the follow-up novel, 1995’s Gump and Co.

“I’m happy as a pig in sunshine,” he told the Mobile Register.

Nonetheless, sequel-addicted Hollywood somehow never made the new movie.

Updated Date:

also read

'A whip, and then a loud pop': A timeline of events leading to Alec Baldwin fatally shooting Rust cinematographer
Entertainment

'A whip, and then a loud pop': A timeline of events leading to Alec Baldwin fatally shooting Rust cinematographer

"By sundown, the cinematographer of the film was dead, the director injured, and star actor Alec Baldwin distraught over having accidentally shot them both": a picture of the day emerges through affidavits.

Authorities to present initial findings in Alec Baldwin's fatal prop gun case today
Entertainment

Authorities to present initial findings in Alec Baldwin's fatal prop gun case today

Scheduled for 27 October, the news conference by Santa Fe County Sheriff and District Attorney promises the first detailed public comments by investigators about the killing of 42-year-old Halyna Hutchins during an on-set rehearsal at New Mexico

Warner Bros greenlights Dune sequel; film likely to have theatres-only release in 2023
Entertainment

Warner Bros greenlights Dune sequel; film likely to have theatres-only release in 2023

“This is only the beginning,” said Denis Villeneuve in a statement on Dune: Part II announcement