It was two decades ago that “Forrest Gump" first hit theaters, winning six Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Tom Hanks and Best Director for Robert Zemeckis. But the former child actor who played the role of young Forrest in leg braces couldn’t afford to go to the Oscars at the time.
Michael Conner Humphreys’ parents were offered the chance to buy tickets to the Hollywood event, but were unable to find money, so they had to watch the show at home on TV.
Just days before this year’s Academy Awards, Humphreys recalls the experience in an interview with the Daily Mail.
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“I was eight when this all went down, but my parents were asked if they wanted to buy an Oscar ticket and they couldn’t afford it,” he said. “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. I would try and go. As an eight-year-old I didn’t mind, that’s the perspective, I guess, of a child.”
Twenty years later, Humphreys isn’t angry or unhappy about missing out on his chance to go to the biggest awards night in Hollywood, as he did get to travel the world and help promote the movie overseas. He also managed to attend the BAFTAs (the British equivalent of the Oscars). In fact, Humphreys won the equivalent of the Japanese and German Oscar for his role in the movie.
He ended up leaving Hollywood behind and decided to enlist for military service, just like the character he played as a kid. Humphreys served four years in the U.S. Army as an infantry soldier, which included an 18-month tour of duty in Iraq. As expected, his nickname in the military was “Gump.”
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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. I remember we weren't allowed to take photos of the F18s and all that stuff. It was basically all the stuff that regular kids my age would never have got the opportunity to do, and I can honestly say that experience directly motivated me to join the military later. It was definitely one of the little perks of working on the movie. The Marine captain who flew the jet in the movie, had just got back from the Gulf War and I still have the patches from his shoulders, which he kindly gave to me. I have never had any regrets about joining the military and I think, compared to some people, I was quite well prepared for it as many of my family members have served in the military over the years. I also got stationed in Germany, which was a big perk for me, as I'd always wanted to be stationed in Europe. 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.
According to E! Online, Humphreys, now 29, returned to acting briefly playing a soldier in the independent film “Pathfinders: In the Company of Strangers.”
He says he’s not sure what’s next for him as he is currently enrolled at the University of North Alabama, studying international relations after finishing serving a year in Iraq. Humphreys may make a comeback in the film industry and says he’s already on standby for a few movie projects.