It’s one thing to have a key role in one of the most timeless American movies of all-time, but it’s a whole other thing to grow up and to some extent mirror the character your were playing, all while completely abandoning the glamorous lifestyle that would have undoubtedly followed the role.
But that’s exactly what Michael Conner Humphreys did.
In an interview with Daily Mail, Humphreys describes how his role as a young, leg-braced Forrest Gump has affected his life since, even after he took an entirely different life path by joining the Army–a decision he attributes to being fascinated by the helicopters and Marine captains on the movie set.
He even admits to being enthralled by the explosives used in his leg braces, set to detonate remotely as he shredded them while running from bullies in one of the most iconic scenes in American film history.
Instead of taking Hollywood up on a number of high-profile offers, he decided to sign up for military service.
Michael said: ‘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.’
Michael served four years in the U.S. Army as an infantry soldier, which included year and a half tour in Iraq. His nickname in the military was, of course, ‘Gump.’
The now 29-year-old revealed that he made attempts to avoid being recognized, but people have a way of digging things up.
‘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.
‘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 there 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.’
Humphreys is now 29 and lives in Independence, Mississippi, studying international relations in college. When reflecting back on his decision to join the military instead of becoming a potential movie star, Humphreys said he has “no regrets.”
A shot a Michael practicing for his role in what would become one of the most ‘Merican films ever made.