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Film

The classic actor who secretly voiced Elvis Presley in 'Forrest Gump'

One of the 1990s most quoted movies, Forrest Gump, directed by Robert Zemeckis, features a star-studded line-up of actors. Of course, Forrest is played by Tom Hanks, platoon leader Lieutenant Dan Taylor is portrayed by Gary Sinise, and Forrest’s eventual wife Jenny is played by Robin Wright. However, one major Hollywood star was also part of the film’s cast, yet never appeared on the credits.

The uncredited actor was none other than Kurt Russell, who lent his voice to the role of Elvis Presley, although the man we see portraying the rock ‘n’ roll star is actually Peter Dobson. In the film, the disabled protagonist Forrest recounts significant moments in his life. A flashback to Forrest as a child shows the protagonist fitted with leg braces in an attempt to fix his curved spine. Meanwhile, Forrest’s mother has turned their home into a boarding house that attracts a legion of tenants.

One of these tenants is the ‘king of rock ‘n’ roll’ Elvis Presley, who is seen playing his guitar for Forrest. The young boy dances around his room as the future star performs for him, however, his leg braces affect his ability to move, resulting in a jerky style of dancing. Forrest describes how one night he and his mother were shopping and spotted a performance of Elvis being played from a television set in a store window. Forrest is amazed that Elvis is dancing with the same jerky leg movements as him – clearly, the star was inspired by his interaction with the young boy.

However, that’s not the only thing that Forrest comes to influence. A love for ping-pong results in the protagonist becoming a sports celebrity, leading him to earn an interview on The Dick Cavett Show. He is sat beside the Beatles’ John Lennon, subsequently inspiring the musician to write his famous hit ‘Imagine’.

In an interview with GQ, Kurt Russell is asked about Forrest Gump, whose director Robert Zemeckis had previously worked with Russell on the satirical black comedy film Used Cars from 1980. The actor states that he agreed to voice Elvis after Zemeckis was unhappy with Peter Dobson’s portrayal of the star. Russell said: “He didn’t like what it was and said, ‘I need something real bad.’ I didn’t know if, to be honest with you, Bob was doing it on the sly. In other words, the actor didn’t know”.

Despite Russell’s legendary status in Hollywood, Forrest Gump was, for a long time, his biggest film role, despite going uncredited for it. By 1995, Forrest Gump had grossed $329.7 million from theatre runs alone, at that time, the third highest-grossing film of all time. The film even won six Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Since then, Kurt Russell has gone on to star in more massive features, including Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 and a number of Quentin Tarantino pictures, such as The Hateful Eight and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. However, Forrest Gump was not Russell’s first run-in with Elvis. His first ever film role was in It Happened at the World’s Fair aged just 12. His role, also uncredited, was of a young boy who kicks a pilot in the leg, and of course, that pilot was played by Elvis Presley.

Furthermore, in 1979, Kurt Russell bagged the leading role in John Carpenter’s made-for-television biographical movie Elvis, which was his first-ever television performance. Although the country singer Ronnie McDowell provided vocals, Russell won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie for his role as Mr. Presley. This performance undoubtedly led to Zemeckis choosing Russell to voice Elvis in Forrest Gump, however, it is safe to say that the well-established actor will probably never go uncredited again.