FAIRHOPE, Ala. (AP) – Winston Groom, whose novel “Forrest Gump” was turned into a 1994 film that won six Oscar and became a hugely popular cultural phenomenon, has passed away at the age of 77.
Mayor Karin Wilson of Fairhope, Alabama, said in a social media post that Groom had died in that southern Alabama town. A local funeral home also confirmed the death, saying the arrangements were pending.
While he will be remembered for making Forrest Gump, Winston Groom was a talented journalist and a well-known author of American history. Our hearts and prayers are extended to his family, ”Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said in a statement.
“Forrest Gump” was the unlikely tale of a sluggish man who participated in or witnessed key points in 20th century history – from the Alabama “booth at the door of the schoolhouse,” from segregationist governor George Wallace to meetings with presidents.
Groom grew up in Mobile, Alabama, and graduated from the University of Alabama in 1965, according to a biography of the university. He served in the Army’s Fourth Infantry Division from 1965 to 1969, the university said.
His service included a tour of Vietnam – one of many settings for ‘Forrest Gump’.
He has written 16 books, fiction and non-fiction. 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 film starring Tom Hanks, Sally Field and Gary Sinise – that brought him great fame and some financial success.
The novel differs significantly from the movie. Don Noble, professor emeritus of English at the University of Alabama and a 40-year-old 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 book artist, but you don’t get any respect,” said Noble. “But ‘Forrest Gump’ is actually quite a beautiful novel. It’s more subtle and complicated … richer than the movie. “
The film, which also starred Robin Wright and Mykelti Williamson, became deeply entrenched in the American psyche and has remained a television staple and a huge cultural phenomenon ever since.
“It hit 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 the No. 2 movie at the box office in 1994, second only to ‘The Lion King’.
The basics of Gump’s life are the same as in the book: Gump plays football under the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant at the University of Alabama, serves in Vietnam, starts a large shrimp business.
But the film made significant deviations. Gump was not a math savant like he was in the book, and was a more sacred soul. The movie took Gump’s mate – Groom said he imagined John Goodman playing him – his blasphemy and most of his sex life.
They “took some of the rough edges off,” Groom told the New York Times in 1994.
In addition to novels, Groom wrote numerous non-fiction works on a thedailynewsbox of topics, including the Civil War, World War I, and football in Alabama’s Crimson Tide.
In 2005, Groom released 1942: The Year That Tried Men’s Souls, which described the first year of American involvement in World War II.
In 2009 he also released “Vicksburg 1863,” an account of the siege of the Union that gave historical figures such as Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman and Jefferson Davis, the president of the confederation, touches of novels.
His most recent novel, El Paso, was published in 2016.