Being a history buff and a wannabe archaeologist, at least for a few days, time travel and alternate history were food for my thoughts. Thanks to Cody from AlternateHistoryHub, I learned the possibilities of speculating about the ‘what ifs’ of history. As a pop culture fan, I found a number of situations where the idea of alternate history could be applied, most importantly the casting. No one can predict how a movie role will turn out. It might be iconic, or it might be a blemish on an actor's resume. Some actors accept them bravely, while others reject them wisely. Each of those instances leads to different timeline, with astonishingly diverse events. As the first edition of ‘The Other Movie’, I’m taking the classic example of John Travolta’s decision to drop his Forrest Gump offer, which he personally noted as a stupid decision in recent days. Let’s see what could’ve happened if John Travolta accepted the title role of Forrest Gump. A quick reminder, it’s only a speculation considering the available data, and I’m not a guru to predict what could have been...
1994: The year of Hollywood
1994 is the year movie buffs remember as one of the most successful years in the history of Hollywood. The blockbuster releases including Forrest Gump, Pulp Fiction and Lion King make it a perfect year to be at theaters. The Shawshank Redemption, even though it was initially a box-office failure, released that year too. Among these successful movies, Pulp Fiction won the Palm d’Or at Cannes and Forrest Gump won the majority of the Oscars. As a classic movie fan, I value Cannes more than Oscars, and to be an integral part of a movie like Pulp Fiction is an honor. But, for the actor John Travolta, his whole career would’ve been a different one, if he had made a different decision.
The Ruthless Gangster Vs The Lovable Goof
The 1995 Oscars had some controversial results regarding the best picture awards, where the Academy chose the touching family drama, over an explosively narrated masterpiece. Still, the best actor award was a unanimous one, even with a huge impact made by Travolta’s Vincent Vega. Tom Hanks won his second consecutive best actor Oscar with his brilliantly enjoyable portrayal of Forrest Gump. Like it or not, The Academy loved the goof over gangster, and so did the audience. It’s rather depressing to know that Travolta was initially offered the role by Zemeckis and he turned it away.
Travolta proved himself to be a diverse actor through the years, with roles ranging from comic to drama, and he sure does have an impressive resume. Still, Travolta maintained the image of an action star with movies like Face/Off and Broken Arrow. It might’ve been the ripple effect of Vincent Vega, but either way, he ended up being type-cast in such roles. His further attempts to solidify his bad-ass image led to his own production, the disastrous Battlefield Earth.
Nearly bankrupting him, Battlefield Earth earned a reputation as one of the worst movies ever made. Since then, Travolta’s attempts were concentrated on low-budget action flicks, rather than a promising endeavor.
What if ?...
But what if Forrest Gump wasn’t the star-making role for Tom Hanks and that credit went to Big and his previous best actor winning venture Philadelphia. Still, Forrest Gump influenced his career by making him a household name and leading him to future projects with Zemeckis like Cast Away. It is clear that with or without, Tom Hanks would have eventually been an A-lister. That being said, what Gump could’ve done to Travolta was far more than an Academy award. There was no doubt about how successful Forrest Gump could’ve been, considering the heartwarming subject and genius script. Even if Travolta couldn’t catch up with Hank’s presentation, Forrest Gump could’ve made him the star.
Forrest Gump could’ve made John Travolta the family’s choice. He thrilled the youth with Grease and Saturday Night Live and a transition to a family friendly actor was inevitable for such a career. I’m not saying Vega ruined his career, in fact it is one of the best he had ever done. Still, Vega forced Travolta to follow a different career path, eventually making him hop between villain and action star roles. If he had done Forrest Gump, things could’ve been entirely different. Zemeckis could’ve used him in more of his ventures. In a few years, Travolta could’ve changed gears for some character roles; still it wouldn’t have hurt his career.
I wouldn't trade my career with anybody's. I'd trade a few movies with Tom Hanks - 'Apollo 13' and 'Forrest Gump' - but other than that, I love my career.
Travolta loves his career and so do we. It’s not an easy task to be someone in front of a camera and it’s a gift. Throughout the years, Travolta thrilled us with a number of brilliant performances and those roles made Travolta who he is. Irrespective of Forrest Gump, Travolta still remains one of the best actors in the industry and it is not a small feat. For us, he will remain as Vincent Vega, Sean Archer, Danny and many more. No TARDIS or DeLorean can undo that…