The actor who played young Forrest Gump served in Iraq
Forrest Gump is a modern classic film, depicting the latter half of 20th century American history through the eyes of a slow but kindhearted man. Based on the book of the same name, the titular character has a distinct, deep southern accent. Tom Hanks, who played Gump through his teenage years and into adulthood, based the accent on Michael Conner Humphreys, the actor who played young Gump. Like Gump, Humphreys later joined the Army and served overseas.
Humphreys was born in the small town of Independence, Mississippi in 1985. In 1993, he attended the open casting call in Memphis, Tennessee for the part of young Gump. The casting team were taken with his accent and he landed the part. Hanks recorded hours of conversations with Humphreys that he listened to and copied for his own portrayal of Gump.
Forrest Gump hit theaters on July 6, 1994 and was immensely popular. The film won six Academy Awards and received seven other Oscar nominations. For his role in Forrest Gump, Humphreys was nominated for a Young Artists Award for Best Performance by a Young Actor Co-Starring in a Motion Picture. Despite his success, Humphreys only went on to perform in high school productions and had an uncredited TV role. Instead of Hollywood, he felt called to the Army.
In November 2004, after graduating from high school and motivated by the 9/11 attacks, Humphreys enlisted in the U.S. Army. "I feel like there was a duty to go do it," he told CBS. "Because it's just part of being the citizen of a country. That's what you gotta do." Humphreys completed basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia as an infantryman. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment and completed an 18-month-tour in Anbar Province, Iraq.
"It was a good experience, and you saw a lot of bad things, a lot people got hurt over there," Humphreys recounted to the Houston Chronicle. "There was definitely a lot of violence. I just hope that we did some good. In the end, I learned a lot and I hope it made me a better person." Humphreys told CBS that, during his time in the Army, he received nicknames like "Gump," "Gumpy," and "Gumphreys" from his battle buddies; light-hearted jabs at his child stardom.
After his deployment, Humphreys served at Fort Riley, Kansas before he was honorably discharged on June 4, 2008. He studied at the University of North Alabama and had a brief return to Hollywood with the 2011 independent film Pathfinders: In the Company of Strangers, in which he played a WWII pathfinder. Since 2020, Humphreys has worked as an online teacher.