Oct 23, 2007

Forrest Gump, Ping Pong and the lost movie of Tom Hanks

When I was at USC, I lived in Trojan Hall my freshman year. It was connected to Marks Hall. Marks Hall was used in the movie Forrest Gump. (Many, many movies have used USC as a location for filming.)

Marks Hall was used in the sequences in the movie where Jenny is at college. I was reminded of all this while watching the movie last night.

During the filming of the movie, the crew blocked all the windows in the lobby of the dormitory. What you can't see in the movie is that there were dozens of college freshmen in the lobby watching what was going on and playing ping pong. In between shots, Tom Hanks came into the lobby and played ping pong with us. He was amazingly good. (We had no idea at the time that ping pong had a part in the film and so we had no reason to suspect that he had been practicing for the movie.)

Mr. Hanks said he would not sign autographs (it made his hand tired.) He did, however, agree to be photographed with anyone who brought out a camera. I didn't have one. :(

He played ping pong with a long line of people, but the line went quickly because he whizzed through them. 21-0 each time. Someone called out, "Anyone who has an Oscar award gets a 21 point handicap!" Everyone laughed and Mr. Hanks agreed. (He had won the best actor award for Philadelphia.) He STILL whipped people, even with a 21-point handicap.

Too bad we couldn't introduce him to my Grandpa's ping pong buddy.

I didn't play because I was shy and there were too many other takers. I did see something that should go down in cinema history someplace:
Some cunning first-year USC cinema student had an idea...if Tom Hanks refused to sign autographs, but agreed to take photographs, maybe he would agree to read some lines!

The student ran back to his room and brought a sheet of paper and a very fancy audio recording device. (A year later I saw my roommate use a similar device to record sounds as a foley artist.)

The student asked Mr. Hanks to read the page into the microphone in a monotone voice. It was only about 12 lines of text. That was it. Hanks read the lines and went back to ping pong. The guy thanked him and left.

Can you imagine the surprise of his class and film professor when the kid turned in his student film assignment with Tom Hanks, winner of the Oscar for Best Actor the year before, as the NARRATOR?! I would have loved to see it.

Someday, when someone is trying to make a comprehensive collection of the Tom Hanks' vast works (that has already spanned decades), the collector will probably be missing that film.

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