The making of Cast Away reunited two-time Academy Award winning actor Tom Hanks with his Forrest Gump director Robert Zemeckis. The two-year production schedule was not an easy feat for the cast and crew, and resulted in many behind-the-scenes stories that will totally blow you away.
The adventure drama released in 2000 was an incredibly untraditional film, and the fact that it became a Hollywood blockbuster, grossing well over $400 million worldwide, was quite a surprise. Tom Hanks was essentially alone for a majority of the film - unless you count his washed-up buddy, Wilson the volleyball - and he even lost a total of 50 pounds for his role as Chuck Noland. The existential survival epic was nominated for two Academy Awards, including another Best Actor nomination for Hanks.
So, just how much did FedEx pay for all that product placement? Why was production shut down for one year? What was really in that package that Chuck refused to open until he got off the island? Find out the answers to those questions and discover other interesting details about Cast Away below.
It took a lot of guts to make Cast Away - the $85 million film that defied nearly every big-budget movie convention. The entire second act of the film features only a single actor alone on a deserted island with almost no dialogue. Tom Hanks said of the film,
Look, it’s all a Hail Mary pass. It’s a huge risk. And part of it is, ‘Well, why do it if it’s not a huge risk? Why go through all this stuff?’ The whole movie itself is, I think, bodaciously treading new territory.
Even the movie's director Robert Zemeckis initially didn't think that Cast Away would work because it was so unconventional. "It was a really hard movie to write because it didn't have any conventions,” he says. "There are no bad guys, no one’s running around chasing after microfilm...and we didn't want to junk it up with desert island clichés."
Hanks originally thought up the concept for Cast Away six years before the film was released. He initially thought the movie would be a comedy, with its title being Chuck of the Jungle. However, upon reflection, Hanks eventually saw the story as being much more serious.
In fact, the actor felt the film was metaphysical in a way, "Take a modern man and strip him of everything - food, water, shelter, even the ability to tell time."
The movie's screenwriter, William Broyles Jr., needed inspiration when writing Chuck's survival scenes. So, in order to get the creative juices flowing, he traveled to a scarcely populated island in Mexico's Sea of Cortes to get a first-hand account of what it was like to be all alone on an island.
His need for some kind of companionship became readily apparent even after just a short time in isolation. Broyles described:
I had to figure out how to open a coconut because I was so thirsty, I had to figure out how to make a knife out of a rock, I had to learn how to spear stingrays... It was just a few days, but I got really lonely. And then one morning this Wilson volleyball washed up on the beach and I looked at it, and put some seashells on it, and I started talking to it... I totally went Kurtz.
(Kurtz is a reference to the madman character in the novella Heart of Darkness, which inspired the character Colonel Kurtz [Marlon Brando] in Apocalypse Now.)
Wilson may have been just a volleyball, but to Chuck he was everything. Wilson most likely saved the FedEx executive from suffering a slow, lonely end while marooned on the South Pacific island for four years. So, when Wilson floats out to sea during Chuck's voyage home, it is a devastating loss for Chuck and movie-goers alike.
The iconic movie prop instantly became a piece of popular culture, with one of the original Wilson volleyballs used in the film even selling for $18,400 in an online auction. The Wilson company also cashed in on Wilson's 15 minutes of fame when they started making volleyballs with the iconic bloody hand print on them.