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Gary Sinise Was Never the Same After Playing LT. Dan in Forrest Gump

While Tom Hanks might very well be Hollywood’s most beloved actor, Gary Sinise would have to be a close second. The two stars have a long history of taking on monumental roles and putting their entire heart and soul into them.

One of Hanks’ and Sinise’ three film projects together, Forrest Gump, is now considered to be a classic. Tom played the titular character Forrest while Gary played Lieutenant Dan.

Many film buffs include the flick in their ‘best of all time’ lists – and for very good reason! The movie has stood the test of time and is still a great watch if for some reason you’ve never gotten around to watching it.

Back when it first hit theaters in 1994, Forrest Gump won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Nearly thirty years later and it’s still being talked about with glowing praise.

Much like other 90s films that left their mark on pop culture, such as Titanic and Jurassic Park, Forrest Gump has become a cultural touchstone of sorts since it’s release. Not only did it change the world of cinema, but it also led Gary Sinise down a road that would forever change his life.

Keep watching to find out how!

Gary Sinise’s Four Decade-Spanning Career

Gary Sinise has spent the better part of his adult life working in the entertainment industry. In 1974, when he was just 18 years old, he co-founded the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago.

Two decades later, he was nominated for Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild Awards, and Academy Awards for his portrayal of Lt. Dan Taylor in Forrest Gump.

Other films that he has appeared in include Apollo 13, The Green Mile, Mission to Mars, Snake Eyes, The Human Stain, and Imposter.

His most recent projects include the films I Still Believe and Good Joe Bell as well as the Netflix original series 13 Reasons Why.

Fans of procedural crime dramas know that he starred as Jack Garrett for two seasons on the CBS television series Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders. And for nine seasons, Sinise played Detective ‘Mac’ Taylor on the hit CBS drama CSI: NY.

For his work in film and television, Sinise has won an Emmy, Golden Globe, and two SAG Awards for his roles in George Wallace and Truman. He has also received a SAG nomination for his stellar performance in The Stand.

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And don’t go anywhere just yet. Keep watching to find out how Gary Sinise, since 2004, has been supporting veterans in need through the healing power of music.

Lt. Dan Was A Very Personal Role For Sinise

Forrest Gump showed viewers the world as it was seen through the eyes of it’s eponymous lead. The story that we saw play out wasn’t always a pretty one – especially when Forrest was shipped off to fight in the Vietnam war – but was undeniably a powerful one.

In the jungles of Vietnam, alongside Tom Hank’s Forrest was Gary Sinise’s, Lieutenant Dan. Sinise delivered an absolutely glorious performance as the rough yet determined soldier who got his legs blown off in a fiery explosion.

To make it appear as if Sinise really lost his legs in the film was no easy task. When filming scenes without legs, Sinise’s legs had to be wrapped in a bright blue fabric that served a similar function as a green screen.

The blue fabric made it easier for the FX team to digitally remove his legs after filming.

Sinise also had to be fitted with a special wheelchair. While Dan appeared on screen in his wheelchair without legs, Sinise still had two good ones. So, the crew needed to come up with novel a way for the bottom of the wheelchair to still be seen in the shots. To accomplish this, they had to design a special wheelchair specifically for the film.

An illusionist was called in to design Sinise’s wheelchair, so the feat was pulled off just as any magician’s stage show’s disappearing trick would work. Even though the special chair worked for the purposes of the film, Sinise had a difficult time sitting in it, seeing as how it required him to hold his body in a very uncomfortable position.

Because of this, he could only film in ten-minute intervals whenever the wheelchair was in use.

After 9/11 He Formed the Gary Sinise Foundation

Gary’s brother-in-law fought in the Vietnam War. Because of this, he had a unique and personal connection to Vietnam.

While filming Forrest Gump, Sinise wore his brother-in-law’s rosary in his honor. While potraying Lt. Dan, Gary’s eyes were opened to the troubling issues that many soldiers have to face after returning home from serving their country – especially those that are injured in service.

After filming wrapped up on Forrest Gump, Sinise began supporting non-profit organizations that are meant to help soldiers. In the years since Forrest Gump hit theaters, Sinise has became known for his advocacy in the area.

Gary Sinise felt particularly called to this issue after the horrific events of September 11, 2001. According to the Gary Sinise Foundation website, the actor was inspired to form the charity after meeting a first responder who was injured during the deadly terrorist attacks that transpired on that fateful day.

The FDNY firefighter that Sinise met was a quadruple amputee that needed a home that would be accessible to his special needs. Sinise ended up raising the money to help him move into an acceptable living space, but his work didn’t stop there.

These days, the Gary Sinise Foundation annually raises more than $30 million for wounded soldiers. The non-profit organization even owns 12 jet aircraft, which it uses to fly families of fallen or injured soldiers to different regions of the world.

Sinise And Hanks Have Worked Together On Several Groundbreaking Projects

It’s not really that surprising that Sinise has done such outstanding work since his days starring in Forrest Gump. He and his former Gump co-star Tom Hanks have routinely worked together on some pretty monumental projects.

Although Forrest Gump was the only one to win Best Picture, Hanks and Sinise have also appeared alongside each other in films like Apollo 13 and The Green Mile – both of which were also nominated for Oscars.

Hanks was adamant about keeping Forrest Gump as historically accurate as possible. Well, sans that scene where Gump was there to watch the Watergate scandal unfold in real-time.

Hank’s insistence on authenticity, however, may have led to more exposure for real soldiers in need. If Hanks hadn’t been so focused on the film being historically accurate. The Gary Sinise Foundation may very well have never come into existence.

Hanks helped contribute to getting the organization up and running in another significant way as well. His favorite scene in Forrest Gump was the one in which Lt. Dan received his new prosthetic legs. Sinise saw how moving that intimate moment could be and these days gives thousands of soldiers new legs through his organization.

Gary’s Personal Life And His Lt. Dan Band

Sinise married retired actress Moira Harrisin 1981. Since then, the couple has had three children together. It’s rare in Hollywood for stars to find true love, but it certainly appears that Gary and Moira have something very special together.

A year after his wife retired from acting in 2003, with the help of veteran musician Kimo Williams, Sinise formed a cover band in Chicago called the Lt. Dan Band. The duo started the band to perform at USO shows, entertain troops, and raise funds for disabled vets.

The concept for the band came about after Sinise asked if it would be permissible to bring musicians along on his USO Tours. At first, the group was known as Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band, but it was later shortened to what it is today.

Since 2004, the Lt. Dan Band has performed for charities and non-profits, including the USO and Operation Iraqi Children – the latter of which was actually co-founded by Sinise in 2004.

In 2011, a documentary film was released that dealt with the band and Sinese’s philanthropic efforts to provide aid to veterans.

The band frequently plays at military bases in the US and abroad. And in 2019, it was reported that they had played more than 400 concerts.

In 2014, Gary, with the help of his band and the funds that they raised, contributed to the construction of the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial in Washington DC.

For his humanitarian work, Sinise has been awarded with the Bob Hope Award For Excellence in Entertainment as well as the Spirit of the USO Award, the Doughboy Award, the Sylvanus Thayer Award, and The Dwight D. Eisenhower Award.

In 2008, Sinise was bestowed with the prestigious Presidential Citizens Medal by then-President George W. Bush.

While Gary Sinise isn’t a veteran himself, it’s very clear that he has a profound respect for those that put their lives on the line to serve their country. It’s admirable that he has gone to such great lengths to make sure that injured and disabled former service members get the care and attention that they deserve.

Did you know that Gary Sinise plays in a band that performs at military bases and USO events around the world and that after playing Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump he started the Gary Sinise Foundation to help raise money for veterans in need?

Feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comments.

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