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Tom Hanks Almost Died Filming Castaway

It’s hard to believe that Cast Away is 2020 years old now. It hit theaters on December 22, 2000. For those that aren’t super familiar with the film, it’s all about this guy, Chuck Noland. Plays by Tom Hanks – who works for FedEx. When the plane goes down in the middle of the ocean, Noland is on a deserted tropical island. He traps there for years with no one to keep him company but a volleyball that he anthropomorphizes, Wilson.

The film moves at a snail’s pace throughout its 144-minute run time. But Hank’s greasy long beard and impressive survival skills generate a lot of buzz. It elevates the film to ‘modern classic’ status. Some refer to it as the quintessential existential blockbuster of our generation.

Screenwriter Of Apollo 13

William Broyles Jr, the screenwriter who brings us Apollo 13, takes six years to hash out the story. It ia Hanks and Robert Zemeckis, the film’s director. Tom took his role extremely seriously. In fact, filming was halted for an entire year so he could lose 50 pounds. Talking about getting into character, right?

Cast Away was a major commercial success. In total it grossed nearly $450 million worldwide against a $90 million budget. Adjusted for inflation, today that amounts to around $648,000,000. Not too shabby.

Anyways, we’ve compiled 10 facts about the film that we’re guessing you never knew. Unless you’re a die-hard Cast Away fan, most of these will probably come as a surprise to ya. Ever wonder what FedEx thought about their brand being used in the film considering the disastrous context that they’re featured? We’ll cover that in a second, so hold on. First, let’s see what Tom envisioned for the film.

Tom Hanks Didn’t Want To Tell A Typical Story

A couple of decades ago Hanks did an interview with The Guardian where he laid out what he had envisioned when working on the film. He was adamant that he didn’t want to do just another film about some rich, pretentious guy who’s out of touch with reality but learns a lesson and changes in the process through experiencing hardship. That storie’s already been told a million times before. He wanted something fresh.

Hanks also didn’t just want to tell another tale about a man who conquers his environment. Rather he wanted to show the effect of the environment on the man. The two main themes of the film are of physical and spiritual survival. He wanted to show the audience the struggles of a man who’s pitted against the elements, without any external foes. In that way, the normal cinematic narrative structure was challenged in a way that audiences weren’t used to seeing.

Screenwriter William Broyles Jr. Stranded Himself On An Island For Research Purposes

For several days alone on an island in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, Broyles had to fend off the elements to keep himself alive. He speared stingrays and ate their flesh, figured out how to crack open a coconut to get to their water, found a Wilson-branded volleyball that washed ashore, and made several attempts to make a fire. It was that hands-on research that taught Broyles that Chuck’s struggle wasn’t just going to be a physical one. Rather, the challenges that he was going to face were going to be emotional and spiritual as well.

The Entirety of Cast Away Can Be Summed Up In Two Words

Broyles, In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, noted that the last two words that Chuck says, ‘thank you’, to a woman in a truck, sum up the entire film. They represent the acceptance that we all have to come to in our lives. There are some things that happen to us that have no sound, logical rationale for their happening. But in the end, regardless of what we have to go through, it’s important to find a sense of gratitude. The film ends on an uncertain note. Noland is left with two choices while he stands at a crossroads in rural Texas. Should he follow the woman and go down the one road or go down a different path towards a new city complete with new opportunities.

FedEx Was Completely Okay With Cast Away Featuring Their Brand

Any publicity is good publicity, right?

When Cast Away was being filmed in the late 90s, at that time FedEx hadn’t had any comparable accidents to the one featured in the film. Although later on, two crew members died in a 2009 crash and in 2015 another malfunction would lead to a plane crashing down in the Caribbean sea.

FedEx wasn’t exactly thrilled at the prospect of alerting the public that accidents like the one featured in the film could actually happen. As such, they did their best to provide as much assistance as possible during the film’s production to ensure that their brand was painted in a positive light. They provided filming locations at several of their busiest hubs in the world – including locations in Memphis, LA, and Moscow.

FedEx’s Director Of Global Brand Management

Gail Christensen, who served as FedEx’s director of global brand management in 2000, told the Chicago Tribune that they realized that the film wasn’t simply giving FedEx some free publicity, but in fact, the company itself was a character within the film. It went well beyond just being product placement.

In 2003, FedEx aired a Cast Away themed commercial during the super bowl that showed that they had a sense of humor about the whole thing. In the ad, a Tom Hanks look-alike finally delivers a package to a customer after spending years on a similarly deserted island. When he asks what’s in it, the customer replies by saying “Nothing really, just a satellite phone, GPS locator, fishing pole, water filter, and some seeds. Just silly stuff”.

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And don’t go anywhere just yet, we still got a lot of ground to cover. Keep watching to find out what TV show was inspired by Cast Away. And no, it wasn’t Survivor, but we’ll talk about that one too, so stay tuned.

Hanks Almost Died During Filming

While filming on location in Fiji, Hanks got a cut on his leg and it quickly got infected. At first, he wasn’t too concerned about the injury thinking that it would just go away on its own. But what he didn’t know was that the wound was infected with staph. If he had let the infection go on untreated much longer he could have developed a blood infection that could have caused his body to go into septic shock.

When Hank’s doctor finally got a chance to look at him he chewed him out for not coming to him sooner. ‘What is the matter with you” he sneered, “You could have died from this thing.”

Hank’s infection was so severe that they had to remove a huge chunk of the infected tissue out of his leg and he was hospitalized for three days. Production had to be shut down for weeks so he could recover. His doctor admonished him that he had to stay out of the water if he wanted to recover.

Tom Hanks Went Over Several Alternated Endings For His Character

In an interview for a fan’s podcast, Hanks discussed how he had imagined several different possibilities about how Noland’s story might pan out. During its production, the cast and crew jokingly referred to the film as Chuck Of The Jungle. Noland had become a wild-man of sorts being away from society for so long. There was no telling what would happen to him when he came back to the civilized world.

Chuck was full of self-pity. Hanks described his character as being somewhat like Rip Van Winkle with a touch of jeepers creepers thrown in. Upon returning back to the world, he would likely be amazed by how technology had advanced. Perhaps he would be turned into some kind of celebrity by the media. Who knows, he might even end up being a guest-star on a game show like Hollywood Squares or something. Tom and the rest of the crew loved speculating about what Chuck’s fate might entail.

According To Hanks, The Plane Crash Was The Best Thing To Ever Happen To Chuck

In that same audio interview, Hanks talked about how Noland’s trials and tribulations actually benefited him in ways that few consider. When he’s standing at the crossroads at the end of the film, he has a sense that everything is going to be okay. His experiences helped him to gain a fresh perspective complete with a sense of gratitude and optimism.

Really, that paradigm shift wouldn’t have been that difficult for Chuck to come to terms with even if he hadn’t been lost. Hanks explained that people quit their jobs all the time to go in search for what they really want to do with their lives. People grow tired of the unsatisfactory elements of their lives and leave them behind. If they didn’t do that, then no one would ever be making any kind of progress. But sometimes we need some kind of jarring kick to get the motivation to make such a change.

For Chuck, that kick was the plane crash that killed five others and left him stranded on a deserted island for four years only to come back to find that he also lost the woman that he loved with all of his heart. His life likely would have remained the same – stagnant and unfulfilling – if he hadn’t had to endure such a trial.

Survivor Got Their First

The reality game show premiered on May 31, 2000, some seven months before Cast Away hit theaters. There’s no denying that the show touched upon similar themes as the film. A group of people are all dropped off at an exotic location and must compete against each other while leaning on their survival skills to clinch victory. The show was a hit and Hanks admitted to Entertainment Weekly that he was initially a bit spooked when he learned about the show and its like-minded themes, but he knew that their film had more substance than a trivial game show ever could.

Cast Away Inspired Lost

Lloyd Braun, Chairman of ABC Entertainment in the early 2000s put out a call for a screenwriter to come up with a concept based upon his favorite film, Cast Away.

Jeffrey Lieber was selected to write a pilot for a Cast Away inspired series which would follow between eight and ten people stranded individuals somewhere in the South Pacific. Lieber titled his pilot Nowhere but Lloyd Braun wasn’t impressed and handed the project over to J.J. Abrams who added in the fantasy supernatural elements and renamed the show ‘Lost’.

Lieber took the studio to court and was awarded a partial credit for creating the series and he was listed as one of the show’s creators for the program’s entire run.

One Of the Wilson Balls Was Sold At Auction For A Big Chunk Of Change

In January of 2001, one of the original Wilson Volleyballs used for the movie was put up for auction. According to the Los Angeles Times, the iconic piece of film memorabilia sold for $18,400. If you’re okay with a replica, Wilson Sporting Goods sells a look-alike ball on their website for $20 bucks.

Anyways, we’re just about out of time, but we’d love to hear from you.

What did you think about Cast Away? Did you love it as most critics did or did you find it to be too slow-moving for your tastes? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

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