“The Colbert Questionert” has become one of the most popular “Late Show” bits, with Stephen Colbert asking A-list guests like Tom Hanks, Martha Stewart and Shaquille O’Neal questions that cut to the core of their true selves.
After asking the meticulously selected series of questions — ranging from “What is the best sandwich?” to “What do you think happens when we die?” — Colbert tells each guest “You are known.”
Late last week, Colbert invited his longtime band leader, the Grammy and Oscar-winning artist Jon Batiste, to run through the gauntlet that is the Questionert, and a little piece of Alabama caught our attention.
First, Batiste walloped us with some controversy out of the gate, insisting that not only is a hot dog a sandwich, but it is the best sandwich, much to the host’s surprise. “You understand the landmine you just set off,” Colbert told Batiste. “I know,” Batiste replied. “But if you look at it and you see the bread and then you see the meat in between the bread — that looks like a sandwich to me.”
But the Alabama portion came when Colbert asked for the accomplished musician’s favorite action movie. “Oh my goodness,” Batiste said, as he pondered momentarily before the clear answer came to him: “Forrest Gump!”
READ: 35 fascinating facts about ‘Forrest Gump’
Stunned, Colbert then said, “That is to action movie as hot dog is to sandwich.” The audience burst into applause and laughter, as Batiste began to keel over. “I accept and move on,” Colbert continued before Batiste appealed one last time.
“He was running!” he said. “I’m telling you!” Colbert then told Batiste, “You have a very low standard for action” and said “‘Air Bud’ is an action movie in that case.”
So let’s break this down, “Gump” fans, because this one is obviously personal. Is “Forrest Gump” an action movie? If this was 1996, and we took a trip to Blockbuster Video or Movie Gallery, and the 1994 Oscar-winner was no longer on the new release shelves, where would you find it? In the action section, along with the Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Van Damme and other flicks most commonly associated with the genre?
Don’t jump to conclusions, folks. “Gump” has action — and good action, too. Start with the famed “Run, Forrest, run!” scene in which young Forrest (Mississippi’s Michael Conner Humphreys) eludes bicycling bullies by bursting from his leg braces and discovering his prodigious speed that would help him out of future jams. Action directors dream of slo-mo shots like that one, accompanied with composer Alan Silvestri’s (ahem, the “Avengers: Endgame” composer!) amazing score.
And consider the first time we see Hanks as Gump, when punks hurl a rock at his head and chase him with a truck all the way to the Greenbow High School football field where none other than Bear Bryant is on a recruiting visit only to discover his next star kick returner. And that leads directly to an amazing sports scene when Hanks, now playing for Alabama in Bryant-Denny Stadium, becomes yet another Crimson Tide hero by going the distance for a 100-yard kick return.
READ: How Enos from ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ became Bear Bryant in ‘Forrest Gump’
Or what about the harrowing, expertly staged Vietnam ambush sequence in which Forrest’s platoon comes under enemy fire as he employs his speed and bravery to save his fellow soldiers before a napalm airstrike takes out the jungle behind them? Amazing action!
And to Batiste’s point, when Forrest runs across America: He was, indeed, running. “For no particular reason,” he spends the next few years on a cross-country jaunt, passing Monument Valley, the Rocky Mountains and other national landmarks while enjoying more unexpected fame for his trouble.
So, if not action, then what?
“Gump” has a lot of laughs: ”Stupid is as stupid does,” Bubba’s shrimp monologue, too much Dr. Pepper. Would you be wrong to call it a comedy, or to file it under comedy in this imaginary and now woefully antiquated video store section? Absolutely not.
But if we’re being sticklers about it, “Forrest Gump” is a drama. Robert Zemeckis’ Oscar-winning adaptation of Winston Groom’s novel tells the unbelievable fictional story of a good-natured Alabama man who witnesses and participates in many of the defining events of American history during the latter half of the 20th century in a series of poignant sequences in which he touches the lives of many who least expected.
While most of the best picture-winner takes place in Alabama, Zemeckis filmed those scenes in South Carolina, Virginia and North Carolina. It won six Oscars including best picture and actor (Tom Hanks) and grossed nearly $700 million worldwide. Gump grows up in the fictional town of Greenbow, Ala., and eventually plays football for the University of Alabama under Paul “Bear” Bryant. And it remains the most decorated among Alabama’s Oscar-connected movies.
Watch the exchange between Stephen Colbert and Jon Batiste in the video above (”Gump” portion starts around 5:48).