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Forrest Gump Goes To Space With An Ape Called Sue In The Original Novel


Robert Zemeckis’ 1994 film Forrest Gump spun a strange tale of a man who achieves great things despite a low IQ, but the events of the film can’t compare to Forrest’s wild life in the book it’s based on. Written by Winston Groom, the novel version of Forrest Gump sees Forrest become a pro-wrestler, a chess champion, a Hollywood stuntman and — strangest of all — Forrest Gump goes to space, recruited by NASA alongside male ape called Sue. This is a bombastic turn of events even by the standards of Forrest Gump but, convoluted as it seems, isn’t totally random (much to Winston Groom’s credit).


Like in the movie, in the Forrest Gump novel he accidentally becomes involved in an anti-war protest. However, the consequences for Forrest Gump in the book are a little more dire and absurd, and lead to him becoming an astronaut. Forrest gets sent to a mental hospital for psychiatric observation, whereupon he’s diagnosed with savant syndrome. This attracts interest from NASA, who makes him a deal: if he will fly into space on an experimental mission for them and serve as a backup in case the ship’s computer fails, they will make sure he is spared from a prison sentence.

Related: Forrest Gump Is Secretly Dead – Theory Explained

Sue: Forrest Gump’s Astronaut Ape Explained

The Inspirational Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump goes to space after he reluctantly agrees and joins the NASA program, where he meets his two fellow astronauts. One is a very grumpy woman called Major Janet Fritch, who will be the first woman to go to space. However, the most experienced crew member is a female orangutan called Sue, who has already been on two previous space flights.Notably, the book also uses historical events to frame Forrest’s life. Like how most of Forrest Gump borrows from history, Sue the ape astronaut in Forrest Gump is based on NASA’s history of using primates for forays into orbit.

The launch in the book takes place after a couple of false starts. However, as the countdown begins, Forrest realizes that the wrong ape has been loaded into the spaceship. Instead of Sue — who was chosen because female apes are less aggressive — a male ape has been put in the cage. The ground control crew dismisses Major Fritch’s concerns about the male ape and continues with the lift-off. Major Fritch and Forrest Gump go to space with the male, whom Forrest decides to continue calling Sue and tries to calm by playing music to him.

This is when the novel’s scenes would become too expensive to adapt, more costly even than the special effects for Lieutenant Dan’s wheelchair scenes in Forrest Gump or the movie’s fake historical footage. After an altercation involving Major Fritch being hit in the face with a weightless blob of ape pee and Sue throwing a tantrum and ripping wires out of the ship’s control panels, the space flight comes to an end and the ship crashes in New Guinea.

Why Sue The Ape Astronaut Wasn’t In The Forrest Gump Movie

forrest gump (1)

Famously, Forrest Gump going to space never made it into Zemeckis’ film, which unfortunately means no scene of Tom Hanks trying to wrangle ape urine in zero gravity made it to the big screen. Groom’s novel is a great deal more absurdist than the film, which has comedic elements and conveniently places Forrest in the middle of a number of major historical events, but doesn’t go quite as far as making him an astronaut. Apart from the obvious budgetary concerns needed to faithfully depict Forrest Gump’s astronaut arc, this also allowed the adaptation to steer clear of the darker elements in the Forrest Gump book.

Related: Genius Forrest Gump Theory Reveals Lieutenant Dan’s Death Wish Was A Lie

In fact, by not adapting Sue the ape astronaut, Forrest Gump also wisely avoids the portion of the novel that comes after the space flight, in which Forrest and his companions encounter tribes in the jungles of New Guinea -— and things get overtly racist very quickly. In the end, Major Fritch falls in love with a cannibal called Grurck and decides to stay in the jungle with him, and Sue also stays behind in the jungle after saying an emotional goodbye to Forrest.

The Forrest Gump Novel Is Much Wilder Than The Movie

Forrest Gump Tom Hanks

“Forrest Gump goes to space” is far from the wildest arc that Eric Roth didn’t adapt for his Oscar-nominated Forrest Gump screenplay. For starters, whereas Tom Hank’s Forrest Gump is a man of regular stature and extraordinary morals, Winston Groom’s original Forrest Gump is a 6’6″, 240-pound neurodivergent genius who begins his narration with, “Let me say this: bein a idiot is no box of chocolates.” Curiously, Forrest Gump author Winston Groom was inspired by real people and events in characterizing the most interesting protagonist he could think of.

On top of most of the extraordinary events in Forrest Gump which also happen in the book, Forrest also becomes a pro wrestler dressed like a baby, a chess prodigy, has an extremely high IQ, and at one point, even inadvertently saves the life of Chinese communist icon Mao Zedong. That said, those interested in reading Forrest Gump should note beforehand that it also contains objectively racist, ableist, and sexist themes, alongside a much more complicated version of Forrest.

Next: Forrest Gump’s Original Casting Plan Would’ve Been Much Worse


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