Where is he now? Michael Conner: the boy who played a young Forrest Gump
Michael Conner Humphreys achieved fame when he was only eight years old, but he left Hollywood of his own free will and chose a very different career path.
There are faces that etch themselves like fire at the first spark, even if the firewood of that bonfire may never crackle again. Michael Conner Humphreys’ is one of them. He was just an eight-year-old boy when he stood in front of a camera, script in hand, to portray the character of his life. Perhaps he didn’t know it at the time, but that’s how it turned out. His face has entered the annals of cinema history and Hollywood for being the young Forrest Gump, still a child with a trot that the seventh art will never forget, with fictional years left to become the Tom Hanks that everyone remembers, with his box of chocolates and his grayish-beige blazer.
He was born in Mississippi. His stardom, in Alabama. It all began with an innocent casting call looking for a child with walking difficulties and speech articulation problems but with a distinctive disposition and clear eyes. He convinced them. And during filming, he became so endearing that his face became Forrest’s, that boy with orthopedic contraptions on his legs whose “very best friend” was the little Jenny. The scene where she shouted at him, and he ran and ran, without his heels ever touching his backside and with those bicycles cutting through the meters of earth, made him eternal. His future in the industry was sealed with indelible ink. And so, overnight, Hollywood’s brightest promise disappeared from the City of Stars.
Leaving Los Angeles knowing he was just a child.
He entered the world of cinema through the grand entrance and left through the same doorway. He didn’t want to appear in any other film except the one directed by Robert Zemeckis back in 1994. He distanced himself by choice because that world wasn’t his. “I’m not sure I wanted to be a child star; it doesn’t always seem to turn out well for many of them. I think I’m right, looking at some of them today,” Michael said in 2019, in an interview with The Sun. 25 years had passed since the release of Forrest Gump, although for the once-proclaimed promise of the silver screen, it could have easily been a lifetime.
“Honestly, I think it was a good thing because I never saw Hollywood as something glamorous, nor fame as something I wanted to pursue. It was quite the opposite,” he emphasized in those statements, which somehow became a revealing return of Michael to the public eye. But what did he mean by ‘quite the opposite’? “I loved my home and was only interested in having fun and playing with my friends, especially because I enjoyed school. Offers came, but I didn’t worry too much about trying to get more roles,” he confessed. Because sometimes, children just want to be children.
He didn’t want to be near Los Angeles, not in that way. In an act brimming with poetic irony, he completed the paradox of his character. It was the year 2004 when he enlisted in the United States Army, just like Forrest. He served for four years, including a year and a half in Iraq. During this period, he shared that he didn’t want to be recognized for that role that made him immortal. However, he couldn’t avoid it.
He graduated in International Relations, and he did so as if Forrest’s shadow was chasing him, running, not on a bicycle, through the University of North Alabama. In 2011, he knocked on the door of the film industry once again. He participated in a modest film called “Explorers,” alongside strangers. He ventured into theatre, making his debut on that stage and remaining under those spotlights. Apart from it all. His story is that of a young boy who walked away from Los Angeles because he knew he was just a child. He gave space and pause to his life when everyone else was shouting the same thing at him: ‘Run.’