Gary Sinise Talks Memorial Day Concert, ‘Forrest Gump’ Re-release

 mantegna sinise           Never say never. A few years ago, an online movie pundit declared that “the theatrical re-issue is dead” — and added, “Do not expect to see ‘Forrest Gump’ on its 20th anniversary back on the screen.”  It turns out, a theatrical re-issue is in the cards for the iconic film that was originally released July 6, 1994 — and went on to win six Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director for Robert Zemeckis and Best Actor for Tom Hanks. “Paramount Pictures is going to re-release the film for its 20th anniversary celebration in the fall,” reports Gary Sinise, who, you’ll recall, was also an Oscar nominee for the film. “It will first be coming out in the IMAX theaters and then it will be rolling into theaters across the country as a special 20th anniversary look at ‘Forrest Gump’ again.”
            Sinise already celebrated “Gump’s” special year the way he does best: his Gary Sinise Foundation coordinated a multi-day “Hollywood Salutes Heroes” celebration in February, with some 100 wounded service members being flown to L.A. for a VIP holiday. They made trips to Disneyland, enjoyed Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. feasts, and were honored at a big celebrity-filled party and “Forrest Gump” screening at Paramount Studios that reunited Sinise with Hanks and the movie’s “Bubba,” Mykelti Williamson. A concert by Sinise and his Lt. Dan Band followed.
            “Gump,” of course, is the film that started a life’s work for Sinise — with the real-life military, especially wounded warriors, embracing his Lt. Dan character as their own rough-hewn phoenix rising from the ashes of the battlefield. Today, Sinise is constantly involved in efforts to support such veterans via his Gary Sinise Foundation and a never-ending string of fundraisers with his band. He hasn’t acted since “CSI: New York” wrapped production in February 2013 — and doesn’t foresee himself acting again for awhile. “I’m too busy now. It’s very full-time for me with the military support work and the Foundation work we’re doing,” he explains.
            He will, however, be seen on PBS Sunday (5/25) as he cohosts The National Memorial Day Concert from Washington, D.C., with his long-time pal Joe Mantegna.
            “This will be my 10th year, my 9th year as cohost,” says Sinise. “They always have extraordinary-talented performers. Whoever wins ‘American Idol’ will sing the National Anthem, the winner of ‘The Voice,’ will perform, Megan Hilty will perform, Gerald McRaney, a wonderful actor, Dianne Weist, General Colin Powell — he never misses because he knows how important it is to keep awareness up of all the sacrifices that are made to maintain our freedom. That’s what Memorial Day is all about — honoring those who have served. That’s why I won’t miss it.”
            Looking back on some of the most memorable moments in the concert’s history, Sinise says, “One that comes to mind is Charles Durning who was on this concert for so many years, and who passed away last year. Charlie — one year he told the story of hitting the beach at Normandy and fighting his way into Germany. He told his own story. It was so powerful and so moving. These are the stories we need to keep reminding people. This freedom is precious.”
            The Concert’s Executive Producer, Jerry Colbert, also recalls the special peformances that have highlighted the event. “There have been many over the years, but a few that have stood out for me include Forest Whitaker, who did a story about a gentleman with PTSD and TBI that was an incredibly moving performance,” he says. “Katie Holmes and Dianne Wiest told the story of Jose Pequeno, about major traumatic brain injury, which showed tremendous sacrifice and dedication of the families. Also Colleen Dewhurst, who was on the first Memorial Day Concert 25 years ago.”
            According to Colbert, probably the biggest challenge he’s had to face came not from performers or their handlers, but from mother nature — “the rain that happened in 2012. There was such severe lightning and thunder that the program was closed down half-way through and the grounds evacuated. But with the great support of the crew, we were able to edit together the first half of the 2012 concert that aired live, followed by a seamless transition to footage of the full dress rehearsal from the night before. So viewers were still able to see the entire show.”
            Sinise is fresh from a Lt. Dan Band concert to raise funds for the building of an adaptive home for a wounded veteran in Lancaster, CA, when we settle down for a morning’s chat. The vet, he says, is “confined to a wheelchair. He’s paralyzed. He’s missing an arm. He has limited use of his right arm. He’s got traumatic brain injuries. He has two kids and he’s living in this cramped up trailer,” adds the actor. “The local high school kids out there found out about him and they started raising money to build him a house. I found out about it. My foundation is involved all over the country in building homes for the wounded. I called him up and volunteered to do a concert to raise money.”  Additionally, Sinise’s foundation reportedly kicked in $60,000.
            As far as “Forrest Gump” and its re-release, Sinise notes, “Having traveled all over the world performing for troops — you know many of them weren’t even born or were just being born when ‘Forrest Gump’ came out.  But even with that, I’m always hard-pressed to find a young person who hasn’t seen the film.
            “So there’s an entire generation of folks who’ve never seen the film on the big screen, so this will be an opportunity for them to see this beloved film. I think folks feel it’s a great time to put it out in theaters.”