Character: Benjamin “Bubba” Buford Blue
Actor: Mykelti Williamson
Film: Forrest Gump
Role: Shrimping his whole life, Bubba, who dreams of owning his own shrimp business, is Forrest Gump’s best friend when they end up in the Army and shipped off to Vietnam together.
A simple man, Bubba is dutiful and loyal as both a solider and friend. In Basic Training, Bubba tells Forrest all about the shrimping business and all the different kind of ways shrimp can be prepared for meals. When they report to combat in South East Asia, they are stationed together and grow closer, prompting Bubba to invite Forrest to be his partner in the shrimping business when they get home, sharing in the profits. Their shared low intellect and innocence make the two a perfect pair as Forrest has never had a friend (other than his beloved Jenny) who accepts wholly for who he is.
The Moment: After almost four months of rain that come from all directions, the unit finally sees action as the troops face a squad of Vietnamese soldier ambush in the jungle near a lake. Their commander, Lt. Dan (Gary Sinise) orders the men to pull back and head for safety with Bubba shouting to Forrest to run, which is something Forrest does very well. It isn’t long before Gump is by himself and realizing he’s left his best friend behind, sprints back into the jungle. Of course, he finds many of his other squad mates wounded along the way and carries them to safety first, but eventually find his friend who he discovers has been shot in the chest and is bleeding out. He picks his friend up and hauls him out of the firefight as the jets steam in and carpet bomb the site. All the while Bubba says he’s okay, over and over. When they stop by the water’s edge where the other soldiers are waiting, Forrest holds his dying friend, who asks him, “Why did this happen?” but more importantly that he wants to go home. He dies in Gump’s arms.
Why It Matters: Friendship for Forrest has been rare, and the connection he makes with Bubba is instant but also honest. The two have a bond that makes both a little stronger, especially with the hope of a life beyond the war. Forrest, despite his low intelligence, has face no great challenges in his young life, though he soon will. The death of Bubba is the first of several painful hurdles that significantly affect the man, with the horror of war and the price some pay stripping a bit of the sentiment and innocence that define Forrest. Mykelti Williamson, playing Bubba, is never a caricature, never a broad stereotype, but a wonderfully realized supporting character that allowed Forrest to experience his first reciprocal friendship, devotion to a dream, and even a sense of brotherhood that would help define who Forrest would later become. His death is tragic but necessary and remains a great character moment. *Note, video may not be available in all countries.