Who Is That Guy from Forrest Gump? It’s Sam Anderson!

Sam Anderson headshot

For every gigantic Hollywood mega-star that regularly graces magazine covers – the ones that are in consideration for wax statuehood at Madame Tussaud’s – there are literally hundreds of equally recognizable, but far less celebrated, supporting and character actors hard at work, propping up some of your favorite movies with their tenacity and talent. Hollywood Supporting Players, as they might be called, work a lot. They may never be leading men or leading ladies, but it could be argued that they are the most important and most stringently required element of a film’s on-screen display. The hero pay be peerless and awesome in the foreground, but they mean nothing unless they inhabit a world of real people. The Supporting Players play those people.

And I think we’ve all had that shock of recognition; the “Hey! It’s That Guy!” moment. The police photographers, the FBI agents, the wisecracking pathologists, the judges, the waitresses, the ditzy secretaries, the eccentric store clerks. Hollywood Supporting Players spend a lot of time behind desks and counters, handing vital information to our leads, ensuring that the movie works better. They may not be the shiniest part of the filmmaking machine, but they are one of the most vital. And when you start to recognize them, you not only can appreciate their career, but you begin to see them as the talented actors that they are. I smile when I see David Paymer. Or Vincent Schiavelli. Or Joey “Coco” Diaz. Or Bob Gunton.

Today, CraveOnline is going to be celebrating the career of Sam Anderson, a hard-working and long-running television and film actor who appeared in Forrest Gump, which is being re-relased in theaters this Friday. Who did Sam Anderson play in Forrest Gump? He was the patronizing school principal who explained to Forrest’s mom – and to the audience – just how dumb Forrest was.

 Forrest Gump

Born in North Dakota in 1945, Sam Anderson began his professional screen career in 1978, and has acted in TV for most of it, often scoring recurring roles in long-running shows. Name just about any popular TV show from the 1980s onward, and he was on it. Everything from “Dallas” to “Growing Pains” to “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” He was featured in ’90s cult shows like “Nowhere Man,” “The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.,” “The X-Files,” and “Millennium.” His first regular TV gig was playing several different parts over the course of a few episode of “WKRP in Cincinnati.” In the early 1970s, Anderson was a drama teacher in California. I cannot find details on his theatrical career, but I’m sure that it is – like so many actors – an extensive and varied one. According to Anderson’s Wikipedia page (and yes, he has one), he won an Ovation Award in 2009 for his performance in a play called The Bird and Mr. Banks.

Anderson’s first film role was something of a dubious one. In 1979, he was involved in a film called The Swap, which was comprised partly of original material, and partly of footage taken from a 1969 Robert De Niro film called Sam’s Song. Sam’s Song was about a documentary filmmaker working on a film about Nixon. The Swap recasts De Niro’s character from that film as the dead younger brother of a released prisoner, now out for revenge. Anderson played a character named Paul in the new footage, alongside Sybil Danning. I suppose all actors need to start somewhere. The earliest film I noticed Anderson in was 1981’s Airplane II: The Sequel. He played the mysterious Man in White. I will leave that cryptic role for you to discover.

Anderson is durable. He has a face that can be instantly warm and loving, as well as hard and cold. He projects authority, but it’s up to his director as to whether or not he projects an overbearing and steely authority, or an approachable, fatherly authority. Like so many other Hollywood Supporting Players (and Bob Gunton comes to mind in this regard) he is an expert in playing people that you either instantly trust, or instantly loathe.

Here is a list of just a few of Sam Anderson’s notable roles over the years:  

 Witney Seibold is a contributor to the CraveOnline Film Channel, and co-host of The B-Movies Podcast. You can read his weekly Trolling articles here on Crave, and follow him on “Twitter” at @WitneySeibold, where he is slowly losing his mind.