21 Reasons Cast Away Was So Good Even Wilson Won An Award

It’s one of the all-time great movies about survival and human endurance against the odds.

It features one of the defining Tom Hanks performances and is one of the most emotionally wrenching Hollywood films of the 00s, thanks in part to a star that looks suspiciously like a piece of sporting equipment.

Hanks in the role of Chuck

There isn’t a person on the planet who doesn’t love this film. Robert Zemeckis’ Cast Away is 18 this year, but it’s yet to show any signs of old age.

That much of the film – a near-wordless take on the human condition – deals with such timeless themes will have much to do with it.

There’s also the fact that it’s just a damn good yarn, so bold and inventive that it leaves its star – and his island – to carry the story on his back alone for almost two hours.

He was stranded on a desert island

Here are 21 things you never knew about Cast Away.

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21. The film won an award for Best Inanimate Object

Tom Hanks might give one of his best and most committed performances in Cast Away, and we cannot deny this.

Sometimes all you need is a volleyball

However, there is (arguably) another member of the cast that is a potential star of the show.

Yes, his character’s volleyball companion, Wilson.

Of course, it was Hanks who got most of the attention when awards season came around.

He was nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars and BAFTAs.

Wilson is a better actor than most humans

Not only this, he won the Golden Globe – but Wilson didn’t go entirely overlooked.

Which we are thrilled to hear, as he was arguably our favourite character.

Meryl Streep is going to play Wilson in the sequel

Wilson had an award created just for his special little self.

The Broadcast Film Critics Association that year invented an award just to honour Wilson and his brave performance.

20. Wilson had actual lines of dialogue

It might seem in the film like Wilson is the silent type, but from Tom Hanks’ perspective, his character’s volleyball friend was actually rather chatty.

Wilson has its own script

Well, it appears screenwriter and director were not about to let Wilson slip under the radar, and they did all they could to ensure he was as big of a star as Mr Hanks himself…

Actual lines of dialogue were written for Wilson by screenwriter William Broyles Jr and director Robert Zemeckis.

Wilson was originally going to be a darker side of Chuck

They did this so that Hanks could see on the page the conversation that Chuck was having in his head with the volleyball, and act out scenes accordingly.

The additional lines of dialogue certainly seemed to help Hanks’ performance.

Robert Zemeckis, who directed the film

Credit: Dick Thomas Johnson via Wikimedia Commons

Most people probably wouldn’t have thought that they could become so emotional about a relationship between a man and his volleyball.

19. Filming shut down for a year so Hanks could transform his appearance

There’s no special effects or camera trickery going on when it comes to Tom Hanks’ striking appearance in Cast Away.

Hanks lost a lot of weight for the film

At the beginning of the film, that middle-aged paunch is all his, while the bushy beard, long golden hair and drastically reduced frame in the second half are all real too.

These two contrasting looks were achieved by Hanks first gaining weight (50 pounds) prior to filming Cast Away’s early scenes…

He also had to grow his hair out

Then Robert Zemeckis shutting production on the film down for a year so Hanks could lose all the weight and grow out his hair.

Hanks later stated that the hardest thing about losing all of the weight was trying to fight off his cravings for french fries.

The time spent waiting wasn’t put to waste…

The actor also revealed that he drank a lot of coffee to get him through the fatigue!

18. The director made a whole other film during Cast Away’s hiatus

As he waited a whole 12 months for Hanks to transform into someone who looked like he might have been stranded on a desert island for four years…

(a look we could probably achieve after a day without showering..)

Another film was made in the hiatus

Robert Zemeckis didn’t just twiddle his thumbs. He made a whole other film during Cast Away’s hiatus.

It wasn’t a small project either, and it’s film that you are guaranteed to have heard of…

Michelle Pfeiffer, in What Lies Beneath

He used the same crew to make the blockbuster horror film What Lies Beneath, starring Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Sadly What Lies Beneath didn’t do quite as well as Cast Away at the box office –

Harrison Ford also starred in the film

It made $291,000,000 compared with Cast Away’s $429,600,000.

17. The film’s writer really stranded himself on an island for research

Cast Away feels like an authentic depiction of survival on a desert island for a good reason, with the screenwriter going above and beyond his duties…

Writing ‘Help’ on a beach is a good way to get attention

The film’s screenwriter really knew what it was like to be stranded without modern luxuries like Chuck.

And how did he know? Well, as research for his script, William Broyles Jr took himself to an island survival camp off of Mexico’s Sea of Cortez.

It’s easier to write something when you’ve experienced it

As research for his script, William Broyles Jr took himself to an island survival camp off of Mexico’s Sea of Cortez.

It was here he learned how to forage and make a fire and even befriending a washed-up volleyball.

Have you ever thought what you’d do in the same situation?

Cue the inspiration for our old friend Wilson…

A survival expert along with Broyles also tested out random objects that Chuck could use to his advantage in the film.

16. The film made FedEx surprisingly popular

It’s a FedEx plane that goes down at the beginning of the film, but luckily that didn’t do much to tarnish the delivery service’s brand.

Lots of parcels were washed up on the beach

Cast Away actually made FedEx more popular than ever.

Not only did FedEx significantly increase its reach and influence outside of the US after Cast Away’s release…

FedEx is a big delivery company

(The film made $429 million globally), but job applications for the company also rose by 30%.

When the film was first released, many people accused FedEx of paying Zemeckis to appear so prominently in the movie.

There was one parcel that was left unopened

However, the director has always firmly denied this accusation and claims that the producers never received any kind of money from FedEx to promote their brand (the film does involve a plane crash, after all!).

15. There might have been vital equipment in that unopened parcel

From his time discovering the FedEx parcels washed up on the beach, to his re-entry into civilised society four years later, Chuck resists opening one parcel.

The temptation to open it must have been great

It’s never revealed to us – or Chuck – what the package contains.

And we are still desperate to know what it contained…

To this day, we don’t know what was inside

There are several ‘conspiracy theories’ so to speak, of what the package indeed contained…

An earlier draft of the script had it that the parcel contained salsa verde.

It could have proved useful to Chuck

Apparently sent by a Texas woman to her estranged husband.

Director Zemeckis, however, has said that the box contained a solar-powered satellite phone – though he might have been joking…

14. Chuck gets his happy ending after the film ends

It seems like a pretty tragic state of affairs.

It’s not the happiest of endings

Chuck, having barely survived for four years and managing to make his way home via an improvised raft…

…gets back to the US only to find the love of his life has moved on, remarried and started a whole new family.

Wilson abandons him

According to Tom Hanks, however, Chuck does get his happy ending, just after the credits roll.

Hanks told James Lipton on an episode of Inside the Actors Studio that Chuck: “turned around…he went back and made babies with that lady,” referring to the mysterious woman that Chuck meets at the end of the movie.

At least Hanks thinks that he got a happy ending

Out of all the endings that producers came up with, that one definitely sounds like the most satisfying! Maybe Chuck was able to adopt the cute dog in the van too?

13. Tom Hanks could have died during filming

Tom Hanks’ dedication to Cast Away didn’t end at him gaining weight, losing weight and letting himself go in the style department…the star almost died for his art on this movie.

Actors often suffer for their art

Reason number 1000 why we love Tom Hanks – he is not afraid to put his ‘all’ into a film role…

While on location for the film Hanks cut himself and developed what could have been a potentially fatal infection.

Without medical treatment, Chuck would have fallen victim to the infection

A doctor told Hanks: “you’re about an hour away from having blood poisoning that will kill you.”

And with that production was subsequently shut down for three weeks while he recovered.

After a few weeks, all was ok again

We’re glad that he made a speedy recovery and was able to continue making the film not long after.

12. The ending was almost very different

There were six years between screenwriter William Broyles Jr first putting pen to paper for Cast Away and the film actually shooting.

Chuck spears a crab to eat

Therefore, naturally, the script went through several different iterations prior to filming.

Most of the changes involved the ending, which was written and scrapped several times over.

They couldn’t decide on the perfect ending

One ending had Chuck saved by Japanese divers.

Another saw Chuck’s marriage with the woman at the crossroads play out.

It could have been a whole lot different

Yet another ending had Chuck becoming a celebrity on his return home, making media appearances on the likes of Hollywood Squares.

11. Lost wouldn’t have happened without it

Without Cast Away, there simply is no Lost. JJ Abrams’ TV drama, a wildly popular series that lasted six seasons from 2005 to 2010.

The cast of Lost in front of their downed plane

Credit: ABC

It has been claimed that Lost only happened because someone saw the 2000 Tom Hanks film and felt inspired by it.

Inspired to the point that they created a smash hit tv show!

It was the most expensive pilot episode ever commissioned

Credit: ABC

Lloyd Braun, then the head of ABC, proposed a show called Nowhere, about a group of characters stranded on a desert island.

Abrams came on board and added the supernatural element, which transformed the Cast Away-type show into Lost.

The ending would never satisfy all fans, and it left some pretty angry

The show went on to experience a huge amount of success.

Many critics suggesting that Lost may be among the greatest television series of all time.

Since Lost finished, Game of Thrones has come onto the scene, so we think that might just pip it.

10. The film was Tom Hanks’ own original idea

With Cast Away, Tom Hanks was never just the star of the show; he was the reason the show even existed at all.

Hanks thought of it himself

Credit: Dick Thomas Johnson via Wikimedia Commons

It was way back in 1994, six years before Cast Away even appeared on cinema screens, that Hanks came up with the idea for a survival drama.

And it was simply based on an article he had read about FedEx.

What would happen if a normal guy was stranded on an island?

Back then the film went by the very different title of Chuck of the Jungle, but Hanks’ motivating thought was the same…

What happens when an average guy gets washed up on an island all alone?

The scenario plays out on screen

If you watch the film, you’ll find out!

9. There’s no music until Chuck escapes the island

You may not have even noticed, considering how engrossing the film is, but in terms of music Cast Away is almost a silent movie.

The score kicks in very late

For an hour and 43 minutes, there’s nothing but silence on the soundtrack.

This was because Robert Zemeckis wanted composer Alan Silvestri’s score to make its entrance just as Chuck escapes the island…

The impact is felt

Thus allowing for a greater emotional impact.

Up to that point, there’s nothing but Hanks, the island and Wilson.

It was a good creative decision from Zemeckis

Credit: Anthony Skelton via Wikimedia Commons

We think it definitely achieves its desired affect.

8. A Wilson prop went for a lot of money at a 2001 auction

Of the three volleyballs hired to play Wilson for the Cast Away shoot, just one ended up on the auction block, where the exclusive prop predictably went for a pretty penny.

It ended up at auction

At a 2001 online auction, this Wilson was sold for $18,400. The prop was sold to Ken May, none other than an ex-CEO of FedEx.

However, if you really want your own Wilson then the famous volleyball has its very own company.

Wilson looking very fetching with some ‘hair’

Ans yes you guessed it…the company sells special edition versions of the movie prop.

Or you could just by a regular volleyball and paint it up yourself.

Hanks reunited with Wilson

We imagine that they’re pretty easy to re-create.

7. Hanks was finally reunited with Wilson in 2015

It’s tragic that he gets home just to find his wife has moved on and all, but nothing in Cast Away stings like the moment Chuck is parted from Wilson in the middle of the Pacific ocean, apparently never to see his trusty companion again.

Chuck opens FedEx boxes

“Wilson! WILSON!” We still get shivers thinking about it…

Well, Cast Away fans can rest easy in the knowledge that Tom Hanks and Wilson were in fact reunited in 2015…

It was the biggest reunion of the century

Hanks was caught on camera at a New York Rangers game.

And who was he at the game with you may be wondering? None other than soul mate Wilson.

Wilson drifted back to Hanks

The boys back together. This, truly, is the film’s real happy ending.

6. Some of the crew members stayed on the island and learnt actual survival skills

Some of Cast Away’s crew members decided to follow in the footsteps of the film’s writer and stay on the island of Monuriki (one of Fiji’s Mamanuca islands) before production began.

It wasn’t just the writer who tried it out

Credit: Alfredo via Flickr

The crew were left on the island for several days and had to learn how to survive on their own.

In fact, many of their survival techniques and other experiences ended up being used in the final film.

How would you cope stranded on an island?

In fact, many of their survival techniques and other experiences ended up being used in the final film.

Some of these included the trouble they had in lighting a fire and opening coconuts; talking to a volleyball; collecting packages that had washed up on the beach and catching fish.

Chuck counts the days spent on the island

5. You can find the Cast Away island on Google Maps

Thanks to the wonder of technology, fans of the movie can now use Google Maps to locate the uninhabited island from Cast Away.

Give it a search!

Credit: Elect_nginear via Tripadvisor

Simply enter the following coordinates into Google Maps: -17.609277, 177.0397.

Then zoom in all the way using satellite mode, and voila, there you have it!

Keep an eye out for castaways!

You can see the beach where Tom Hanks writes HELP in giant letters.

The island remains uninhabited to this day.

It’s called Monuriki

So if you notice any castaways on Google Street view, make sure to alert the authorities.

4. Virtually all of the sound had to be added into the film during post-production

The sound engineers had quite a job on their hand after filming was finished…

Islands aren’t the best place to capture sound

Due to conditions on the island location, nearly all of the sound (including Chuck’s dialogue) had to be replaced in post-production.

William B. Kaplan, the chief sound man, attempted to get some usable time during filming but unfortunately the surf made it impossible to do so.

Something uncontrollable made it impossible to get a good recording

Credit: Elsie C via Tripadvisor

Many of the scenes needed to be very quiet and the waves kept interfering with the shoot…

Funnily enough, the special effects team also had to pitch in during post-production.

It was the waves lapping on the beach

Credit: lu65Milano via Tripadvisor

Nearly all of the nighttime scenes were filmed during the day and darkness/night sky effects had to be added in later.

3. The name ‘Chuck Noland’ has a secret hidden meaning

At first glance, ‘Chuck Noland’ seems like a fairly average name for a fairly average guy.

There’s more than meets the eye

Credit: Elect_nginear via Tripadvisor

Tom Hanks wanted to make a movie about a regular guy and the name seems to fit that nicely.

However, Chuck Noland can be abbreviated to ‘C. Noland’ which really sounds like ‘see no land’.

Clever isn’t it?

The perfect name for a man who has been cast away on a remote island.

Interestingly, in a very early draft of the movie, Chuck was going to be split into two different personalities during his time on the island/

Chuck writes ‘HELP’ in the sand, hoping someone will see

There was going to be Good Chuck and Bad Chuck – who would talk to one another rather than a volley ball.

2. Hanks repeats the same line in both Cast Away and You’ve Got Mail

Cast Away was released in the year 2000, only two years after Hanks’ starred in the classic rom-com You’ve Got Mail with Meg Ryan.

Getting your money’s worth on the script

In fact, Hanks repeats the same line in both movies. But which line?

Around twenty minutes into You’ve Got Mail Joe Fox (played by Hanks) says to Annabelle Fox (Hallee Hirsh) and Matt Fox (Jeffrey Scaperrotta)…

Was it a nod to his time on Cast Away?

“I know you, I know you”

…after he arrives at the marina.

But when does Hank say this very same line in Castaway?

Who does he create a bond with, an enviable bond, that captured the globe on the film’s release?

Chuck paints a face on Wilson

Yes you guessed it…

In Cast Away Chuck says exactly the same thing to Wilson when he’s repairing Wilson’s face towards the end of the movie.

Ah, true love.

1. They shot a special Super Bowl ad to reveal what was really inside the unopened package

And last but not least, eagle-eyed Super Bowl viewers might remember that back in 2003, FedEx released a hilarious commercial which attempted to recreate the final scene of Cast Away.

Would it finally answer the age-old question?

Credit: Quintin3265 via Wikimedia Commons

A scene which we can all admit has stayed with us since the release of this blockbuster back in the day.

A scene which we can all admit we are desperate to see recreated…

It wasn’t quite Tom Hanks


In the short feature, we see Chuck finally returning the unopened package to its sender.

Yes – that package we were so eagerly to uncover what was inside.

Apparently it contained everything needed when stranded on an island

In the commercial version, a woman answers the door and Chuck gets to ask what was inside.

The woman replies:

“Just a satellite phone, GPS locator, fishing rod, water purifier, and some seeds. Just silly stuff.”

Are you a big fan of Tom Hanks? Did you enjoy watching Cast Away? Let us know in the comments section below!