HAMILTON – What started as a Halloween curiosity turned into a career for a Hamilton man — and not just a career, but a way of changing lives.
We caught up with motivational speaker Steve Weber, who bears more than a passing resemblance to one of America’s best-loved stars.
People always told Steve Weber he was the spitting image of Tom Hanks, years before he was a big star. And when “Forrest Gump” hit the big screen, Steve decided to have a little fun.
“I guess in 1994 I had gone ahead and played the character for Halloween. The movie came out in July of 1994, so then in October, I was Forrest for Halloween,” Weber recalled. “Put the costume away and thought that was the end of that.”
It wasn’t long before a big job opportunity came his way. He became the spokesman for Bubba Gump Shrimp, the company that spun off the movie.
“It was one of those moments where you feel like ‘this is what I have to go do’.” I didn’t necessarily want to go do it, but it was like I didn’t have any choice but to go do this,” Weber said.
“And I approached them and they ended up hiring me. And I worked for them for 15 years, for Bubba Gump as their spokesman, or mascot. And what I did is sit on a bench and talk to people,” he added.
Weber eventually decided he had found his calling, transitioning to promote what he called “Gumption”, becoming a motivational speaker playing Forrest all over the country — using symbols from the movie to change lives.
“And the three symbols and the three life lessons I chose were the feather — that comes in the beginning, and that’s the opportunities that come into our life,” Weber said.
“And then the chocolate box, and that’s the choices that we make. And the Nike shoe, which of course Forrest ran across America in. And that’s the journey of life,” he continued.
“And so life is nothing but a little bunch of series of chapters — which the movie was — life chapters. And then altogether it’s that journey of life and that’s what we all are. And that’s what we’re all doing. And it’s nothing but new opportunities come in, we make new choices and we just continue the journey.”
“Because we’re not victims here. We’re not powerless. We get to chose whatever. And actually, there’s clues. We can figure it out,” Weber told MTN News.
Today, whether it’s business seminars, conferences — or even in daily posts on his blog and Facebook page — Steve Weber welds together Forrest’s simple, but profound outlook to inspire, and help people cope with change.
“I want to be involved in being that deliverer. You know, help to deliver that message. And do it in a way that’s fun,” Weber said. “But also a way that is important. Because we all have to keep changing.”
“And that was really the brilliant thing about Gump, is that he didn’t worry about any of it. Maybe that’s the advantage of being a little bit slow, is that he never picked up on the idea that it was wrong,” Weber said.
“It was a mistake. It was exactly what it was supposed to be. When it was supposed to be and his life went on,” he added.
Weber met Tom Hanks once — when he was up for a gig as a photo double on “Castaway”. But today he’s content to influence people with humor and homespun observations.
Although he admits there’s been confusion with his doppelgänger along the way, including when he moved to the Bitterroot.
“And I’m going around and meeting people and talking. And I ended up meeting somebody and they said ‘you’re not going to believe it, but Tom Hanks was in town to buy some property here’. And I’m thinking, ‘oh my God, what’s the chances of that.’ But it was me,” Weber said.
If you’d like to sample “Forrest’s” pearls of wisdom, you can follow Steve Weber on Facebook.
Reporting by Dennis Bragg for MTN News