Hollywood arrived in Beaufort in 1993, scouting for just the right size shrimp boat to appear in the movie Forrest Gump. Filming equipment required roomy side decks, but they did not want the boat to be too big. Miss Sherri was just right, built locally by Kerry Abraham and named after his daughter. For the past six years, however, Miss Sherri was owned and operated by Jimmie Stanley and his son Jimmy Stanley (not “Jr.” because of the different spelling) who was 17 at the time. They sold as much shrimp as possible to docks like Gay Fish Company, Goldman’s Dock, and Dobson’s Dock- wherever business was good. Jimmy ran the back deck while his father was steering: “I’d be the only crew man on the whole boat.” Miss Sherri was re-named Jenny and given a rusty paint job to make it look rough for the movie.
Not only did the father and son team drive the boat during the filming (they were hidden behind blacked-out windows while Tom Hanks was turning a fake wheel), they also acted as advisors to 20-30 directors about what to wear and how to operate the shrimp boat: “They learned everything on the back of that boat from me,” Jimmy explained: how to pull up nets, ice the shrimp and even climb to the end of the outrigger if something broke. He showed them how he sat up in the rigging to watch the sea creatures that followed the nets. Subsequently, a seat was built to make a perch for Lt. Dan. Filming on the boat was three months, working all day at different locations and educating the crew about shrimping.
Remember when Forrest abandoned his boat, jumping from the Jenny and swimming to the dock to greet Lt. Dan? The “unmanned” boat proceeded to crash into the dock in the background. This scene was shot at Coosaw Bridge, and it was a fake dock built over small sticks of dynamite to create the explosion during the wreck. The Jenny sustained a bit of damage during this stunt. One of the wings was broken from the propeller and they had to replace the wheel, and the boat started sinking because a hole was knocked in the bottom.
After repairs, a barge was brought out with the Jenny to accommodate the large crew needed for the hurricane scene (filmed at Port Royal Landing). To create the ferocious wind for Hurricane Carmen, a jet engine was positioned in front of the boat. The film crew pulled on the outriggers on both sides to make it look like the boat was rocking while water cannons sprayed alongside to simulate waves. Fans and a sprinkler system above the boat added more rain to the mix. “Now that was fun to do there,” Jimmy recalls. The elder Stanley was very popular for his cooking- shrimp sausage and corn. Everyone involved with the scene learned to love Frogmore stew on the barge as you can see in the photograph.
Covering the storm’s aftermath, a news anchor stood on a ruined pier declaring that the shrimping industry was devastated in Bayou La Batre-except for one boat: “Speaking with local officials, this reporter has learned, in fact, only one shrimping boat actually survived the storm.” The Jenny glides along on cue, passing the less fortunate boats. Maneuvering the boat was a challenge in the small creek. Filming the scene took 20-30 takes as Jimmy recalls, and they got stuck in the creek during the very last take because of low tide. “It was a 2 ½ hour wait for the tide to come back,” Jimmy laughs.
A long-distance shot of the boat on the horizon was taken from Hunting Island. A stunt man was sitting in the rigging to be Lt. Dan, but he was not doing well with the rocking boat: “He got sea sick, and they had to evacuate him off the boat and take him back to land. He couldn’t take it.” They considered having Jimmy do it, but a director did instead. Speaking of getting sick, when the actors dumped a shrimp net, they were actually dumping the same pile of not-so-fresh shrimp for multiple takes. It made for an amusing story for the seasoned shrimpers.
After the filming, Jenny became Miss Sherri again, and the Stanleys continued shrimping for another year. It was docked at the seawall during the first annual Beaufort Shrimp Festival but was later sold to Planet Hollywood in Orlando. Jimmy’s father was disenchanted with the boat after his son sustained an injury while shrimping. Gary Sinise has been returning to Beaufort for the Lt. Dan Weekends. Once, he told the Beaufort Gazette that he wanted to come back and eat some of Jimmie Stanley’s Frogmore stew. As you see in another photograph, Sinise went to Fripp Island, and Jimmie cooked a big pot of Frogmore stew for the people that were associated with the movie. You may have also seen the picture at Steamer Oyster and Steakhouse with Jimmie Stanley and Tom Hanks and a huge pile of shrimp. The Stanleys kept in touch with Sinise and Hanks for many years after the filming.[nggallery id=12]