Cast Away

Cast Away is a 2000 American survival drama film directed and produced by Robert Zemeckis and starring Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt, and Nick Searcy. Hanks plays a FedEx troubleshooter stranded on an uninhabited island after his plane crashes in the South Pacific, and the plot focuses on his desperate attempts to survive and return home. Initial filming took place from January to March of 1999 before resuming in April 2000 and concluding that May. Cast Away was released on December 22, 2000 by 20th Century Fox in North America and DreamWorks Pictures in its international markets. It grossed $429 million worldwide, with Hanks nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role at the 73rd Academy Awards.[2]

Cast Away
Cast away film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRobert Zemeckis
Written byWilliam Broyles Jr.
Produced by
CinematographyDon Burgess
Edited byArthur Schmidt
Music byAlan Silvestri
Distributed by
Release date
  • December 22, 2000 (2000-12-22)
Running time
144 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$90 million[1]
Box office$429.6 million[1]


In 1995, Chuck Noland, a systems analyst executive, travels the world resolving productivity problems at FedEx depots. He lives with his girlfriend Kelly Frears in Memphis, Tennessee, but his workaholism often interferes with their relationship. During a family Christmas dinner, Chuck is summoned to resolve a work problem in Malaysia. The FedEx cargo plane he is on gets caught in a strong storm and comes crashing down into the Pacific Ocean. Chuck is the only one who survives and escapes with an inflatable life raft, though the raft's emergency locator transmitter is ripped off. The next day, he washes up on an uncharted and uninhabited island.

Over the next few days, various FedEx packages also wash up ashore, as well as the corpse of one of the FedEx pilots, whom Chuck buries. He tries to signal a passing ship and escape in the damaged life raft, but the incoming surf tosses Chuck onto a coral reef, injuring his leg. He is able to find sufficient food, water, and shelter. Chuck opens most of the FedEx packages, finding a number of items to help himself, but does not open a package with a pair of golden angel wings painted on it. While attempting to start a fire, Chuck cuts his hand. He furiously throws several objects from the packages, including a Wilson Sporting Goods volleyball, leaving a bloody imprint. After calming down, Chuck draws a face into the smeared blood, names the ball Wilson, and begins talking to it. He continues to talk to it regularly during the rest of his time on the island.

Four years later, Chuck survives and has since taken shelter inside a cave. After a large section from a portable toilet enclosure washes up on the island, he builds a raft, using the plastic as a sail. Chuck successfully launches the raft that he has stocked with food, water, and the unopened FedEx package. Although a storm threatens the raft's stability, it proves resistant to the onslaught. One morning, as Chuck sleeps, Wilson falls off the raft and floats away. Chuck awakes and futilely attempts to rescue Wilson, but is left to grieve over Wilson's loss. Soon after, he is finally rescued by a passing cargo ship.

Upon returning to civilization, Chuck learns that he was declared dead by his family and friends. Kelly has since married and has a child. Chuck goes to Kelly's house and finally reunites with her. They reveal themselves to still be in love with each other, but both know that Kelly cannot abandon her family. She gives Chuck his old Jeep Cherokee, and they sadly part ways. Chuck drives to Texas to return the unopened FedEx package to its sender. Finding no one at home, he leaves the package at the door with a note saying that the package saved his life. He departs and stops at a remote crossroads. A woman in a pickup truck stops and gives information about where each road leads. As she drives away, Chuck notices an angel wing graphic painted on the tailgate of her truck, identical to the one on the parcel. He looks down each road, trying to decide which way to go. Chuck then stares down the road the woman took, and smiles, knowing that is the road he will take.




In a 2017 Actor Roundtable with The Hollywood Reporter, Tom Hanks stated[3]

I made Cast Away because I wanted to examine the concept of four years of hopelessness, in which you have none of the requirements for living—food, water, shelter, fire and company. But it took us six years to put together the alliance that would actually examine that. I only had a third of it, and Bill Broyles only had a third of it, until Bob Zemeckis comes along and provided that other third. I had that original idea. I was reading an article about FedEx, and I realized that 747s filled with packages fly across the Pacific three times a day. And I just thought, "What happens if that goes down?"

— Tom Hanks in 2017[3]


The island of Monuriki

The film was not shot consecutively. It began on January 18, 1999 before halting two months later. Filming resumed on April 3, 2000 and finished the following month. Hanks gained 50 pounds (23 kg) during pre-production, for the purpose of making his transformation more dramatic. After a majority of the film was shot, production was paused so that he could lose the weight and grow his hair and beard to look like he had been living on the island for years. Another four-month production halt preceded the filming of the final return scenes. During the year-long hiatus, Zemeckis used the same film crew to make another film, What Lies Beneath.[2][4]

Cast Away was filmed on Monuriki, one of the Mamanuca Islands in Fiji.[5] It is in a subgroup of the Mamanuca archipelago, which is sited off the coast of Viti Levu, Fiji's largest island. The island became a tourist attraction following the film's release. After Chuck's return, it is identified by Kelly as being "about 600 miles [970 km] south of the Cook Islands," but there is actually no land between the southernmost Cook Islands of Mangaia and Antarctica.

The film essentially begins and ends in the same location, on the Arrington Ranch in the Texas Panhandle south of the city of Canadian, Texas.[6]


The film's minimal score was composed and conducted by Alan Silvestri for which he won a Grammy Award in 2002. The film's soundtrack is most notable for its lack of score and creature sound effects (such as bird song or insect sounds) while Chuck is on the island, which is intended to reinforce the feeling of isolation.[7] Cast Away contains no original musical score until Chuck escapes the island. However, there is a Russian choral piece heard near the start of the film that was not composed or even recorded by Silvestri, so it does not appear on the film's soundtrack list. It is a traditional Russian song written by Lev Knipper called "Oh, My Field" ("Polyushko, Polye") and it is available on various collections of Red Army hymns.

The official soundtrack CD is an anthology of musical pieces from all films up to that point directed by Zemeckis and scored by Silvestri. The only track from Cast Away itself is the theme from the end credits.[8]


FedEx provided access to their facilities (Memphis, Los Angeles, and Moscow) as well as airplanes, trucks, uniforms, and logistical support. A team of FedEx marketers oversaw production through more than two years of filming.[9] FedEx CEO Fred Smith made an appearance as himself for the scene where Chuck is welcomed back, which was filmed on location at FedEx's home facilities in Memphis, Tennessee. The idea of a story based on a FedEx plane crashing gave the company "a heart attack at first," but the overall story was seen as positive. FedEx, which paid no money for product placement in the film,[10] saw an increase in brand awareness in Asia and Europe following the film's release.[11]

Wilson the volleyballEdit

Wilson the volleyball

In the film, Wilson the volleyball serves as Chuck Noland's personified friend and only companion during the four years that Noland spends alone on a deserted island.[12][13][14] Named after the volleyball's manufacturer, Wilson Sporting Goods, the character was created by screenwriter William Broyles Jr. While researching for the film, he consulted with professional survival experts, and then chose to deliberately strand himself for one week on an isolated beach in the Gulf of California, to force himself to search for water and food, and obtain his own shelter. During this time, a volleyball washed up on shore, providing the inspiration for the film's inanimate companion. From a screenwriting point of view, Wilson also serves to realistically allow dialogue to take place in a one-person-only situation.[15][16]

It is rumored—but not true[17]—that one of the original volleyball props was sold at auction for $18,500 to the ex-CEO of FedEx Office, Ken May. At the time of the film's release, Wilson launched its own joint promotion centered on the fact that one of its products was "co-starring" with Tom Hanks. Wilson manufactured a volleyball with a reproduction of the bloodied handprint face on one side. It was sold for a limited time during the film's initial release and continues to be offered on the company's website.[18]


Box officeEdit

Cast Away opened in 2,774 theaters in North America and grossed $28.9 million (an average of $10,412 per theater) in its opening weekend.[19] For the four-day Christmas long holiday weekend, it took in a total of $39.9 million.[20] The film kept performing well and ended up earning $233.6 million domestically and $196 million internationally, for a total of $429.6 million, against its production budget of $90 million.[1]

Critical responseEdit

On Rotten Tomatoes, Cast Away holds an approval rating of 89% based on 157 reviews, with an average rating of 7.40/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Flawed but fascinating, Cast Away offers an intelligent script, some of Robert Zemeckis' most mature directing, and a showcase performance from Tom Hanks."[21] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 73 out of 100 based on reviews from 32 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."[22] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.[23]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three stars out of four. In his review, he praised Hanks for doing "a superb job of carrying Cast Away all by himself for about two-thirds of its running time" by "never straining for effect, always persuasive even in this unlikely situation, winning our sympathy with his eyes and his body language when there's no one else on the screen." However, he also mentioned how he felt that the film is "a strong and simple story surrounded by needless complications, and flawed by a last act that disappoints us and then ends on a note of forced whimsy."[24]


Organizations Category Nominee Result
2001 Academy Awards[25] Best Actor Tom Hanks Nominated
Best Sound Randy Thom, Tom Johnson, Dennis S. Sands and William B. Kaplan Nominated
2001 BAFTA Awards[26] Best Film Actor in a Leading Role Tom Hanks Nominated
2001 Critics' Choice Awards[27] Best Movie Inanimate Object Wilson Won
2001 Golden Globe Awards[28] Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama Tom Hanks Won
2001 MTV Movie Awards Best Action Sequence in a Movie Plane crash Nominated
Best Kiss in a Movie Tom Hanks and Helen Hunt Nominated
Best On-Screen Duo or Team in a Movie Tom Hanks and Wilson Nominated
Best Performance in a Movie Tom Hanks Nominated
2001 Screen Actors Guild Awards[29] Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role in a Motion Picture Tom Hanks Nominated
2002 Grammy Awards Best Instrumental Composition Alan Silvestri (for "Cast Away End Credits") Won

In popular cultureEdit

A FedEx commercial during the 2003 Super Bowl parodied the final scene of the film, in which Chuck Noland returns a package to its sender. In this version, the woman answers the door, and when Noland asks what was in the box, the woman replies: "Just a satellite phone, GPS locator, fishing rod, water purifier, and some seeds. Just silly stuff."[30]

Media executive Lloyd Braun of ABC Studios first suggested the idea of a Cast Away–type television series at a dinner party in 2003.[31] Thom Sherman later pitched the idea for Cast Away – The Series, but never developed the idea.[31] The concept was later developed and pitched with the title Nowhere, which later turned into the ABC show Lost.[31]

The second episode of the seventh season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, “The Gang Goes to the Jersey Shore” references one of Cast Away’s most famous scenes. When Frank, floating on a raft in the Atlantic Ocean, loses his “rum ham”; his anguish resembles that of Tom Hanks' character losing a volleyball he named “Wilson.”[32]

On December 31, 2002 at Madison Square Garden, Phish played a clip from the film on the jumbotron to introduce their song "Wilson" during their concert. They later introduced "Tom Hanks" during the song on stage but it was later revealed to be keyboardist Page McConnell's brother Steve.[33][34]


  1. ^ a b c "Cast Away (2000)". Box Office Mojo. January 1, 2001. Retrieved January 10, 2015.
  2. ^ a b Kehr, Dave (December 17, 2000). "'Cast Away' Director Defies Categorizing". The New York Times. Retrieved October 18, 2012.
  3. ^ a b Galloway, Stephen (November 30, 2017). "Actor Roundtable: Tom Hanks, James Franco and More on 'Predators Everywhere' and Secrets of 'Legends'". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on October 4, 2018. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
  4. ^ "Cast Away". American Film Institute. Retrieved March 26, 2021.
  5. ^ Fiji. Korina Miller, Robyn Jones, Leonardo Pinheiro. Lonely Planet. 2003. p. 54. ISBN 1-74059-134-8.CS1 maint: others (link)
  6. ^ Carlson, Paul (August 2007). "Cast Away and the Texas Panhandle" (PDF). The Cyclone, Volume XIV, Issue 2. West Texas Historical Association. pp. 1–2. Retrieved January 2, 2015.
  7. ^ Cast Away DVD director's commentary
  8. ^ "Cast Away: The Films of Robert Zemeckis and the Music of Alan Silvestri". allmusic. Retrieved June 2, 2009.
  9. ^ "'Cast Away' Delivers Goods For Fedex". Chicago Tribune. 2001.
  10. ^ "Stranded: Behind-the-Scenes of Cast Away, A comprehensive behind-the-scenes look at Cast Away". Stumped Magazine. 2004. Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. Retrieved December 27, 2009.
  11. ^ "A look at some of the biggest hits in film and TV product placement". The Hollywood Reporter. April 28, 2005. Archived from the original on September 3, 2006. Retrieved November 25, 2007.
  12. ^ "Cast Away lets Hanks fend for himself". Detroit News. December 22, 2000. Retrieved November 26, 2008.
  13. ^ Nate Smith (January 7, 2001). "Cast Away proves great films still exist". Daily Gazette. Retrieved November 26, 2008.
  14. ^ Vanneman, Alan. "The Volleyball in the Void". Bright Lights Film Journal. Archived from the original on January 18, 2013. Retrieved November 26, 2008.
  15. ^ Hepola, Sarah (December 29, 2000). "Lost at Sea and Back Again". The Austin Chronicle.
  16. ^ Natale, Richard (December 20, 2000). "Casting About". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on April 18, 2015. Retrieved April 9, 2015.
  17. ^ VanHooker, Brian (April 17, 2020). "What Would Have Happened to Wilson After".
  18. ^ "Wilson Cast Away Volleyball". Wilson Sporting Goods. Retrieved April 27, 2014.
  19. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for December 22-24, 2000". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 9, 2015.
  20. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for December 22-25, 2000". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 9, 2015.
  21. ^ "Cast Away (2000)".
  22. ^ "Cast Away". Metacritic. Retrieved April 9, 2015.
  23. ^ "Find CinemaScore" (Type "Cast Away" in the search box). CinemaScore. Retrieved July 25, 2020.
  24. ^ Cast Away movie review and film summary (Roger Ebert), retrieved June 14, 2021
  25. ^ "The 73rd Academy Awards (2001) Nominees and Winners". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on April 14, 2012. Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  26. ^ Wolf, Matt (February 26, 2001). "'Gladiator' Gets 5 British Awards". Topeka Capital-Journal. Associated Press. Archived from the original on January 9, 2017. Retrieved October 9, 2013.
  27. ^ "The 6th Critics' Choice Movie Awards Winners and Nominees". Broadcast Film Critics Association. Archived from the original on January 4, 2012.
  28. ^ Breznican, Anthony (January 22, 2001). "A 'Gladiator's' Triumph; 'Famous,' Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts Also Win Golden Globes". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on November 5, 2013. Retrieved October 9, 2013.
  29. ^ Schaefer, Stephen (January 31, 2001). "SAG might shake up Oscar field". The Boston Herald. Archived from the original on November 11, 2013. Retrieved October 9, 2013.
  30. ^ "Why no matches in the FedEx box?: FedEx parody commercial makes deliberate decision not to help provide fire to its own castaway". CNN. January 27, 2003. Retrieved March 4, 2012.
  31. ^ a b c "Cast Away". Chicago. August 2007. Retrieved December 27, 2008.
  32. ^ IASIP - Rum Ham - The whole Story, retrieved March 22, 2021
  33. ^ "Tom Hanks joins reunited Phish on stage". Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  34. ^ "How Phish Phooled with a Phake Hanks". Retrieved September 23, 2021.

External linksEdit