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Cast Away
Cast away film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Produced by Tom Hanks
Jack Rapke
Steve Starkey
Robert Zemeckis
Written by William Broyles Jr.
Starring Tom Hanks
Helen Hunt
Nick Searcy
Music by Alan Silvestri
Cinematography Don Burgess
Editing by Arthur Schmidt
Studio ImageMovers
Distributed by 20th Century Fox (North America)
DreamWorks (International)
Release dates
  • December 22, 2000 (2000-12-22)
Running time 143 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $90 million
Box office $429,632,142

Cast Away is a 2000 American adventure drama film directed and produced by Robert Zemeckis and starring Tom Hanks as a FedEx employee stranded on an uninhabited island after his plane crashes in the South Pacific. The film depicts his attempts to survive on the island using remnants of his plane's cargo. The film was a critical and commercial success, and Hanks was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role at the 73rd Academy Awards for his performance.[1]


In 1995, Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) is a time-obsessed systems analyst, who travels worldwide resolving productivity problems at FedEx depots. He is in a long-term relationship with Kelly Frears (Helen Hunt), with whom he lives in Memphis, Tennessee. Although the couple wants to get married, Chuck's busy schedule interferes with their relationship. A Christmas with relatives is interrupted by Chuck being summoned to resolve a problem in Malaysia. While flying through a violent storm, his airplane crashes into the Pacific Ocean. Chuck is able to escape the sinking plane and is saved by an inflatable life-raft but in the process, loses the raft's emergency locator transmitter. He clings to the life-raft, loses consciousness, and floats all night before being washed up on an island. After he awakens, he explores the island and soon discovers that it is uninhabited.

Several FedEx packages from the crashed plane wash up on the shore, as well as the corpse of one of the pilots (which he buries). He initially tries to signal for rescue and makes an escape attempt with the remnants of his life-raft, but he cannot pass the powerful surf and the coral reefs surrounding the island. He searches for food, water, shelter, and opens the packages, finding a number of potentially useful items. He leaves one package, with a pair of wings painted on it, unopened. During a first attempt to make fire, Chuck receives a deep wound to his hand. In anger and pain, he throws several objects, including a Wilson Sporting Goods volleyball from one of the packages. A short time later he draws a face in the bloody hand print on the ball, names it Wilson and begins talking to it.

Four years later, Chuck is dramatically thinner, bearded, his hair is longer, and he is wearing a loincloth. He has become adept at spearing fish and making fires. He also has regular conversations and arguments with Wilson. A large section from a portable toilet washes up on the island; Chuck uses it as a sail in the construction of a raft. After spending some time building and stocking the raft and deciding when the weather conditions will be optimal (using an analemma he has created in his cave to monitor the time of year), he launches, using the sail to overcome the powerful surf. After some time on the ocean, a storm nearly tears his raft apart. The following day, "Wilson" falls from the raft and is lost, leaving Chuck overwhelmed by loneliness. Later, he is found drifting by a passing cargo ship.

Upon returning to civilization, Chuck learns that he has long been given up for dead; his family and friends had held a funeral, and Kelly has since married Chuck's dentist and has a daughter. After reuniting with Kelly, the pair profess their love for each other but, realizing a future together would be impossible due to her commitment to her family, they part. Kelly gives Chuck the keys to the car they once shared. After buying a new volleyball, Chuck then travels out into the country to return the unopened FedEx package to its sender. The house at the address is empty, so he leaves the package at the door with a note saying that the package saved his life. He then departs and stops at a remote crossroads. A woman passing by in a pickup truck stops to explain where each road leads. As she drives away, Chuck notices the illustration on her truck is identical to the one on the parcel. Chuck is left looking down each road and then toward the departing woman in the truck.



The film was not shot consecutively. Hanks gained 50 pounds during pre-production to make him look like a pudgy, middle-aged man. After a majority of the film was shot, production was halted for a year 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. During the year-long hiatus, Zemeckis used the same film crew to make another film, What Lies Beneath.[1]

Cast Away was filmed on Monuriki, one of the Mamanuca Islands in Fiji.[2] 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. Although it is identified by Kelly after Chuck's return as being "about 600 miles south of the Cook Islands," there is actually no land between the southern-most Cook Islands of Mangaia and Antarctica.

The producers made up a list of seemingly useless items that would be in the packages that Noland recovered: party dress, ice skates, divorce papers, video tapes, and other sundries. They turned this over to a group of survival experts who decided how the protagonist might be able to use them.

The budget for this movie was $90,000,000, and on the opening weekend it grossed $28,883,406.


The film's minimal score was composed 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.[3] 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 tracks in Silvestri's score are as follows:

  1. "Cast Away" – 3:44
  2. "Wilson, I'm Sorry" – 1:39
  3. "Drive to Kelly's" – 3:54
  4. "Love of My Life" – 1:47
  5. "What the Tide Could Bring" – 3:39
  6. "Crossroads" – 2:08
  7. "End Credits" – 7:29

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.[4]


FedEx paid nothing for product placement in the film.[5] FedEx CEO Fred Smith did make 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. Although the idea of a story based on a FedEx plane crashing gave the company "a heart attack at first," the overall story was seen as positive and the company saw an increase in brand awareness in Asia and Europe following the film's release.[6]

Wilson the volleyball[edit]

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.[7][8][9] 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 Sea of Cortez, to force himself to search for water and food, and obtain his own shelter. During this time, a volleyball washed up on shore. This was the inspiration for the film's inanimate companion. From a theatrical point of view, Wilson also serves to realistically imply dialogue in a one-person-only situation.[10][11]

One of the original volleyball props was sold at auction after release of the film for $18,500 to the ex-CEO of FedEx Office, Ken May. At the time of the film's release, Wilson Sporting Goods launched its own joint promotion centered around 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.[12]


Cast Away was acclaimed by critics. The film holds a score of 90% on Rotten Tomatoes.[13] The film was a success at the box office, earning over $429,632,142 worldwide in ticket receipts.[14][15]


Award Category Recipients and nominees Result
73rd Academy Awards[16] Best Actor Tom Hanks Nominated
Best Sound Randy Thom, Tom Johnson, Dennis S. Sands and William B. Kaplan Nominated
54th British Academy Film Awards[17] Best Actor Tom Hanks Nominated
6th Critics' Choice Awards[18] Best Inanimate Object Wilson Won
58th Golden Globe Awards[19] Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama Tom Hanks Won
2001 MTV Movie Awards Best Action Sequence Plane crash Nominated
Best Kiss Tom Hanks and Helen Hunt Nominated
Best Male Performance Tom Hanks Nominated
Best On-Screen Duo Tom Hanks and Wilson Nominated
7th Screen Actors Guild Awards[20] Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role Tom Hanks Nominated

In popular culture[edit]

A FedEx commercial during the 2003 Super Bowl featured the final scene of the film, in which Chuck returns a package to its sender. In this version, the woman answers the door, and when Chuck 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."[15]

Media executive Lloyd Braun of ABC Studios first suggested the idea of a Cast Away-type television series at a dinner party in 2003.[21] Thom Sherman later pitched the idea for Cast Away – The Series, but never developed the idea.[21] The concept was later developed and pitched with the title Nowhere, which later turned into the ABC show Lost.[21]

See also[edit]

  • Survival film, about the film genre, with a list of related films


  1. ^ a b "'Cast Away' Director Defies Categorizing". New York Times. 2000. Retrieved October 18, 2012. 
  2. ^ Fiji. Korina Miller, Robyn Jones, Leonardo Pinheiro. Lonely Planet. 2003. p. 54. ISBN 1-74059-134-8. 
  3. ^ Cast Away DVD director's commentary
  4. ^ "Cast Away: The Films of Robert Zemeckis and the Music of Alan Silvestri". allmusic. Retrieved June 2, 2009. 
  5. ^ "Stranded: Behind-the-Scenes of Cast Away, A comprehensive behind-the-scenes look at Cast Away". Stumped Magazine. 2004. Retrieved December 27, 2009. 
  6. ^ "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 October 11, 2007. Retrieved November 25, 2007. 
  7. ^ "Cast Away lets Hanks fend for himself". Detroit News. December 22, 2000. Retrieved November 26, 2008. 
  8. ^ Nate Smith (January 7, 2001). "Cast Away proves great films still exist". Daily Gazette. Retrieved November 26, 2008. 
  9. ^ "The Volleyball in the Void". Alan Vanneman. Bright Lights Film Journal. Retrieved November 26, 2008. 
  10. ^ Hepola, Sarah (December 29, 2000). Lost at Sea and Back Again. The Austin Chronicle
  11. ^ Beverly Gray (March 7, 2001). "William Boyles, Jr.". All Business. The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 2, 2009. 
  12. ^ "Wilson Cast Away Volleyball". Wilson Sporting Goods Company's. Wilson Sporting Goods Company website. Retrieved February 11, 2014. 
  13. ^ Cast Away Movie Reviews, Pictures. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 18, 2010.
  14. ^ (January 3, 2001). Cast Away Leads an All-Star Holiday. The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 13, 2010.
  15. ^ a b "Why no matches in the FedEx box?: FedEx parody commercial makes deliberate decision not to help provide fire to its own castaway". CNN. 27 January 2003. Retrieved 4 March 2012. 
  16. ^ "The 73rd Academy Awards (2001) Nominees and Winners". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved November 19, 2011. 
  17. ^ Matt Wolf (February 26, 2001). "'Gladiator' Gets 5 British Awards". Associated Press. Retrieved October 9, 2013.  (subscription required)
  18. ^ The BFCA Critics' Choice Awards :: 2000 at the Wayback Machine (archived August 31, 2012)
  19. ^ Anthony Breznican (January 22, 2001). "A 'Gladiator's' Triumph; 'Famous,' Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts Also Win Golden Globes". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 9, 2013.  (subscription required)
  20. ^ Schaefer, Stephen (January 31, 2001). "SAG might shake up Oscar field". The Boston Herald. Retrieved October 9, 2013.  (subscription required)
  21. ^ a b c "Cast Away". Chicago. August 2007. Retrieved December 27, 2008. 

External links[edit]

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