According to Tom Hanks, “Cast Away” comes in part from an idea the actor had while reading an article on FedEx. During an actor panel discussion for The Hollywood Reporter, the actor said he was starting to wonder what would happen if the FedEx 747s that fly over the Pacific Ocean three times a day suddenly crash. This idea spread to the film’s survival theme.
“I made Cast Away because I wanted to examine the concept of four years of desperation, in which you don’t have any of the requirements for living – food, water, shelter, fire and companionship,” Hanks said.
“Cast Away” is also based on actual research by screenwriter William Broyles Jr., who spent a few days alone on a secluded beach near the Sea of Cortez in Mexico. As he told the Austin Chronicle, Broyles speared stingrays, tried to crack open a coconut, and spent a day and a half trying to start a fire by rubbing two sticks together. Along with these physical challenges, Broyles also struggled with the concept of loneliness, which is another main idea explored by the film. This was reinforced when Broyles found a volleyball on the beach, named it Wilson, and began communicating with him. This then led to Broyles creating what he describes as his “favorite character in the movie”.
In addition to Hanks ‘idea and Broyles’ research, “Cast Away” may also have drawn inspiration from other real-life explorers. As ScreenRant pointed out, one example is the Scottish castaway Alexander Selkirk, who found himself on a desert island in the Pacific in the 1700s and served as the real inspiration for Daniel Defoe’s novel “Robinson Crusoe”.