In the drama movie Philadelphia, Tom Hanks plays a gay man, Andrew Beckett, who has to defend himself in court over unfair dismissal due to homophobia. The ’90s movie tackles the AIDS crisis and other themes relevant to being LGBTQIA+ during the ’80s, and Hanks states he wouldn’t take the role today.
“Could a straight man do what I did in Philadelphia now? No, and rightly so,” he told The New York Times Magazine. “The whole point of Philadelphia was, ‘Don’t be afraid.’ One of the reasons people weren’t afraid of that movie is that I was playing a gay man. We’re beyond that now, and I don’t think people would accept the inauthenticity of a straight guy playing a gay guy.”
He’s right. In the near 30 years since Philadelphia came out, there’s been more and more demand for more under-represented groups to define their stories on the silver screen. This means giving stories about being non-straight to people of the relevant sexual orientations. Philadelphia was forward-thinking for its time, but now it’d likely come under fire for being another film where LGBTQIA+ lives are used for plaudits without Hollywood really challenging itself to grow.
Hanks starred in Philadelphia alongside Denzel Washington. Johnathan Demme directed the feature, from a script by Ron Nyswaner.
It’s a notable chapter in Hanks’s career, because he won the Academy Ward for Best Actor in 1993 on he back of it, before starring in Forrest Gump, which went on to win Best Picture in 1994. He was a popular man in the early ’90s, and his candid comments now show he’s remained humbled despire such success.