Back to IndieWire

Tom Hanks Says a Straight Actor Wouldn’t Do ‘Philadelphia’ Today: ‘We’re Beyond That Now’

"It's not a crime, it's not boohoo, that someone would say we are going to demand more of a movie in the modern realm of authenticity."

Tom Hanks, Philadelphia



Tom Hanks is looking back on playing a gay lead with his Oscar-winning turn in “Philadelphia.”

The 1993 film, based on a true story, earned Hanks his first Academy Award for playing lawyer Andrew Beckett, who filed a wrongful dismissal lawsuit against his firm after he is fired upon disclosing his HIV diagnosis. Denzel Washington co-starred as the attorney who took on Beckett’s case.

“Let’s address ‘could a straight man do what I did in ‘Philadelphia’ now?'” Hanks told The New York Times. “No, and rightly so.”

Hanks continued, “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.”

The “Elvis” star added, “It’s not a crime, it’s not boohoo, that someone would say we are going to demand more of a movie in the modern realm of authenticity.”

The debate over straight actors playing queer characters — and similarly actors taking on different ethnicities — remains ever a subject of debate onscreen. In an encouraging move for representation, however, Billy Eichner’s upcoming romantic comedy “Bros” exclusively stars an all-queer cast.

“We have TV stars, a lot of openly gay actors, but a movie star…,” Eichner told Entertainment Weekly. “We’ve never had an openly gay Ryan Reynolds, or an openly gay Paul Rudd, or an openly gay Kevin Hart, they just do not exist. Hollywood did not allow for it.”

Helen Mirren came under fire for taking on the role of former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, despite not being Jewish. The “Fast X” star shared that the casting decision was up to director Guy Nattiv.

“I said, ‘Look Guy, I’m not Jewish, and if you want to think about that, and decide to go in a different direction, no hard feelings. I will absolutely understand,'” Mirren explained. “But he very much wanted me to play the role, and off we went.”

The Academy Award winner continued, “I do believe it is a discussion that has to be had, it’s utterly legitimate. You know, if someone who’s not Jewish can’t play Jewish, does someone who’s Jewish play someone who’s not Jewish? There’s a lot of terrible unfairness in my profession.”

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Film and tagged ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox