‘Everybody says this must have been a risky choice, this is a very brave thing to do. Not at all. This is not 1962, I’m not Rock Hudson pretending to be married to his secretary.’
- Tom Hanks
lnevitably. given its attempt to address a mainstream audience that is overtly or tacitly anti-gay. Philadelphia makes many compromises: Andrew and his lover Miguel (Antonio Banderas) never kiss each other on the mouth. let alone have sex. and the emphasis throughout is on a David-and-Goliath-style
legal battle that focuses on broad issues of
discrimination and justice rather than speciﬁcally gay concerns. That said. the film also avoids the TV-movie. disease-of-the-week cliches ofbig emotional scenes. lingering close- ups and manipulative music. despite Demme‘s attempt to make a Terms Of limiearment style film. ‘a tremendously potent emotional
experience. a tear-jerker with a sense of
Ironically. as well as the expected criticisms from gay men who feel the filth fails to deliver. Philadelphia has also been accused of being too ‘politically correct‘. The casting of Denzel Washington as an African-American lawyer has drawn particular flak. something that Demme finds bewildering: ‘In fact. the reason Den/.el got cast was that he expressed an interest in the part. I told him that it had not been written for an African-American per se. and asked him if he thought we would have to make a lot of script changes to accommodate the change. And Denzel said. “No. do you?" And I said. “No. and especially if you don‘t." Now. I loved that. and for me the picture got twice as interesting at that point. because far from being “politically correct”. I thought that having Den/cl in the role would shake things up a bit.‘
Washington agrees that his playing Joe Miller brought an extra dimension to the character. ‘I think it’s interesting that an African-American plays the part ofJoe Miller.’ he says. ‘someone who. as we know. has been discriminated against. who then turns round and discriminates against someone else.‘ Equally important. as scriptwriter Nyswaner points out. Miller never undergoes a Road To Damascus-like conversion. In this sense. his slight shift in attitude parallels the hoped-for effect on the audience. ‘Joe isn't cured ofall his flaws by the end of the movie; I don’t think he‘s going to have very many gay friends in his life. But I think that when he next encounters a gay person. he’s going to respond at little more openly. And what i hope is that people who see the movie will feel that now they know someone. Andrew Beckett. who‘s gay but who’s not a monster. who’s not frightening. he’sjust a guy. If we achieve that. then that’s the most important thing.’ '3 Philadelphia opens in Scotland on Friday 4 March. '
FROM SEATTLE T0 PHILADELPHIA
No longerjust a cute, comic lead, Tom Hanks talks to Andrew Pulver.
be unexpected success of
Philadelphia across the US
has consolidated the
position of Tom Hanks as one of Hollywood‘s top—rated stars. More significantly. it establishes him as an actor with range and versatility. capable of taking on a heavyweight role charged with politics and social sensitivity. Just a few years ago. this would have seemed unthinkable for an actor who seemed to be permanently pigeon- holed as a charming. if dopey. comic male lead.
llanks‘s film before this. .S'leepless In Seattle. appeared to sum up his anodync screen persona -- a romantic lead in a film where the two lovers are kept apart. by any means necessary. until a chaste kiss in the closing frames. Hanks has frequently been accused of lacking any macho sexual charisma: perhaps that’s why l’hihalelphia‘s producers felt he. more than anyone. would be able to emerge unscathed from whatever furore would engulf their film.
‘I thought i knew everything about AIDS as a tragic scenario.‘ Hanks muses. ‘but I found I had more in common with these men than I had expected. It surprised me because I thought I was an enlightened White American. Talking to these guys. I felt like a mercenary. in all honesty.‘ Responding to charges that. in fact. a gay actor should have been given the role. he is matter-of- fact: ‘This movie is a mainstream business venture. The fact that I'm a heterosexual actor playing a gay man is. what. unfair‘.’ But there's no openly gay actor who can open a movie like I‘ve been able to. We might be able to look back on this
Feeling the heat from the critically slammed Bonfire ot the Vanities
in 200-1 and think how weird it all was.‘
Hanks‘s box-office appeal. which goes hand-in-hand with his squeaky-clean image. is founded on a string of successful comedy movies through the 80s. Splash — a Disney mermaid romance with Daryl Ilannah — was the first to get attention. back in l984; apart from establishing its two leads as Ilollywood faces. it also gave substance to the
. . o v ‘ 1. ambitions of Disney s :f live-action subsidiary. :5 'I‘ouchstone. liilms like s I.“
Tlte Bar/2s, I )ragnet and The Money l’it followed. routine fare which marked Ilanks as someone to watch out for. but no more. The waiting paid off in l988. with Penny Marshall‘s Big — the best example of that curious 80s genre of adttIt-kid-swap capers.
When he became a ‘proper‘ star. Hanks‘s clout got him some ‘proper‘ films. Turner And llonteh . . . hmmm. And. of course. lion/ire ()f The Vanities. Hanks still winces when the subject of Brian Del’alma‘s spectacular turkey is mentioned: even so. he‘s lucky to have emerged from the debacle (and the subsequent book. The Devil 's Candy) virtually unharmed. Still. he has made a virtue out of being an 80s man. so it‘s somehow appropriate that he should have slipped out of the loop as easily as he did.
‘I took Phi/adelpia. he continues. ‘because I like to work on movies that are kind of ' anthropological. that are some sort of photo- I _ ., record of how we live in V " I ' —
199-13 He professes to have been . . . or animals, in Turner profoundly affected by working on and "0°C"-
the movie — in particular by the 3 research he undertook for his part. But he remains despondent about the long—term effect it will have: ; “How many movies really change
things? Let‘s face it. it's an
entertainment which costs
someone seven dollars. How much
of a motor for social change can it
be other than getting people to
think about someone who has
AIDS'.’ Unless you experience that
in real life. it will always remain I some sort of abstraction.‘ I
Hanks in Sleepless In Seattle: never work with children. . .
The List 25 February—IO March “‘94 7