Program 24: Philadelphia
IMAGEOUT OF THE ARCHIVES
Directed by Jonathan Demme
It’s easy to forget that there weren’t always positive portrayals of LGBT lives in popular culture. Even when dealing with a topic as linked to the gay community as the AIDS crisis, it wasn’t easy to get a film made with a gay lead. When Philadelphia was pitched, there were 10 other scripts in development about AIDS, and all dealt with heterosexual characters. However, out screenwriter Ron Nyswaner wanted our struggle with the epidemic to be told.
Andy Beckett (Tom Hanks, winning an Oscar for the role) is a rising star at his law firm in the titular city, and he’s just been given responsibility for a multi-million dollar case. Andy is gay, and HIV+. Due to the homophobic atmosphere at the firm, Andy has disclosed neither his sexual orientation nor his illness. But there are those at the firm who suspect he’s sick, and someone sabotages his work to make him look incompetent. Despite winning the case, Andy is fired.
Aware of the real reason he was let go, Andy wants to sue for wrongful termination, but no one will take his case. Desperate, he approaches ambulance chaser Joe Miller (Denzel Washington) to help him. However, Joe is visibly uncomfortable when Andy reveals he has AIDS and tells Andy he’s got no case. But when Joe witnesses some of the ugly prejudice Andy faces every day, he has a reluctant change of heart.
Knowing his former colleagues will do whatever they can to discredit him, Andy asks those closest to him if they’re up for the storm that’s sure to come with the trial. Luckily, he finds a solid support system ready to stand by him through the bitterest of battles.
One of the first mainstream movies to address the AIDS crisis, Philadelphia wasn’t made solely to be “seen by the choir.” Director Jonathan Demme knew it was imperative the story have a universal appeal that could touch hearts and change minds. Inspired in part by the real-life discrimination lawsuit of Geoffrey Bowers, Demme’s aim was to put a human face on the AIDS epidemic. Mission accomplished.
— Christopher Roesch
AWARDS & ACCOLADES
- ACADEMY AWARD, Best Actor: Tom Hanks
- ACADEMY AWARD: Best Original Song: Bruce Springsteen “Streets of Philadelphia”
- GOLDEN GLOBES, Best Performance by an Actor: Tom Hanks
- BAFTA AWARD, Best Screenplay—Original: Ron Nyswaner
- SILVER BERLIN BEAR, Best Actor: Tom Hanks – Berlin International Film Festival
- GLADD MEDIA AWARD, Outstanding Film