NO ONE WOULD TAKE HIS CASE… UNTIL ONE MAN WAS WILLING TO TAKE ON THE SYSTEM.
When Philadelphia attorney Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) is suddenly fired from his law firm after the senior partners realize that he has AIDS, he enlists the support of a homophobic colleague (Denzel Washington). After the success of The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Jonathan Demme found a story that in a way is just as terrifying. The naked fear of AIDS (and of homosexuality) is tangible in a film that focuses perhaps too much on the ensuing trial, but finds its heart in the awkward relationship between Hanks and Washington’s characters. Both are brilliant, and the director creates greater relevance by tying the story into a loving, melancholy portrait of the city as a whole.
1993-U.S. 119 min. Color. Produced by Jonathan Demme, Edward Saxon. Directed by Jonathan Demme. Screenplay: Ron Nyswaner. Songs: “Streets of Philadelphia” (Bruce Springsteen), “Philadelphia” (Neil Young). Cast: Tom Hanks (Andrew Beckett), Denzel Washington (Joe Miller), Jason Robards (Charles Wheeler), Mary Steenburgen, Antonio Banderas, Ron Vawter… Joanne Woodward, Roger Corman, Bradley Whitford.
Trivia: Bill Murray, Daniel Day-Lewis and Robin Williams were allegedly considered for the part of Beckett. Robert Castle, who plays Hanks’s father, is a priest and the subject of Demme’s documentary Cousin Bobby (1992); he would go on to appear in numerous films (especially Demme’s) after this one.
Oscars: Best Actor (Hanks), Original Song. Golden Globes: Best Actor (Hanks), Original Song. Berlin: Best Actor (Hanks).
Last word: “The film doesn’t shake a stick at people who are afraid of AIDS. I think it’s completely understandable for people to recoil at the idea of AIDS if they haven’t known someone, or if they don’t have a loved one who is already fighting AIDS. I was terrified of AIDS and people with AIDS until my friends and loved ones started getting it. Then I had to come to terms with my own fears and fight against my own personal ignorance, created by the lack of information out there.” (Demme, EmanuelLevy.com)