Tom Hanks says he couldn't do Philadelphia today as a straight man — 'and rightly so'
Tom Hanks won his first of back-to-back Best Actor Oscars for his performance in the 1993 film Philadelphia, in which he played a gay man dying of AIDS. It marked one of the highest-profile instances in a trend of straight actors garnering praise and awards for portraying gay characters, but Hanks says he wouldn't — and couldn't — take the role today.
In a new interview with The New York Times Magazine, Hanks discussed his new movie Elvis as well as some of his older credits, particularly Philadelphia and Forrest Gump (which earned him his second Oscar). Hanks acknowledged them both as "timely movies, at the time, that you might not be able to make now."
The times and the timeliness have a-changed, and the Times' David Marchese asked Hanks about such cultural shifts, saying that Gump would be "dead in the water" today and that there would be "no way a straight actor would be cast" in Philadelphia.
"There's nothing you can do about that," Hanks said, "but let's address 'Could a straight man do what I did in Philadelphia now?' No, and rightly so. 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 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. Do I sound like I'm preaching? I don't mean to."
These days it is indeed more likely for queer actors to play queer characters, but that doesn't necessarily preclude straight actors from playing queer. After all, Bradley Cooper is on a potential Oscar track playing Leonard Bernstein, and Ewan McGregor just won an Emmy for playing Halston.
But we can probably agree that Forrest Gump… probably hasn't aged the best. If life really is like a box of chocolates, you might want to check the expiration date on that one.