Tom Hanks on Whether He’d Be Able to Star in ‘Philadelphia’ Role as a Straight Actor in Modern Times: “No, and Rightly So”
While speaking to The New York Times about two of his award-winning turns — as a gay lawyer with AIDS in the 1993 legal drama Philadelphia and as a man with disabilities in the 1994 comedy-drama Forrest Gump — Hanks advocates that in the present, straight actors shouldn’t be playing gay characters.
Describing both movies as “timely films, at the time that you might not be capable of making now,” Hanks cites Forrest Gump costar Gary Sinise as Lieutenant Dan Taylor, a double-below-the-knee amputee, as an example. Sinise was “unable to” play the character he played once.
When asked about whether a film like Philadelphia or Forrest Gump wouldn’t get made today because they “would be mocked and picked apart on social media,” Hanks quickly brushes off that notion. “There’s nothing you can do about that, but let’s address ‘could a straight man do what I did in Philadelphia now? Hanks questions. “No, and rightly .”
The actor, who is next slated to appear in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, noted that “the whole point of Philadelphia was don’t be afraid” and that part of how audiences of that time were able to engage with that movie was because its leading character wasn’t played by a gay actor. Hanks believes that the times have changed and authenticity is more important than ever.
“I was playing a gay guy in that movie, which is why people were not afraid. He said that we’re now beyond that point and that people wouldn’t accept a straight man playing a gay man as authentic.
Hanks continued to defend those who believe that casting gay actors into gay roles or disabled actors into disabled roles is something Hollywood should do. “It’s not a crime,” he said, adding, “It’s not boo-hoo, that someone would say we are going to demand more of a movie in the modern realm of authenticity.”
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.