Tom Hanks wouldn’t play gay lead in Philadelphia today: ‘We’re beyond that now’

Tom Hanks at a photocall

Tom Hanks says he wouldn’t play the Oscar-winning gay lead in Philadelphia today as the world is “beyond” straight actors playing LGBTQ+ characters.

Hanks, 65, played Andrew Beckett in the 1994 film, a gay lawyer living with HIV who sued his employer for firing him over his status.

It was a pathbreaking movie at the time for being one of the first Holywood films to address HIV – scoring Hanks back-to-back Oscar wins for Best Actor following Forest Gump.

But in an interview with The New York Times Magazine, Hanks said if he was offered the part today he would turn it down. Playing a gay man as a straight actor is something he no longer feels comfortable doing.

“Let’s address, ‘Could a straight man do what I did in Philadelphia now? No, and rightly so,” he said.

“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.”

To HanksPhiladelphia was are “timely movie” that “you might not be able to make now”. The world has simply moved on from LGBTQ+ roles being played by straight, cisgender actors.

Tom Hanks (L) and Denzel Washington in Philadelphia. (TriStar/Getty Images)

“We’re beyond that now, and I don’t think people would accept the inauthenticity of a straight guy playing a gay guy,” he said.

“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.”

The question of which actors should be allowed to take on LGBTQ+ roles has flared in recent years.

Productions such as It’s a Sin and Single all the Way have earned plaudits for casting LGBTQ+ people in LGBTQ+ roles. A refreshing move considering so, so many straight, cis actors have gone on to win major awards for their portrayal of queer lives.

Others, however, not so much. James Corden’s exaggerated performance of a gay Broadway actor in Netflix’s The Prom was slammed as “gross and offensive” by movie critics.

While many actors, both queer and straight, have offered often conflicting views on the subject, It’s a Sin screenwriter Russell T Davies took it one step further. He said straight actors should never play queer roles.

“I’m not being woke about this… but I feel strongly that if I cast someone in a story, I am casting them to act as a lover, or an enemy, or someone on drugs or a criminal or a saint… they are not there to ‘act gay’ because ‘acting gay’ is a bunch of codes for a performance,” he told Radio Times in 2021.

“It’s about authenticity,” he said, adding: “You wouldn’t cast someone able-bodied and put them in a wheelchair, you wouldn’t Black someone up.

“Authenticity is leading us to joyous places.”