Sight and Sound - 03/01/1994
"...A moving experience....PHILADELPHIA is successful because it is intelligent, sensitive and committed..."
Entertainment Weekly - 06/17/1994
"...As a piece of moviemaking PHILADELPHIA often works wonderfully well..."
Chicago Sun-Times - 01/14/1994
"...PHILADELPHIA is a good movie...and the Hanks performance is one of the best of the year..."
Tom Hanks plays Andrew Beckett, a hotshot Philadelphia lawyer who has been keeping his homosexuality, and his AIDS, hidden from his conservative bosses. When he's suddenly and inexplicably fired, Andrew suspects AIDS is the reason, and is determined to fight in court, even as he is losing his other battle, against the disease. Beckett hires attorney Joe Miller (Denzel Washington) to represent him, but the lawyer must first overcome his own homophobia and fears. Director Jonathan Demme filmed this after winning the Oscar for SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. The amazing cast includes Antonio Banderas, Joanne Woodward, and Jason Robards. Roger Corman and Charles Napier, both in LAMBS, make appearances. Bruce Springsteen's haunting song "Streets of Philadelphia" plays over the memorable opening credits. This sensitive, moody film touches on a vast array of subjects surrounding gay and straight men, family, and death, without ever being maudlin or preachy, which is to its immense credit. An undoubted influence on society's growing acceptance of homosexuality, PHILADELPHIA reminds us how far we've come in that direction, and how far we still need to go.
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Theatrical Release |
Theatrical release: January 1994.
Jonathan Demme directed the music video for Bruce Springsteen's "Murder Incorporated" at Tramps in New York City. The songs "Murder Incorporated" and "Streets of Philadelphia" can both be found on Springsteen's GREATEST HITS album.
Director Jonathan Demme decided to make a film about AIDS when his close friend Juan Botas discovered he was HIV+. Botas, after spending months with a group of men with full-blown AIDS, informed Demme that the physical battle with the disease would be a "compelling subject for a documentary." Demme agreed and later decided to make "Philadelphia."
According to Premiere magazine, Demme examined several possible narratives but was most interested in stories like Clarence B. Cain's. Cain, an associate in a Philadelphia office of a Cleveland-based law-firm, lost his job only two weeks after telling his superiors about his health status. Cain took his case to a federal court and won a $157,000 settlement. Sadly, Cain died only two months later. He was just 38 years old.
A lawsuit was also filed against TriStar Pictures by the family of New York attorney Geoffrey Bowers, who claimed that the film was based on the life of that lawyer, who also had AIDS. After five days of testimony, a settlement in the case was reached when the makers of PHILADELPHIA acknowledged that the movie "was inspired in part by" Bowers's life. Bowers died in 1987.
When Demme and Nyswaner pitched the film's concept to Orion production head Marc Platt, he suggested that they insert a character mainstream audiences could identify with. So they decided to make Tom Hanks's lawyer, played by Denzel Washington, a "rabidly homophobic, aggressively heterosexual attorney."
Robert Castle, who played Tom Hanks's father in the film, is Demme's "Cousin Bobby," and was the subject of a Demme documentary of that name.
Entertainment Weekly reported that several scenes shot by Demme ultimately were excised from the film. These include romantic sequences between Andrew (Tom Hanks's character) and his lover--the lack of which has earned the film criticism from gay groups--and a scene in which a homosexual propositions Joe, the homophobic lawyer.