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Tom Hanks says he couldn't play a gay character today and 'rightly so'

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

Tom Hanks says he couldn't play a gay character today and 'rightly so'
Cover Image Source: om Hanks attends the "Elvis" UK Special Screening at the BFI Southbank on May 31, 2022, in London, England. (Photo by Kate Green/Getty Images)

Tom Hanks says he wouldn't portray the character that won him his first Oscar if it was offered to him today. Speaking to The New York Times' David Marchese in an interview this week, Hanks reflected on his portrayal of Andrew Beckett—a gay attorney diagnosed with AIDS and battling workplace discrimination in Jonathan Demme's 1993 movie "Philadelphia"—and admitted that it would not be acceptable for him to play the character as a straight man today. The 65-year-old also stated that the legal drama and 1994's "Forrest Gump" were "timely movies, at the time, that you might not be able to make now."


"We've been talking a bunch about cultural shifts. I want to ask about cultural shifts related to the two movies you won Oscars for. There's no way a straight actor would be cast in 'Philadelphia' today and 'Forrest Gump' would be dead in the water," Marchese told the "Elvis" star in the interview. "I'm positive that its premise alone would mean that 'Forrest Gump' would be mocked and picked apart on social media before anyone even had a chance to see it." Hanks agreed with his interviewer, saying: "There's nothing you can do about that, 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. 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 star added.


According to CNN, "Philadelphia" was the first major Hollywood film to depict the AIDS crisis at the time of its release. Hanks won the Oscar and a Golden Globe for his performance in the movie, with Variety praising the actor's "towering" performance at the time as: "Hanks makes it all hang together in a performance that triumphantly mixes determination, humor, perseverance, grit, energy and remarkable clearheadedness. Whatever else might nag about the film's treatment of a difficult subject, Hanks constantly connects on the most basic human level."


The question of whether straight actors should be cast in LGBTQ+ roles has been an ongoing debate in Hollywood for several years. Yet, portraying gay characters is still a popular way for well-respected actors to pick up nominations and prestigious awards. According to Out, aside from Hanks, William Hurt, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sean Penn and Rami Malek have all won the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role for playing gay and bisexual men. Most recently, Benedict Cumberbatch was nominated for an Oscar for playing a repressed gay cowboy in Jane Campion's "The Power of The Dog."


Thankfully, as Hanks mentions in his interview, the tides are slowly changing. Last year, Eddie Redmayne, who received an Academy Award nomination for portraying a transgender woman in "The Danish Girl," admitted that he regrets playing the character in the Tom Hooper-directed film as a cisgender man. "I made that film with the best intentions, but I think it was a mistake," he said. "The bigger discussion about the frustrations around casting is because many people don’t have a chair at the table. There must be a leveling, otherwise, we are going to carry on having these debates."


British television mogul Russell T. Davies agrees. "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. It's about authenticity, the taste of 2020," he told Radio Times about casting queer actors. "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."

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