Philadelphia is a 1993 American legal drama film written by Ron Nyswaner, directed by Jonathan Demme and starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington. It was one of the first mainstream Hollywood films to acknowledge HIV/AIDS, homosexuality, and homophobia.
|Directed by||Jonathan Demme|
|Written by||Ron Nyswaner|
|Produced by||Jonathan Demme|
|Edited by||Craig McKay|
|Music by||Howard Shore|
|Distributed by||TriStar Pictures|
|Box office||$206.7 million|
For his role as Andrew Beckett, Hanks won the Academy Award for Best Actor at the 66th Academy Awards, while the song "Streets of Philadelphia" by Bruce Springsteen won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Nyswaner was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, but lost to Jane Campion for The Piano.
Andrew Beckett is a senior associate at the largest corporate law firm in Philadelphia, Wyant, Wheeler, Hellerman, Tetlow and Brown. He hides his homosexuality and his status as an AIDS patient from the other members of the firm. A partner in the firm notices a lesion on Beckett's forehead. Although Beckett attributes the lesion to a racquetball injury, it indicates Kaposi's sarcoma, an AIDS-defining condition.
Shortly thereafter, Beckett stays home from work for several days to try to find a way to hide his lesions. While at home, he finishes the paperwork for a case he has been assigned and then brings it to his office, leaving instructions for his assistants to file the paperwork the following day, which marks the end of the statute of limitations for the case. Later that morning, he receives a call asking for the paperwork, as the paper copy cannot be found and there are no copies on the computer's hard drive. The paperwork is finally discovered in an alternate location and is filed with the court at the last possible moment. The following day, Beckett is dismissed by the firm's partners.
Beckett believes that someone deliberately hid his paperwork to give the firm an excuse to fire him, and that the dismissal is actually a result of his diagnosis with AIDS as well as his sexuality. He asks ten attorneys to take his case, including African-American personal injury lawyer Joe Miller. Miller appears to be worried that he could contract Beckett's illness. After declining to take the case, Miller immediately visits his doctor to find out if he could have contracted the disease. The doctor explains that the routes of HIV infection do not include casual contact.
Unable to find a lawyer willing to represent him, Beckett is compelled to act as his own attorney. While researching a case at a law library, Miller sees Beckett at a nearby table. A librarian approaches Beckett and announces that he has found a case on AIDS discrimination for him. As others in the library begin to first stare uneasily, the librarian suggests Beckett go to a private room. Feeling discouraged by the other people's behavior and seeing the parallels in how he himself has faced discrimination due to his race, Miller approaches Beckett, reviews the material he has gathered, and takes the case.
As the case goes before the court, the partners of the firm take the stand, each claiming that Beckett was incompetent and that he had deliberately tried to hide his condition. The defense repeatedly suggests that Beckett brought AIDS upon himself by having gay sex, and is therefore not a victim. In the course of testimony, it is revealed that the partner who had noticed Beckett's lesion, Walter Kenton, had previously worked with a woman who had contracted AIDS after a blood transfusion and so should have recognized the lesion as relating to AIDS. According to Kenton, the woman was an innocent victim, unlike Beckett, and further testified that he did not recognize Beckett's lesions. To prove that the lesions would have been visible, Miller asks Beckett to unbutton his shirt while on the witness stand, revealing that his lesions are indeed visible and recognizable as such. Over the course of the trial, Miller's homophobia slowly disappears as he and Beckett bond from working together.
Beckett eventually collapses during the trial and is hospitalized. After this, another partner, Bob Seidman, who had also noticed Beckett's lesions, confesses that he suspected Beckett had AIDS but never told anyone and never gave him the opportunity to explain himself, which he regrets very much. During his hospitalization, the jury votes in Beckett's favor, awarding him back pay, damages for pain and suffering and punitive damages, totaling over $5 million. Miller visits the visibly failing Beckett in the hospital after the verdict and overcomes his fear enough to touch Beckett's face. After the family leaves the room, Beckett tells his partner Miguel Alvarez that he is "ready". At the Miller home later that night, Miller and his wife are awakened by a phone call from Alvarez, who tells them that Beckett has died peacefully. A memorial is held at Beckett's family home following the funeral, where many mourners, including Miller and his family, view home movies of Beckett as a happy child.
- Tom Hanks as Andrew ("Andy") Beckett
- Denzel Washington as Joe Miller
- Jason Robards as Charles Wheeler
- Mary Steenburgen as Belinda Conine
- Antonio Banderas as Miguel Álvarez
- Joanne Woodward as Sarah Beckett
- Robert W. Castle as Bud Beckett
- Ann Dowd as Jill Beckett
- Adam LeFevre as Jill's husband
- John Bedford Lloyd as Matt Beckett
- Dan Olmstead as Randy Beckett
- Lisa Summerour as Lisa Miller
- Charles Napier as Judge Lucas Garnett
- Roberta Maxwell as Judge Tate
- Roger Corman as Mr. Roger Laird
- David Drake as Bruno
- Harry Northup as The Jury
- Bill Rowe as Dr. Armbruster
- Chandra Wilson as Chandra
- Daniel von Bargen as Jury Foreman
- Karen Finley as Dr. Gillman
- Robert Ridgely as Walter Kenton
- Bradley Whitford as Jamey Collins
- Ron Vawter as Bob Seidman
- Anna Deavere Smith as Anthea Burton
- Obba Babatundé as Jerome Green
- Charles Glenn as Kenneth Killcoyne
- Tracey Walter as the Librarian
- Andre B. Blake as Young Man in Pharmacy (as André B. Blake)
- Daniel Chapman as Clinic Storyteller
- Peter Jacobs as Peter / Mona Lisa
- Paul Lazar as Dr. Klenstein
- Warren Miller as Mr. Finley
- Joey Perillo as Filko
- Lauren Roselli as Iris
- Lisa Talerico as Shelby
- Kathryn Witt as Melissa Benedict
- Julius Erving as Julius Erving
- Mayor of Philadelphia Ed Rendell as himself
The events in the film are similar to the events in the lives of attorneys Geoffrey Bowers and Clarence Cain. Bowers was an attorney who, in 1987, sued the law firm Baker McKenzie for wrongful dismissal in one of the first AIDS discrimination cases. Cain was an attorney for Hyatt Legal Services who was fired after his employer found out he had AIDS. He sued Hyatt in 1990, and won just before his death.
Bowers' family sued the writers and producers of the film. A year after Bowers' death in 1987, a producer, Scott Rudin had interviewed the Bowers family and their lawyers and, according to the family, promised compensation for the use of Bowers' story as a basis for a film. Family members asserted that 54 scenes in the movie were so similar to events in Bowers's life that some of them could only have come from their interviews. However, the defense said that Rudin had abandoned the project after hiring a writer and did not share any information the family had provided. The lawsuit was settled after five days of testimony. Although terms of the agreement were not released, the defendants did admit that "the film 'was inspired in part'" by Bowers' story.
Philadelphia premiered in Los Angeles on December 14, 1993 and opened in limited release in four theaters on December 22, before expanding into wide release on January 14, 1994. The LA premiere was a benefit for AIDS Project Los Angeles, which netted $250,000 APLA Chair Steve Tisch told the LA Times.
The film was the first Hollywood big-budget, big-star film to tackle the issue of AIDS in the U.S. (following the TV movie And the Band Played On) and signaled a shift in Hollywood films toward more realistic depictions of people in the LGBT community. Extras cast in this film included 53 people who were AIDS-infected as of the time of shooting the film. By the end of 1994, 43 out of those 53 people had died - demonstrating the close linkage between fiction and fact. According to a Tom Hanks interview for the 1995 documentary The Celluloid Closet, scenes showing more affection between him and Banderas were cut, including one with him and Banderas in bed together. The DVD edition, produced by Automat Pictures, includes this scene.
Philadelphia was released on VHS on June 29, 1994 and on DVD on September 10, 1997. Philadelphia was later released on Blu-Ray on May 14, 2013. To celebrate Philadelphia's 25th anniversary, the film was released on 4K UHD Blu-Ray on November 27, 2018.
Philadelphia was originally released on December 22, 1993, in a limited opening of only four theaters, and had a weekend gross of $143,433 with an average of $35,858 per theater. The film expanded its release on January 14, 1994, to 1,245 theaters and went to number one at the US box office, grossing $13.8 million over the 4-day Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, averaging $11,098 per theater. The film stayed at number 1 the following weekend, earning another $8.8 million.
In its 14th weekend, the weekend after the Oscars, the film expanded to 888 theaters, and saw its gross increase by 70 percent, making $1.9 million and jumping from number 15 the previous weekend (when it made $1.1 million from 673 theaters), to returning to the top ten ranking at number 8 that weekend.
Philadelphia eventually grossed $77.4 million in North America and $129.2 million overseas for a total of $206.7 million worldwide against a budget of $26 million, making it a significant box office success, and becoming the 12th highest-grossing film in the U.S. of 1993.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 80% based on 55 reviews, with an average rating of 6.75/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Philadelphia indulges in some unfortunate clichés in its quest to impart a meaningful message, but its stellar cast and sensitive direction are more than enough to compensate." Metacritic gave the film a weighted average score of 66 out of 100, based on 21 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews." Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.
In a contemporary review for the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert gave the film three and a half out of four stars and said that it is "quite a good film, on its own terms. And for moviegoers with an antipathy to AIDS but an enthusiasm for stars like Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington, it may help to broaden understanding of the disease. It's a ground-breaker like Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), the first major film about an interracial romance; it uses the chemistry of popular stars in a reliable genre to sidestep what looks like controversy."
Christopher Matthews from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer wrote "Jonathan Demme's long-awaited Philadelphia is so expertly acted, well-meaning and gutsy that you find yourself constantly pulling for it to be the definitive AIDS movie." James Berardinelli from ReelViews wrote "The story is timely and powerful, and the performances of Hanks and Washington assure that the characters will not immediately vanish into obscurity." Rita Kempley from The Washington Post wrote "It's less like a film by Demme than the best of Frank Capra. It is not just canny, corny and blatantly patriotic, but compassionate, compelling and emotionally devastating."
This section needs additional citations for verification. (January 2020)
|American Film Institute||AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains (Top 50 Heroes)||#49|
|AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers: America's Most Inspiring Movies||#20|
|National Board of Review Awards||Top Ten Films (1993)||#7|
|1.||"Streets of Philadelphia"||Bruce Springsteen||3:56|
|3.||"It's in Your Eyes"||Pauletta Washington||3:46|
|4.||"Ibo Lele (Dreams Come True)"||RAM||4:15|
|5.||"Please Send Me Someone to Love"||Sade||3:44|
|6.||"Have You Ever Seen the Rain?"||Spin Doctors||2:41|
|7.||"I Don't Wanna Talk About It"||Indigo Girls||3:41|
|8.||"La mamma morta" (From the Opera Andrea Chénier)||Maria Callas||4:53|
The album was re-released in 2008 in France only as a CD/DVD combo pack with the film itself, containing the same track listing (catalogue number 88697 322052 under both Sony BMG Music Entertainment and Sony Classical labels). The director deliberately asked Bruce Springsteen to make the feature song for this film in an effort to draw in those who may not know much about AIDS, so as to make their viewing of the film more comfortable, and to raise awareness overall. However, Springsteen's first contribution, "Tunnel of Love," was rejected by Demme.
Certifications and salesEdit
|Austria (IFPI Austria)||Platinum||50,000*|
|Canada (Music Canada)||3× Platinum||300,000^|
|France (SNEP)||2× Gold||200,000*|
|Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)||Platinum||50,000^|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Gold||100,000^|
|United States (RIAA)||Platinum||1,160,000|
* Sales figures based on certification alone.
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