On This Gay Day: Tom Hanks won an Oscar for AIDS drama ‘Philadelphia’

In 1994 Tom Hanks won his first Best Actor Oscar for his role in Philadelphia

On this day in 1994 Tom Hanks won his first Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Andrew Beckett, a lawyer who faces discrimination when his colleagues discover he his gay and living with HIV.

Hanks was up against some impressive competition for the award, his fellow nominees were Daniel Day Lewis for In the Name of the Father, Lawrence Fishbourne for his portrayal of Ike Turner in What Loves Got To Do With It, Anthony Hopkins for In The Remains of the Day, and Liam Neeson for Schindler’s List.

When Hanks took to the stage to accept the Oscar for his acting, he made mention of a gay school teachers and a classmate who’d inspired him in his youth.  That action would provide the inspiration for the film In and Out starring Kevin Kline and Tom Selleck.

Hanks also paid tribute to the millions of people who has succumbed to HIV and argued for compassion and understanding.

“The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels, we know their names, they number a thousand for each one of the red ribbons we wear here tonight, they finally rest in the warm embrace of the gracious creator of us all. A healing embrace, that cools their fevers, that clears their skin, and allows their eyes to see the simple self evident common sense truth, that may manifest by the benevolent creator of us all, that written down on paper wise men, tolerant men in the City of Philadelphia two hundred years ago, God bless you all, God have mercy on us all, and God bless America.” Hanks declared.

Hanks also won the BAFTA , Golden Globe and an MTV movie award for the part. Musician Bruce Springsteen also won an Oscar for his title song for the film. Screenwriter Ron Nyswaner was nominated for an Oscar his script, but lost out to Jane Campion’s The Piano.

At first the film was released to just four cinemas across America, but slowly it was shown around the world, until it was one of the favourites to win at the 1994 Academy Awards.

The film tells the fictional story of lawyer Andrew Beckett who is fired from his job, his bosses declare it’s because of his poor performance, but he takes them to court because he believes it because they discovered that he is gay and HIV positive.

Denzel Washington plays lawyer Joe Miller, a lawyer who at first refuses to take Beckett’s case but later changes his mind when he sees how people react to Beckett’s HIV status. The film also features memorable performances from Jason Robards who plays the head of the law firm, and Mary Steenburgen who represents the firm in court. Veteran actor Joanne Woodward plays Beckett’s mother.

Antonio Banderas plays Andrew Beckett’s partner Miguel. It was one of the actor’s first film appearances where he spoke English – having become an established film star in his native Spain. Many of the scenes that were filmed showing affection between Hanks and Banderas’ characters were cut from the film, but restored on later DVD editions.

Director Jonathan Demme’s previous film Silence of the Lambs had been a box office smash and received critical acclaim. It is one of only three films to win all five big Oscars, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Film. The film was however criticised for his depiction of members of LGBT community.  Here he made a film that put forward a positive portrayal of the LGBTI communities most vulnerable.

The film was criticised for not being daring enough in its depictions of a same-sex relationship. Larry Kramer famously lambasted the movie, and watching it today it can take on the feel of a well acted TV movie of the week, but in 1993 it was forging new ground.

A few years ago during a Q&A session screenwriter Ron Nyswaner revealed that Hanks was not the first actor the role was offered to, the creative team had wanted Daniel Day Lewis to play lawyer Andrew Beckett.

“We wanted Daniel Day-Lewis and Daniel passed,” Nyswaner said, ” “I love him and he’s a genius, but I’m so glad he passed.”

It’s since been revealed that many actors passed on the role including Michael Keaton, William Baldwin, Tim Robbins and Andy Garcia, who were all leading men of the time.

Rosie O’Donnell celebrates her birthday

Comedian, actor and TV host Rosuie O’Donnell celebrates her birthday today, she was born in 1962.

O’Donnell made her feature film debut in 1992 staring alongside Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, Lori Petty and Madonna in the baseball move A League of Their Own. O’Donnell would go on to appear in many film including The Flintstones, Sleepless in Seattle, Another Stakeout, Exit to Eden, Now and Then and Beautiful Girls.

In 1996 she began hosting her own daytime talk show The Rosie O’Donnell Show which ran for eight years.  In 2006 she replaced Meredith Viera as the moderator of the talk show The View. She left the show the following year after an on-air blow-up with co-host Elizabeth Hasselbeck.

Over the years O’Donnell has created magazines, authored books, and been an outspoken advocate for gun control, adoption and fostering, LGBTI rights and many other causes. She produced the Broadway season of Boy George’s musical Taboo,  and although she lost millions of dollars and the show closed after just a few months, she described it as one of the most fulfilling projects she’d ever undertaken.

In 2002 she appeared on Will and Grace, playing a lesbian mother who inseminated herself with sperm donated by Jack McFarland. Their son Elliott appeared several times throughout the series. After her appearance in Will and Grace, O’Donnell publicly shared for the first time that she was a lesbian.  She also appeared in the popular TV series Queer as Folk playing Loretta Pye, a waitress in the diner where the cast hang out.

O’Donnell has been married two times. She was wed to Kelli Carpenter in 2004, the couple split in 2007 but did not need to divorce as their Californian marriage had been annulled by the state reversing same-sex marriage laws. The couple have four children. In 2011 O’Donnell began dating Michelle Rounds, they were married in 2012, but divorced in 2015. Rounds later took her own life in 2017.

Recently O’Donnell has returned to acting playing Rita Hendricks in The Fosters, gay rights activist Del Martin in the mini-series When We Rise, as well as appearing in SMILF, and I Know This Much Is True. Most recently she appeared in the TV series American Gigolo. 

OIP Staff

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