Quality in Pairs: Philadelphia
Each of the actors contending for the 1993 Best Actor Academy Award® could claim two performances of distinction that year, even though the Oscar® nomination process recognized only one. First-timers Laurence Fishburne (What’s Love Got to Do with It, Searching for Bobby Fischer) and Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List, Ethan Frome) contended with familiar veterans Daniel Day-Lewis (In the Name of the Father, The Age of Innocence) and Anthony Hopkins (The Remains of the Day, Shadwlands). Oscar®’s claimant from this talented field headlined both the summertime romantic comedy hit Sleepless in Seattle and the project that represented perhaps the most dramatic about-face, the powerful AIDS-discrimination story Philadelphia, starring the remarkable Tom Hanks and opening 22 years ago today. Directed by Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs) and written by Ron Nyswaner (Mrs. Soffel), the story of a gay attorney (Hanks) in the City of Brotherly Love who sues his law firm when he is unjustly terminated after his illness comes to light was considered a risky proposition. Cast for his likability and to give audiences an entrée into potentially challenging subject matter, Hanks defied expectations and gave the role a grit and ambition that undercut the perilous possibilities of mawkish emotional excess. He was greatly and graciously aided by co-star Denzel Washington (simultaneously on movie screens that Christmas in The Pelican Brief) as the homophobic ambulance chaser who reluctantly takes his case and ultimately becomes a devoted and invaluable ally. The pairing worked. “Actors don't come any more average-Joe-like than Hanks, who shows both enormous courage and immense ability….Bald, emaciated and marked by purple Kaposi's sarcoma lesions, Hanks heart-wrenchingly recreates the dreadful cost of the disease,” Rita Kempley wrote in The Washington Post. “In its own way, Philadelphia is really a buddy movie, and Hanks and Washington are as beautifully teamed as Gibson and Glover in their squad car. Genial, handsome and full of subversive humor, Washington brings far more than the irony of skin color to the role of social avenger.” Hanks’ Oscar® was one of two for the film; the other went to the Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen, writer and performer of the Best Song winner Streets of Philadelphia. Pair up with Philadelphia, like Hanks’ Sleepless in Seattle and Hopkins’ The Remains of the Day available on Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray, each featuring an extensive roster of special features.