Tom Hanks Says He Couldn’t Play His Best Role Again

By Douglas Helm | Published

tom hanks

Tom Hanks is undoubtedly one of the most beloved actors of our time, so when he has an opinion about the industry, people usually tune in to hear it. In a recent interview with The New York Times, fans got the chance to catch up with Hanks and see what his thoughts are on the modern Hollywood era. According to Hanks, one thing he can no longer abide doing is taking roles like his Oscar-winning one in Philadelphia.

While this might come as a surprise, considering it’s one of Tom Hanks’ best roles and won him the Academy Award, Hanks had a good reason behind it. In Philadelphia, Hanks plays a gay man who seeks justice after he’s fired for being diagnosed with HIV. While it’s an incredibly powerful role, it seems like Hanks thinks he’d no longer be the right man for the job. He told The New York Times “Could a straight man do what I did in Philadelphia now? No, and rightly so,” adding “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.” Hanks is definitely a man of principle, and his argument for more representation is a strong one. It seems like Hanks just wouldn’t feel like he’d be giving the role what it needed if he was playing a queer character instead of a fellow actor from the LGBTQ+ community playing that character.

tom hanks
Tom Hanks in Philadelphia (1993)

Tom Hanks is far from the only actor to get acclaim for playing a gay character while identifying as straight. Sean Penn received a lot of praise for his portrayal of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California. Of course, Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger were also critically lauded for their performances in Brokeback Mountain. Jared Leto has even won an Oscar for playing a trans woman in Dallas Buyers Club. Call Me By Your Name and the recent The Power of the Dog won a lot of acclaim for the performances of Timothee Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Kodi Smit-McPhee. Hanks does pose an interesting question though. Should actors be limited to playing characters within the bounds of their sexuality? It seems like a contentious point, as a straight actor would unlikely be able to relate to the struggles of the LGBTQ+ community, but it doesn’t seem like LGBTQ+ identifying actors should be limited to only playing gay characters. Undoubtedly, people will likely have a lot of thoughts about Hanks’ comments.

Those who are looking forward to seeing another Tom Hanks performance won’t have long to wait. The upcoming movie Elvis will feature Hanks as Elvis’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker. The movie stars Austin Butler as the titular rock star, in what many are saying could be his star breakout role. The movie hits theaters on June 24.