Philadelphia (1993)

PG-13 | 119 mins | Drama | 22 December 1993

Director:

Jonathan Demme

Writer:

Ron Nyswaner

Cinematographer:

Tak Fujimoto

Editor:

Craig McKay

Production Designer:

Kristi Zea

Production Companies:

TriStar Pictures , Clinica Estetico
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HISTORY

A 9 Oct 1987 Publishers Weekly item announced Twentieth Century Fox was planning “the first major feature [film] dealing with AIDS” (acquired immune deficiency syndrome), based on Alice Hoffman’s upcoming novel, At Risk (New York, 1988). The studio purchased film rights to the novel for an undisclosed amount “well into six figures.” An 11 Oct 1987 LAT brief stated Hoffman would write the screen adaptation.
       At Risk eventually moved to Orion Pictures, where Scott Rudin was set to produce. However, when Jonathan Demme came on board to direct, Rudin left the project. It was later rumored that Demme refused to work with Rudin.
       In 1988, Demme brought the project to screenwriter Ron Nyswaner, with whom he had collaborated on Swing Shift (1984, see entry). Nyswaner was inspired to take on the project, partly because his eighteen-year-old nephew, Kevin, had been recently diagnosed with AIDS. As noted in a 28 Feb 1993 NYT article, Kevin Nyswaner died in Jun 1992, at the age of twenty-one. Two months later, in Aug 1992, Demme’s close friend Juan Suarez Botas also died of AIDS.
       Although a 26 Jun 1992 Screen International news item listed Alice Hoffman and Ron Nyswaner as co-screenwriters, no further mention of Hoffman was found in AMPAS library production clippings. The story that Demme and Nyswaner developed over two years was ultimately based on newspaper clippings and articles, and diverged from Hoffman’s novel about a young girl who contracts AIDS through a blood transfusion. According to a 19 Dec 1993 NYT article, the script went through nine drafts; throughout the development ...

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A 9 Oct 1987 Publishers Weekly item announced Twentieth Century Fox was planning “the first major feature [film] dealing with AIDS” (acquired immune deficiency syndrome), based on Alice Hoffman’s upcoming novel, At Risk (New York, 1988). The studio purchased film rights to the novel for an undisclosed amount “well into six figures.” An 11 Oct 1987 LAT brief stated Hoffman would write the screen adaptation.
       At Risk eventually moved to Orion Pictures, where Scott Rudin was set to produce. However, when Jonathan Demme came on board to direct, Rudin left the project. It was later rumored that Demme refused to work with Rudin.
       In 1988, Demme brought the project to screenwriter Ron Nyswaner, with whom he had collaborated on Swing Shift (1984, see entry). Nyswaner was inspired to take on the project, partly because his eighteen-year-old nephew, Kevin, had been recently diagnosed with AIDS. As noted in a 28 Feb 1993 NYT article, Kevin Nyswaner died in Jun 1992, at the age of twenty-one. Two months later, in Aug 1992, Demme’s close friend Juan Suarez Botas also died of AIDS.
       Although a 26 Jun 1992 Screen International news item listed Alice Hoffman and Ron Nyswaner as co-screenwriters, no further mention of Hoffman was found in AMPAS library production clippings. The story that Demme and Nyswaner developed over two years was ultimately based on newspaper clippings and articles, and diverged from Hoffman’s novel about a young girl who contracts AIDS through a blood transfusion. According to a 19 Dec 1993 NYT article, the script went through nine drafts; throughout the development process, much of the early drafts’ preachy and didactic elements were excised.
       By the spring of 1992, Orion Pictures had fallen into financial troubles. Rights were transferred to TriStar Pictures, as noted in a 21 Jun 1992 LAT item, which referred to the film by its new title, Probable Cause. The budget was listed as $25 million in the 28 Feb 1993 LAT, although a 28 May 1992 HR article had previously reported a budget of $29 million.
       An 8 May 1992 Screen International brief announced Andy Garcia would star as “Andy Beckett.” Due to scheduling conflicts, Garcia was replaced by Daniel Day-Lewis, who, in turn, left the project when a previous commitment, Shakespeare in Love (1998, see entry), resumed development. Andy Garcia briefly returned but did not remain with the project. A 3 Aug 1992 Var item stated that actors Matthew Modine and William Baldwin expressed interest in taking over the lead, but Tom Hanks was ultimately cast, as reported in the 12 Aug 1992 Long Beach Press-Telegram. The film was retitled People Like Us, and finally, Philadelphia.
       According to news items in the 28 May 1992 HR, 26 Jun 1992 Screen International, and 10 Aug 1992 HR Bill Murray, William Hurt, Nick Nolte, and Tim Robbins were considered for the role of personal injury attorney “Joe Miller,” before Denzel Washington was cast. Paul Newman was also said to be interested in an unspecified role. A 5 Dec 1992 Long Beach Press-Telegram brief noted the role of Andy Beckett’s father, “Bud Beckett,” was played by Jonathan Demme’s cousin, Reverend Robert Castle, the subject of Demme’s 1992 documentary, Cousin Bobby (see entry). As noted in a 16 Dec 1993 DV “Just for Variety” column, former Orion marketing executive Charles Glenn made his feature film acting debut as “Kenneth Killcoyne.”
       Tom Hanks prepared for the film by reading the work of homosexual writer and activist Paul Monette. As stated in the Dec 1993 issue of Interview magazine, beginning in mid-Sep 1992, he worked with two personal trainers to shed a total of thirty-five pounds.
       Principal photography began 21 Oct 1992 in Philadephia, PA, according to the 24 Nov 1992 HR production chart. Scenes were shot mostly in chronological order, to allow Hanks to follow a clear emotional trajectory, and also to be at his thinnest by the final scenes. According to production notes in AMPAS library files, courtroom scenes were filmed in courtroom 243 of Philadelphia’s City Hall. Other locations included the University of Pennsylvania Library, Mt. Sinai Hospital, the ActionAIDS clinic, an architect’s loft apartment in South Philadelphia, Spectrum sports arena, and the law firm of Mesirov, Gelman, Jaffe, Cramer & Jamieson, which stood in for the fictional “Wyant, Wheeler, Hellerman, Tetlow & Brown.”
       Several famous gay figures appeared in the costume party scene, including Quentin Crisp (dressed as Oscar Wilde); gay-rights lawyer Thomas B. Stoddard; and singer-songwriter Michael Callen, who performs as part of the a capella quintet, “The Flirtations.” Actor Ron Vawter, who plays “Ben Seidman,” also appears in the party scene dressed as a sheik. Vawter was among fifty-three cast members (including background actors) who were known to have AIDS. A 19 Dec 1993 Parade item noted Demme arranged for a replacement who looked like Vawter, in case he did not live through filming. A 1 Jan 1995 NYT article noted that forty-three of the fifty-three cast members with AIDS, including Vawter, had died since filming ended.
       Scenes that were cut during post-production included a speech about discrimination given by Joe Miller to his co-workers, and two domestic scenes between Andy Beckett and his live-in partner, “Miguel Alvarez,” played by Antonio Banderas. In one of the domestic scenes, Andy and a shirtless Miguel lie in bed together. The movie later came under criticism for not showing Hanks and Banderas kiss on the mouth, or show more physical affection. Demme claimed the more intimate scenes had simply been cut because they slowed down the film. According to Nyswaner, in response to potential ramifications of downplaying the homosexual love story, Demme argued the film could not please everyone.
       The 7 Dec 1993 DV review acknowledged that Philadelphia bore the burden of being the first major motion picture to address AIDS, and it was therefore understandable that filmmakers took a conservative approach to the material. A 23 Jan 1994 NYT article characterized TriStar’s promotional campaign as “sly,” noting that advertisements downplayed themes of AIDS and homosexuality, instead presenting the film as a “vague courtroom drama” in hope of drawing mainstream moviegoers. When interviewed on the television news program Nightline, TriStar chairman Mike Medavoy reportedly stated, “The film isn’t about AIDS. It isn’t an examination of somebody who has AIDS. We’re not sending the public in to look at people who have AIDS.”
       Although the U.S. government had come under tremendous criticism for neglecting the AIDS epidemic since it began in the early 1980s, a special screening was held at the White House in Washington, D.C., on 27 Nov 1993, as noted in a 22 Nov 1993 Var brief. President Bill Clinton was in attendance, as well as Jonathan Demme, Ron Nyswaner, Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, and several other members of the cast and crew.
       The world premiere took place on 14 Dec 1993 in Los Angeles, CA, according to the 16 Dec 1993 LAT. The benefit screening and after-party at Century Plaza Hotel raised $250,000 for AIDS Project Los Angeles. A New York City premiere followed on 16 Dec 1993, as noted in an NYT brief of the same date, raising $200,000 for the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR). TriStar received numerous requests from various AIDS organizations to host benefit screenings. Producer Edward Saxon worked with Jonathan Demme to narrow the list to seventeen organizations, ranging from big-name operations like amfAR to smaller groups like Birch Services of Queens, NY, to be the beneficiaries of special screenings around the U.S.
       Philadelphia opened in four theaters on 22 Dec 1993, and widened to 1,245 theaters on 14 Jan 1994, according to the 17 Jan 1994 LAT. In the first weekend of wide release, it grossed an impressive $12.1 million. Three months later, a 29 Apr 1994 HR item stated the cumulative domestic box-office gross was expected to reach $75-$80 million, in addition to at least $107.5 million in overseas ticket sales.
       Tom Hanks, credited in the 23 Jan 1994 NYT as the “first front-line movie star to play a leading gay role in a major studio film,” won an Academy Award for Actor in a Leading Role and a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama. Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets Of Philadelphia” won an Academy Award for Music (Original Song), a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song – Motion Picture, four Grammy awards for Song of the Year, Best Male Rock Vocal Performance, Best Rock Song, and Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or for Television, and ranked #68 on AFI’s 2004 100 Years…100 Songs list of the top 100 movie songs. Philadelphia received Academy Award nominations in the following categories: Makeup; Music (Original Song) – “Philadelphia” by Neil Young; and Writing (Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen). Ron Nyswaner also received a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Screenplay – Motion Picture. According to the 24 Mar 1994 DV, the Film Information Council gave TriStar Pictures an Excellence in Film Marketing Award for the best marketed film of Jan 1994.
       A soundtrack including the film’s original songs by Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young was released by Epic Soundtrax. According to a 17 Apr 1994 LAT article, altered versions of “Streets of Philadelphia,” incorporating sound bytes from Bruce Springsteen’s and Tom Hanks’s Academy Award acceptance speeches, were created by several disc jockeys, and inspired Columbia Records to release its own Academy Award version of the song. Although the new version initially received heavy airplay, and was considered by some to be more uplifting than the original, AMPAS claimed the song violated its copyright on the telecast and threatened legal action if the song continued to be played.
       Jonathan Demme was inspired to produce another AIDS-related film, the 1994 documentary One Foot on a Banana Peel, The Other Foot in the Grave, as noted in the 31 Jan 1994 NYT. In 1992, Demme commissioned his close friend Juan Suarez Botas, who was dying from AIDS, to film himself and fellow patients of Dr. Paul Bellman as they received daily intravenous treatments together. The documentary was included as an extra in a 2004 home video release of Philadelphia.
       TriStar Pictures, Jonathan Demme, Ron Nyswaner and producer Edward Saxon were sued for $10 million by the family of Geoffrey Bowers, a lawyer who had sued the firm of Baker & McKenzie for discrimination shortly before his death from AIDS in Sep 1987. According to a 17 Feb 1994 LAT article, producer Scott Rudin made a verbal agreement with the Bowers family when the project was still set up at Orion Pictures, promising compensation for the use of Geoffrey Bowers’s story. The verbal agreement was said to be inherited by TriStar when it took over the project, but TriStar initially claimed the Bowers’ lawsuit had no merit. As noted in the 19 Dec 1993 NYT, Ron Nyswaner acknowledged that, sometime during development, he ran into Scott Rudin at a party, and Rudin suggested the story be based on a civil lawsuit. In their complaint, the Bowers family pointed out several similarities between the fictional Andy Beckett and Geoffrey Bowers, including the facial lesions that prompted their firing, each man’s attempted use of makeup to cover up the lesions, and the fact that they disrobed in court to show lesions on the chest and torso. Although many facts of Bowers’s case could have been gleaned from publicly available newspaper articles, one line included in the film, in which actress Joanne Woodward, as Andy’s mother “Sarah Beckett,” claims she did not raise her son to “sit in the back of the bus,” was allegedly taken from Bowers’s mother – a personal detail the family claimed to have shared with Scott Rudin. When the lawsuit went to trial, Nyswaner testified that Joanne Woodward improvised the line in question. However, he was disproved when early drafts of his script, including the line, were presented to him. TriStar president Marc Platt testified that Rudin repeatedly requested TriStar honor its “moral obligation” to make a deal with the Bowers family. A 20 Mar 1996 DV article stated the trial was cut short the day before Rudin was set to testify, when TriStar offered the Bowers family a “mid-seven-figure” settlement. As a result of the civil suit, TriStar publicly acknowledged that the film was partly inspired by Geoffrey Bowers’ AIDS discrimination lawsuit. The home video version of the film viewed by AFI included the following statement in end credits: “This motion picture was inspired in part by Geoffrey Bowers’ AIDS discrimination lawsuit, the courage and love of the Angius family and the struggles of many others who, along with their loved ones, have experienced discrimination because of AIDS.”
       End credits also include the following: “Clip of ‘Well, Did You Evah?’ directed by Alex Cox from ‘red hot + blue,’ courtesy of King Cole, Inc.”; “The producers are grateful for artwork provided by: Steven Baris; James Brantley; Sam Brown; Pat Colville; Tony Fitzpatrick; Cavin Jones; David Lebe; Charles Searles; Ray Steth; Andrew Turner; R. L. Washington; Gary Weisman; Paul Cava Gallery; Childs Gallery, Ltd.; Condesco/Lawler Gallery; Sande Webster Gallery”; “Special Thanks to: Action AIDS Philadelphia; Ana Leza Banderas; Dr. Paul Bellman; Scott Burris; Thomas Cavanaugh; Mark Christopher; Billy Cole; Ornette Coleman; John Epperson; The Greater Philadelphia Film Office; Joanne Howard; Bruce Langhorne; Mesirov, Gelman, Jaffe, Cramer & Jamieson; NBA Entertainment, Inc.; Antonia Ozeroff; Annie-B Parson; Sharon Pinkenson; Mayor Edward Rendell; Jimmy Scott; Tom Stoddard; and Juan Suarez Botas, Rexall Chinn, Kevin Nyswaner"; and, "A Luta Continua."

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
7 Dec 1993
---
Daily Variety
16 Dec 1993
p. 4
Daily Variety
24 Mar 1994
---
Daily Variety
20 Mar 1996
p. 1, 18
Hollywood Reporter
28 May 1992
p. 1, 17
Hollywood Reporter
10 Aug 1992
p. 1, 23
Hollywood Reporter
24 Nov 1992
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 Dec 1993
p. 5, 19
Hollywood Reporter
29 Apr 1994
---
Interview
Dec 1993
pp. 89-90
Long Beach Press-Telegram
12 Aug 1992
---
Long Beach Press-Telegram
5 Dec 1992
---
Los Angeles Times
11 Oct 1987
Calendar, p. 26
Los Angeles Times
21 Jun 1992
Calendar, p. 24
Los Angeles Times
28 Feb 1993
Calendar, p. 3
Los Angeles Times
16 Dec 1993
p. 2
Los Angeles Times
22 Dec 1993
Calendar, p. 1
Los Angeles Times
2 Jan 1994
p. 60
Los Angeles Times
17 Jan 1994
Calendar, p. 2
Los Angeles Times
17 Feb 1994
Calendar, p. 1
Los Angeles Times
17 Apr 1994
Calendar, p. 57
New York Times
28 Feb 1993
Section A, p. 1
New York Times
16 Dec 1993
Section A, p. 30
New York Times
19 Dec 1993
---
New York Times
19 Dec 1993
Section A, p. 11
New York Times
22 Dec 1993
p. 15
New York Times
23 Jan 1994
Section A, p. 17
New York Times
31 Jan 1994
Section B, p. 6
New York Times
2 Feb 1994
Section B, p. 2
New York Times
1 Jan 1995
Section F, p. 3
Newsday
9 Apr 1992
p. 11
Parade
19 Dec 1993
---
Publishers Weekly
9 Oct 1987
---
Screen International
8 May 1992
---
Screen International
26 Jun 1992
---
Screen International
3 Jul 1992
---
Variety
3 Aug 1992
---
Variety
22 Nov 1993
---
Variety
20 Dec 1993
p. 31
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
The Flirtations:
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
TriStar Pictures Presents
A Clinica Estetico Production
a Jonathan Demme Picture
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d unit dir
2d unit 1st asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
DGA trainee
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
Chief lighting tech
Dolly grip
Steadicam by
"B" cam op
2d asst cam
Still photog
Rigging gaffer
Rigging grip
Elec best boy
Best boy grip
Cam trainee
Steadicam asst
"B" cam asst
Video playback
Wescam aerial provided by
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Art dept coord
FILM EDITORS
Assoc ed
1st asst ed
2d asst ed
Apprentice ed
Post-prod facilities
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Asst prop master
Key set dresser
Asst set dec
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Scenic charge artist
Standby scenic
Scenic foreman
Scenic foreman
Const coord
Const foreman
Const foreman
Stage coord
Lisa's paintings by
Miguel's paintings by
Miguel's paintings by
COSTUMES
Cost des
Asst cost des
Ward supv
Ward supv
Ward asst
Selected ward for "Philadelphia" by
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
Mus ed
Asst mus ed
Asst mus ed
SOUND
Prod sd mixer
Re-rec mixer
Supv sd ed
Sd rec
Dial ed
Foley supv
Foley ed
Foley ed
Foley ed
ADR asst ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Apprentice sd ed
Sd eff and Foley by
Marko Costanzo
Foley artist
Addl re-rec
Re-rec
ADR eng
ADR casting
VISUAL EFFECTS
Title des
Opt eff supv
Main & end title opticals
Titles consultant
MAKEUP
Make-up created by
Hairstyles des by
Wigs
Make-up artist to Mr. Washington
Hairstylist to Mr. Washington
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Prod supv
Prod assoc
Scr supv
Prod accountant
Craft services
Post prod coord
Prod projectionist
Philadelphia casting
Extras casting
Extras casting supv
Casting assoc
Fiscal representative
Unit pub
Asst loc mgr
Asst to Mr. Demme
Asst to Mr. Demme
Asst to Mr. Saxon
Asst to Mr. Goetzman
Asst to Mr. Utt
Asst to Mr. Hanks
Asst to Mr. Hanks
Asst to Mr. Washington
Prod office coord
Asst prod office coord
Asst accountant
2d asst accountant
Prod secy
Prod secy
Key set asst
2d unit locs
Transportation capt
Transportation capt
Transportation co-capt
Transportation capt (Philadelphia)
Transportation co-capt (Philadelphia)
Police supv
Security consultant
City Hall liaison
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod intern
Prod intern
Prod intern
Prod intern
Prod intern
Prod intern
Prod intern
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Col by
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
"Streets Of Philadephia," produced by Bruce Springsteen and Chuck Plotkin, written and performed by Bruce Springsteen, courtesy of Columbia Records; "Philadelphia," written, produced and performed by Neil Young, courtesy of reprise records; "Yes Means Yes," written and produced by Barbara Hand & Tim Utt, performed by Sensible Shoes; "Please Send Me Someone To Love," written by Percy Mayfield, produced by Sade & Hein Hoven, performed by Sade, courtesy of Epic Records; "Laudate Dominum," composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, performed by Barbara Hendricks, with Sir Neville Marriner conducting The Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields Orchestra & Chorus, courtesy of EMI Classics, under license from CEMA Special Markets; "I Don't Wanna Talk About It," written by Danny Whitten, produced by Peter Collins, performed by Indigo Girls, courtesy of Epic Records; "Sister Rosa," written by Cyril Neville, Cyril Neville Jr., Daryl Johnson, Jason Neville, Charles Moore & Lyrica Neville, performed by The Neville Brothers, courtesy of A&M Records, Inc.; "Agnus Dei," composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, performed by Barbara Hendricks, with Sir Neville Marriner conducting The Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields Orchestra & Chorus, courtesy of EMI Classics, under license from CEMA Special Markets; "It's In Your Eyes," written by LeRonald Walker & Samuel Waymon, produced by Anton Sanko, performed by Pauletta Washington; "Ibo Lele (Dreams Come True)," written by Richard Morse, produced by Richard Morse & Yvon Ciné, performed by RAM; "All The Way," written by Sammy Cahn & Jimmy Van Heusen, performed by Gary Goetzman; "Non Temer Amato Bene," composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, performed by Lucia Popp with Kurt Eichhorn conducting The Munchner Rundfunk Orchestra, courtesy of RCA Victor Red Seal, a division of BMG Classics; "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," arranged and performed by Cyril Watters, courtesy of Promusic; "Have You Ever Seen The Rain?" written by John Fogerty, produced by Spin Doctors, Peter Denenberg & Frankie LaRocka, performed by Spin Doctors, courtesy of Epic Associated; "Dulcissimum Convivium," composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, performed by Barbara Hendricks, with Sir Neville Marriner conducting The Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields Orchestra & Chorus, courtesy of EMI Classics, under license from CEMA Special Markets; "Lovetown," produced by Daniel Lanois and Peter Gabriel, written and performed by Peter Gabriel, courtesy of Geffen Records (U.S./Canada) Virgin Records (Outside U.S./Canada); "Mr. Sandman," written by Pat Ballard, performed by The Flirtations; "Heaven," written by David Byrne, performed by Q Lazzarus; "O Nume Tutelar" (From Opera La Vestale), composed by Gasparo Spontini, performed by Maria Callas, with Tullio Serafin conducting The Teatro Alla Scala Orchestra, courtesy of EMI Classics, under license from CEMA Special Markets; "La Mamma Morta" (From The Opera Andrea Chenier), composed by Umberto Giordano, performed by Maria Callas, with Tullio Serafin conducting The Philharmonia Orchestra, courtesy of EMI Classics, under license from CEMA Special Markets; "Ecco: Respiro Appena" (From The Opera Adriana Lecouvreur), composed by Francesco Cilea, performed by Maria Callas, with Tullio Serafin conducting The Philharmonia Orchestra, courtesy of EMI Classics, under license from CEMA Special Markets; "Ebben? Ne Andro Lontana" (From The Opera La Wally), composed by Alfredo Catalani, performed by Maria Callas, with Tullio Serafin conducting The Philharmonia Orchestra, courtesy of EMI Classics, under license from CEMA Special Markets.
SONGWRITERS/COMPOSERS
+
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
At Risk
People Like Us
Probable Cause
Release Date:
22 December 1993
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles premiere: 14 Dec 1993; New York City premiere: 16 Dec 1993; Los Angeles and New York openings: 22 Dec 1993
Production Date:
began 21 Oct 1992
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
TriStar Pictures, Inc.
29 December 1993
PA672409
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby® in selected theatres; SDDS Sony Dynamic Digital Sound in selected theatres
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex® camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
119
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
32667
SYNOPSIS

Andrew "Andy" Beckett is an attorney at the firm of Wyant, Wheeler, Hellerman, Tetlow & Brown in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. One night, while working late at the office, Andy’s mentor, Charles Wheeler, assigns him to represent Highline, a new corporate client, in a high-profile lawsuit. Andy is told there are ten days to file Highline’s complaint before the statute of limitations runs out. When Walter Kenton, one of the partners, points out a mark on his forehead, Andy lies that he was hit in the head with a racquetball. In truth, the mark is a Karposi sarcoma (KS) lesion caused by acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) – a deadly disease with no cure that prompts fear and disgust in people who associate the condition with a reckless, homosexual lifestyle. In fear of discrimination, Andy conceals the fact that he is homosexual and has AIDS. With more lesions cropping up on his face, he works from home to avoid being seen. The night before the Highline complaint is due, he delivers the paperwork to his office with instructions for filing. The next day, Andy experiments with makeup, hoping to disguise his lesions enough to return to the office. He falls ill and is taken to the emergency room, where he is met by his live-in partner, Miguel Alvarez, who advocates for him when the doctor recommends a painful colonoscopy. They are interrupted by an urgent phone call from Andy’s co-worker, Jamey Collins, who informs him the Highline complaint has gone missing. Andy panics, aware that the statute of limitations runs out in seventy-five minutes. One month later, visibly deteriorated, Andy goes to the office of personal injury attorney Joe Miller, seeking ...

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Andrew "Andy" Beckett is an attorney at the firm of Wyant, Wheeler, Hellerman, Tetlow & Brown in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. One night, while working late at the office, Andy’s mentor, Charles Wheeler, assigns him to represent Highline, a new corporate client, in a high-profile lawsuit. Andy is told there are ten days to file Highline’s complaint before the statute of limitations runs out. When Walter Kenton, one of the partners, points out a mark on his forehead, Andy lies that he was hit in the head with a racquetball. In truth, the mark is a Karposi sarcoma (KS) lesion caused by acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) – a deadly disease with no cure that prompts fear and disgust in people who associate the condition with a reckless, homosexual lifestyle. In fear of discrimination, Andy conceals the fact that he is homosexual and has AIDS. With more lesions cropping up on his face, he works from home to avoid being seen. The night before the Highline complaint is due, he delivers the paperwork to his office with instructions for filing. The next day, Andy experiments with makeup, hoping to disguise his lesions enough to return to the office. He falls ill and is taken to the emergency room, where he is met by his live-in partner, Miguel Alvarez, who advocates for him when the doctor recommends a painful colonoscopy. They are interrupted by an urgent phone call from Andy’s co-worker, Jamey Collins, who informs him the Highline complaint has gone missing. Andy panics, aware that the statute of limitations runs out in seventy-five minutes. One month later, visibly deteriorated, Andy goes to the office of personal injury attorney Joe Miller, seeking representation in a wrongful termination lawsuit against Wyant, Wheeler, Hellerman, Tetlow & Brown. Although they have met in the past, Miller does not recognize Andy at first. Andy believes that, after noticing his lesions, the partners realized he had AIDS and purposely misplaced the Highline complaint in order to fire him. Miller, who harbors homophobic feelings, rejects the lawsuit, claiming Andy does not have a viable case, and makes haste to his doctor’s office, worried he might have contracted AIDS by shaking Andy’s hand. The doctor assures him that AIDS is only transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids such as blood or semen. Miller goes home to his wife, Lisa, and baby daughter. He tells Lisa about Andy, and she accuses him of being homophobic. Two weeks later, Miller spots Andy at a law library. While the patrons around him squirm at the sight of his lesions, a librarian suggests Andy conduct his research in a private room. Miller interrupts, prompting the librarian to leave. Andy has decided to represent himself in his case against the firm, but Miller changes his mind and offers to represent him. Andy points out a Supreme Court ruling which resulted in the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973, barring discrimination against handicapped workers. He also notes that AIDS has been legally classified as a handicap due to the physical limitations it imposes and the prejudice surrounding the disease. Later, Charles Wheeler is incensed when Miller delivers him a court summons. Attorney Bob Seidman suggests they make a settlement offer, but his colleagues reject the idea. Wheeler wants to highlight Andy’s “deviant” lifestyle in court. He insists Andy was fired for incompetence, and no one knew about his disease. However, Seidman hints that he might have suspected it. Seven months later, Joe Miller gives his opening statement in the civil suit. He vows to prove Andy is a brilliant lawyer whose decision to conceal his AIDS was legal. He claims the firm panicked upon discovering Andy had AIDS, and illegally fired him. The firm’s defense attorney, Belinda Conine, tells the jury that Andy was a duplicitous, mediocre lawyer who is angry about dying and wants revenge. At a bar, Miller is teased for representing a homosexual. He answers that homosexuality makes him sick, but that does not negate the law. In court, paralegal Melissa Benedict testifies that Walter Kenton, who noticed the lesion on Andy’s forehead, worked with her at a different firm when she contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion. She disclosed her disease, and had visible lesions that caused Walter Kenyon to recoil anytime he saw her. African American paralegal Anthea Burton testifies that she suspected Andy had AIDS and believes the partners must have, too. She was discriminated against by Wheeler, who complained that her earrings were too “ethnic.” At a drugstore, a University of Pennsylvania law student approaches Miller, recognizing him from television news reports. The student commends him, and asks him on a date. Offended, Miller attacks the young man. The next day in court, Miller questions attorney Jamey Collins on the witness stand. He abruptly demands to know if Collins is a homosexual, using several homophobic slurs. The judge calls for order, and Miller explains that he is simply pointing out what the lawsuit is really about: the general public’s hatred and fear of homosexuals, and how it played a part in Andy’s firing. At home, while Andy works on the case, Miguel administers his AIDS medication through an intravenous drip feed (IV). When Miguel complains that Andy is not giving him any time, Andy decides to boost morale by hosting a costume party. The Millers attend, and Joe Miller stays after to prepare Andy for the witness stand. Opera plays in the background. Miller admits he knows nothing about opera music, and Andy, attached to the IV drip, turns up his favorite aria, explaining its meaning as he walks around the room, trailing the IV stand behind him. Both Miller and Andy are moved to tears as Andy translates the lyrics about love overcoming tragedy. When Andy is called to the witness stand, he is extremely weak. Defense attorney Belinda Conine questions him about the gay pornographic theater where he contracted the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS. To characterize his behavior as reckless and immoral, she points out that Andy was living with Miguel at the time. Andy clarifies that Miguel never contracted AIDS, himself. She asks Andy to point out any lesions on his face. He has only one small lesion by his ear. She uses a mirror to prove the point that his colleagues could not have noticed such a lesion from three feet away. In his redirect, Miller borrows the mirror and asks Andy if he has any lesions that resemble the ones he had on his face when working for the firm. Andy removes his shirt, and Joe holds a mirror up to prove that the lesions are highly visible. Shortly after, Andy collapses and is rushed to the hospital. In his absence, attorney Bob Seidman testifies that he suspected Andy had AIDS. Three days later, the jury finds Wyant, Wheeler, Hellerman, Tetlow & Brown guilty. Andy is awarded over $4 million in punitive damages, in addition to back pay, and compensation for mental anguish and humiliation. Miller visits Andy in the hospital. Barely able to speak, Andy removes his oxygen mask and tells Miller a lawyer joke. He thanks him for his excellent work, and Miller lovingly readjusts Andy’s oxygen mask. Miller and Andy’s family bid him good night. Miguel stays at Andy’s side, kissing his hand. Andy says he is ready to die. Soon after, Miller and his family attend Andy’s memorial service, where guests watch home videos of Andy as a happy child.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.