Peter Worthington has had an amazing life. And his obituary, which he wrote himself, certainly has an arresting opening line.
Philadelphia remains one of the best films for addressing many hushed issues including HIV/Aids, homosexuality and attitudes towards gay people. In 1993, Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington showed how it was done...
DIRECTOR: Jonathan Demme
STARRING: Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Antonio Banderas.
RUNNING TIME: 125 mins
MY RATING: *****
*PREVAILING attitudes towards people who are homosexual, contract aids or invariably share both have always remained hot topics in society. In 1993, the film Philadelphia addressed these subjects with intent on ensuring audiences were gravely aware of the impacts many people feel when confronted with ignorance over homosexuality and HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus).
Philadelphia also addressed the idea of discomfort towards anyone from any societal background who possessed traits and a sexually transmitted disease simulatenously.
Only 12 years after HIV and 13 years after AIDS (Accquired Immunodeficieny syndrome) had been initially discovered by scientists in Africa, Philadelphia was released in large part to portray the true story through characters of an attorney, George Bowers, who sued US law firm, Baker & Mackenzie for unfair dismissal in 1987.
Tom Hanks (Apollo 13, Forrest Gump) and Denzel Washington (Training Day, Man On Fire, American Gangster) were assigned the roles of the two main characters involved in this intense courtroom-based drama.
Producer Jonathan Demme (Silence Of The Lambs) put his name to the screenplay alongside Edward Saxon and in turn created one of the greatest moralistic and thematically-aware and prejudice challenging films of the 1990s.
The film received two Academy Awards, one for best actor (Hanks) and another for best soundtrack, Bruce Springsteen's haunting track, Streets of Philadelphia, written for the film.
Hanks and Washington are sublime in their roles as rival law firm representatives, with Hanks a senior associate at the biggest corporate law firm in Philadelphia and Washington a personal injury lawyer in the city.
Both actors were perfectly cast for the part and present an emotionally-driven account of overcoming prejudice, battling against the law and powerful businessmen's ignorant attitudes towards homosexuals and AIDS -Â irrespective ofÂ their personality and success - and the justice and injustice which arrives at the film's conclusion.
There are many debates and issues of which to personally address in Philadelphia and it is how they are carefully pieced together with consideration of rival personalities and developments of relationships and deterioration of Hanks' character which helps allow Philadelphia to succeed.
Andrew BeckettÂ (Hanks) is sacked from hisÂ position as a lawyerÂ for concealing his illness and a visible lesion on his forehead. The firm's bosses deliberately hide paperworkÂ Beckett had completed for the firm and despite his glowing success as a lawyerÂ he is wrongly persecuted by his bosses for his perceivingly apparent incompetence and is dismissed as a consequence.
But the key to the film's controversy lies within the debate as to the reason why Beckett is fired. The firm concedes that they sacked Beckett because of his inability to file paperwork and not because of his lesions or homosexuality. However the film critically analyses these aspects throughout the courtroom appearances and through the character interaction between the two main protagonists.
Subsequently, Joe Miller (Washington) is given the task of representing Beckett'sÂ wrongful dismissalÂ by the law firm in court and both he and Beckett begin to understand each other's personality and plight, despite Miller's initial reluctance to partner with a homosexual and the stigma attached to being gay.
Beckett firmly believes he has been wrongly fired and that a colleague had deliberately hidden his paperwork and to give the firm a reason to dismiss him, when in actuality it was because of his contraction of AIDS and the possible damage to the reputation of the firm, through such an important figurehead likeÂ Beckett, becoming ill.
Despite Beckett and Miller's initial misunderstandings between each other and their personality clashes, the pair begin to collaborate and Miller gradually overcomes his fears of associating with a homosexual.
The most telling move by Miller to distance himself from prejudice is by refusing to settle the case out of court, despite the implications it could have for the reputation of his own injury law firm, Robards.
As both characters develop their relationship and hold affection for each other's lifestyles and personal tastes, the court case gathers pace, whilst Beckett's health vastly deteriorates.
Both actors remain exceptional in their portrayal of two warriors against a mentally corrupted world and the conclusion to the film, despite its positive and negative ending, reduces the audience to numerous spine chillingly emotional moments.
What helps this film vastly is its gentle pace and the dual plots of the two protagonists becoming great friends and secondly through its superb ability to not hide away from presenting those issues most people may be reluctant to partake of.
Some of the best moments include Miller's acceptance ofÂ an invitation to a gay party, Miller's defence of Beckett in the courtroom where he harshly criticises the justice systemÂ with many telling statements - "Let's showÂ the court what we'reÂ talking aboutÂ withÂ withÂ regards toÂ AIDS and lesions" a defining momentÂ hoping to demonstrate exactly what limitations the sufferer has and those who are narrow minded towards its impact mentallyÂ and physically on the sufferer. Also, one of the closing scenes where Miller places an oxygen mask over Beckett, which would have seemed unthinkable at the beginning of the film.
Another great theme which resounds in the film is Miller's continual ability to fight for justice for Beckett's sake and remain totally professional whilst defending his client.
Conclusively, it was a risky choice of film to produce at the time, but Philadelphia has since become a landmark in confronting social prejudice and injustice. Although it would be too harsh to spoil theÂ rest of such an accomplished and in-depth plot,Â it is easy to conclude that Philadelphia remains a defining moment of cinema history and you only have to watch it to know why. Â