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AIDS activist Larry Kramer once torched the film ‘Philadelphia’ in the L.A. Times

Tom Hanks, right, and Antonio Banderas in 1993's "Philadelphia."
Tom Hanks, right, and Antonio Banderas in 1993’s “Philadelphia.”
(Ken Regan / TriStar Pictures)

Larry Kramer is perhaps best remembered for his pioneering AIDS activism, but he was first and foremost a writer. And quite a fiery one.

“The Normal Heart” playwright, who died Wednesday at age 84, channeled his outrage over the government’s inaction during the AIDS crisis into his work. And he had no problem calling out the homophobic attitudes that caused so many members of his community to die.

So it’s unsurprising that Kramer had strong feelings about “Philadelphia,” Jonathan Demme’s 1993 movie starring Tom Hanks in an Oscar-winning turn as a lawyer who is fired for having AIDS. It was one of Hollywood’s first films to acknowledge the AIDS crisis, and Kramer slammed it for being “dishonest ... [and] often legally, medically and politically inaccurate.”

“‘Philadelphia’ is a heartbreakingly mediocre film,” wrote Kramer in a scathing 1994 piece about the movie for the Los Angeles Times. “It breaks my heart that I must say it’s simply not good enough and I’d rather people not see it at all.”

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Kramer, whose 1985 drama ‘The Normal Heart’ about the early years of the AIDS crisis was an angry indictment of inaction by officials, has died at 84.

For Kramer, the world depicted in “Philadelphia” had absolutely nothing to do with the community he was a part of, and he scoffed at the thought that anybody could come away from the film with a meaningful change of heart. In addition to what he perceived as inaccuracies, he pointed out various characters who were underdeveloped (Hanks’ Andrew Beckett), inconsistent (Denzel Washington’s Joe Miller) or unbelievable (too many to list).

Though he had plenty to say about Demme and screenwriter Ron Nyswaner, Kramer explained his rage wasn’t actually directed at the filmmakers.

“My fury is against the third silent President in a row who refuses to take a leadership position in ending this plague, thus allowing everyone else’s complicities in a monstrous cover-up that not only allows one lousy AIDS movie to be made in 12 years, but by the same token allows an entire world to look the other way,” Kramer wrote.

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Read his full critique here.


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