Denzel Washington received the 2016 Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes, and it was his old costar Tom Hanks who presented it to him. The Golden Globes tradition is to have someone who starred with or is very close with the recipient give the award to him or her. But, for a second, I had to think about why Woody the Cowboy presented an award to Alonzo Harris. How do Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington know each other? Well, they only starred in one of the most socially progressive movies of the last century together, that's how.
In 1995, Washington and Hanks teamed up in Philadelphia, telling the story of Andrew Beckett (Hanks). In the film, Andrew, who is a gay lawyer infected with AIDS, is fired from his firm due to his positive status — people of the firm were afraid that he would infect them. In a last ditch effort for justice, Andrew hires homophobic attorney Joe Miller (Washington) to help him sue his old employers for discrimination. Being a homophobe, Joe doesn’t like Andrew much but takes the case, realizing eventually that Andrew is just like everyone else. This movie was a big deal in the mid-1990s — there was still a lot that we didn’t understand about AIDS. There was a lot of misinformation about how it was spread, and those infected were severely discriminated against. Philadelphia was one of the first mainstream movies to even address these issues, let alone focus so heavily on them.
Hanks won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in the film, and Bruce Springsteen won Best Original Song for “Streets Of Philadelphia.” (Washington didn’t pick up any awards). The movie was a big deal for both Washington and Hanks, so it’s fitting that Hanks was the person to give Washington what could be the biggest award of his career.