In Production – HBO Films: THE NORMAL HEART

NormalHeart_imageThe title of this piece might be a slight misnomer. I’m pretty sure that this HBO Films presentation is in the can as they say. HBO is just waiting for the right moment to ramp up the marketing I think, which should hit after GAME OF THRONES gets underway.  As you will see in this post plans indicate that HBO is out to make this an event. Since we have not mentioned this project since  10.29.13 our latest look at the upcoming movie starts with snippets from the official Press Release issued last month:  







Alfred Molina, Joe Mantello, Jonathan Groff, Denis O’Hare, Stephen Spinella, Corey Stoll, Finn Wittrock, BD Wong Also Star A Plan B and Blumhouse Production In Association With Ryan Murphy Productions;  Ryan Murphy, Dante Di Loreto, Jason Blum, Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner Executive Produce; Mark Ruffalo Co-Executive Produces; Scott Ferguson Produces


Directed by Emmywinner Ryan Murphy (Eat Pray Love, Glee) and written by Academy Award nominee Larry Kramer (Women in Love), adapting his groundbreaking Tony Award-winning play of the same name, the drama tells the story of the onset of the HIV-AIDS crisis in New York City in the early 1980s, taking an unflinching look at the nation’s sexual politics as gay activists and their allies in the medical community fight to expose the truth about the burgeoning epidemic to a city and nation in denial. THE NORMAL HEART will debut exclusively on HBO in May.


Ruffalo portrays Ned Weeks, who witnesses first-hand a mysterious disease that has begun to claim the lives of many in his gay community and starts to seek answers. Matt Bomer plays Felix Turner, a reporter who becomes Ned’s lover. Taylor Kitsch plays Bruce Niles, a closeted investment banker who becomes a prominent AIDS activist. Jim Parsons plays gay activist Tommy Boatwright, reprising his role from the 2011 Broadway revival. Roberts plays physician Dr. Emma Brookner, a survivor of childhood polio who treats several of the earliest victims of HIV-AIDS. Alfred Molina plays Ned’s older brother, Ben, who is a successful attorney. Joe Mantello plays Mickey Marcus, who is an instrumental member of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. Jonathan Groff plays Craig, Bruce’s lover, an early victim of HIV-AIDS. Denis O’Hare portrays Hiram Keebler, Mayor Koch’s gay aide. Stephen Spinella plays Sanford, one of Dr. Brookner’s first patients. Corey Stoll portrays presidential senior advisor John Bower. Finn Wittrock plays Albert, a male model. BD Wong portrays Buzzy, a nurse who works with Dr. Brookner.


In 1981, writer Larry Kramer hosted a gathering of six gay men and their friends to discuss the “gay cancer,” and to talk about fundraising for research. This informal meeting in Kramer’s home would lead to the formation of Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), one of the first advocacy groups for HIV prevention and care. Kramer’s play debuted at New York’s Public Theatre in 1985 and was revived in Los Angeles and London, and off-Broadway. The 2011 Broadway revival garnered five Tony nominations, winning for Best Revival, Best Featured Actor and Best Featured Actress.

People_RyanMurphyLately, a few personalities on both sides of the camera have been vocal about the project. Ryan Murphy, the creative spearhead behind this adaptation, and works like Glee and American Horror Story, has stressed the importance of the piece.

 It’s a movie about AIDS, but it’s also really a civil rights movie. I think it’s more timely than ever before. It’s really about the quest to be seen, not as a gay person or a straight person but just a person…. It’s an activist movie that also has a really great love story in it. Of everything I’ve done in my career, I think it is the biggest labor of love. This is similar to the play and very different. I worked with Larry on the script for three years. We broke it out to 40- to 45 percent new material, and it’s pretty broken out from the play. Larry wrote that play with the idea that silence does equal death. When people were writing about it, there were no solutions. It ends in ’84, but what it’s about feels modern to me with gay marriage in the news and people fighting to be loved and accepted for who they are. It’s still very modern and very applicable to the way we’re living today.”

Jonathan Groff, who is playing the character of Patrick in HBO’s LOOKING right now,  had this to say to The Wall Street Journal :People_JonathanGroff

“I feel like it’s such a powerful piece of writing and theater. I would’ve worked the crew on that movie, I believe in that piece so much. That message and play is so important—that’s it being laid down forever in a movie, it’s so important and I feel really proud to be a part of that.

We did a scene where it is the white party on Fire Island just as AIDS is about to hit. It’s a group of 20-year-olds on a beach genuinely having a blast. And just thinking that a huge part of that generation got wiped out by AIDS….To see all these people who are now in their 20s dancing around, the reminder of that that this story is going to bring, I feel like my generation and younger are going to be reminded of a huge part of our culture and what came before us.”

To accompany the premiere on the HBO Films presentation HBO will also be airing, sometime in May, a documentary about the playwright of THE NORMAL HEART tentatively titled LARRY KRAMER. It will be an intimate look at the life and work of the acclaimed playwright, novelist, essayist and LGBT rights activist. He is also the co-founder of ACT UP, an advocacy group working to improve the lives of people with AIDS. 

 There is so much prestige and class surrounding this piece that HBO is planning on a sequel to it already. As THE NORMAL HEART ends its story in 1984 there is oNormalHeart_logopportunity to flesh out the story down the road several years. Ryan Murphy and most of the cast and crew seem to be onboard with that continuation. Everyone seems to believe in the effectiveness and significance this telefilm offers that HBO may even get this picture to the Cannes Film Festival in May which it did with BEHIND THE CANDELABRA last year.

It seems that HBO is quite the socially progressive network on the LGBT front as it has had a number of shows with gay characters and now offers LOOKING and the upcoming Ryan Murphy series OPEN. Also ANGLES IN AMERICA precedes THE NORMAL HEART in its telling of the AIDS impact on society.  HBOWatch will pay attention for any news of the upcoming presentation as we get closer to its premiere.     




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