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Emmy Q&A: Ryan Murphy On The Long Road To ‘The Normal Heart’

By | Thursday July 31, 2014 @ 5:02pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Emmy Q&A: Ryan Murphy On The Long Road To ‘The Normal Heart’After three decades of futility, The Normal Heart figures to be at the center of the Primetime Emmy Awards. It received 16 nominations, including one for its director Ryan Murphy, and for the performances of Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Julia Roberts, Joe Mantello (who starred in the original play), Jim Parsons, and Alfred Molina. And one for Larry Kramer, who turned a roman a clef version of his fight against indifference to the AIDS crisis into the play on which the movie is based. Between The Normal Heart and his series American Horror Story and Glee,  Murphy’s productions racked up 34 Emmy noms, more than some networks. Here, he discusses the groundbreaking movie, the long battle to get it to the screen and how Barbra Streisand helped keep The Normal Heart beating all those years.

Image (1) ryan-murphy-2__130815154159.jpg for post 699212DEADLINE: For me and anyone else in their 50s who lived in a city like New York, The Normal Heart brought back that Twilight Zone nightmare period when we watched friends die and were powerless to help, amidst rampant political apathy because most of those stricken were gay. Larry Kramer’s refusal to go quietly made him a true screen hero, though he was equally vocal that his heartbreaking play took three decades to get made. How long did this movie burn in you?
MURPHY: I was in college when the play came out and had seen productions of it through the years, and I always deeply admired it. I grew up in that era where things were very scary. I lost 10 friends to AIDS and so it was always an important piece of art in my life. I followed the project’s trajectory starting in 1987, and was always very sad that it was not made into a movie. I always felt that the current generation, so many young people, didn’t know what happened, was unaware of the nightmare we lived through back then.

DEADLINE: How did that translate to action?
MURPHY: It was pretty simple. I woke up one day in 2009 and thought, why has this movie not been made? My producing partner Dante Di Loreto knew Larry and called him. The rights were lapsing and Larry agreed to meet with me. He didn’t know who I was, or any of my previous work. I think he was taken by my passion. Read More »

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EMMYS: Jim Parsons On Performing In ‘Normal Heart’ — ‘Several Moments Grounded In Realism’

Jim Parsons Big Bang Theory Normal Heart interviewFor Jim Parsons, taking part in Ryan Murphy’s HBO adaptation of Larry Kramer’s Tony-winning play, The Normal Heart, was a no-brainer. Parsons could’ve gone on collecting Emmys for his superlative work on The Big Bang Theory—he has three so far for outstanding lead comedy actor. And he had already played acid-tongued AIDS activist Tommy Boatwright on Broadway. But it was important to him that he reprise the role for the telefilm. Here, Parsons reveals the confusion that followed his first meeting with Murphy, his reaction to his new scenes and the significance that his first Emmy nomination for a dramatic role would hold.

AWARDSLINE: How did you get involved with this project?
PARSONS: I’m pretty sure Ryan saw (me in) the stage production. But I have to admit, I’m not exactly sure whether he had the idea to approach me, or if jointly with Larry he had the idea to use me, or, if completely pushed by Larry, he had the idea to use me.

AWARDSLINE: I actually spoke to Ryan and he said Larry pushed to have you play this role.
PARSONS: That does not shock me. I was very fortunate with my experience doing the play with Larry. He was around a lot, (and) he happened to really like what I was doing. He was always a big, big supporter.

Related: Michael Ausiello’s Interview With Ryan Murphy Read More »

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EMMYS: Choreographing Sex Scenes In HBO’s ‘Normal Heart’

By | Tuesday June 10, 2014 @ 2:59pm PDT

Christy Grosz is an Awardsline contributor 

Mark Ruffalo, 'Normal Heart'When director Ryan Murphy met with choreographer Michael Arnold, the first question Murphy asked was, “So how did you get into this line of work?” That might have been merely an ice-breaker had Arnold been tapped to work on Murphy’s Fox series Glee, but this job was about re-creating the uninhibited sex-fueled parties of 1970s-era Fire Island for HBO’s The Normal Heart. After performing as a dancer in more than a dozen Broadway musicals, Arnold has parlayed his flair for movement into a new career as a sex-scene choreographer.  Awardsline logo_use this oneThe short answer about how he got started is the usual Hollywood networking story—albeit with a splash of Oscar gold—when a friend of a friend was looking for some help on Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. “I got a call from (executive producer) Georgia Kacandes, and she said, ‘We’re going to do this gay orgy scene and it’s not really in Marty’s wheelhouse,’” says Arnold, who ultimately worked on two other scenes in the film, including the somewhat infamous bachelor party plane ride to Las Vegas. Read More »

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President Obama Fan Of HBO’s ‘The Normal Heart’

By | Monday June 9, 2014 @ 5:47pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

the-normal-hearthboRyan Murphy and Larry Kramer’s HBO movie The Normal Heart can count President Barack Obama among its supporters. I hear the president made a surprise call to Murphy today to tell him that he loved the film and found it incredibly moving. The two know each other — Murphy hosted a major fundraiser for Obama at his house in 2012 — but I hear the writer-director had no idea Obama had seen his HBO film about the onset of the HIV-AIDS crisis in New York City in thea early 1980s. I hear Obama asked how the movie came together. US-POLITICS-STATE OF THE UNION-OBAMAKramer had been trying to get his Tony-winning play adapted to the screen for three decades, with Murphy taking on what would become a passion project for him too in 2010. Murphy confirmed getting the call to Deadline, adding, “The whole movie is about Larry trying to get the attention of Washington and 30 years later, to get a call from the President is a full-circle moment.”… Read More »

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EMMYS: Ryan Murphy Talks ‘Normal Heart’: “These Sets Always Felt Like Church”

The Normal Heart, Larry Kramer’s Tony Award-winning semi-autobiographical play, Awardsline logo_use this onechronicled the emergence of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in 1980s New York. After a Broadway revival in 2011—which featured Joe Mantello and Jim Parsons—small-screen visionary Ryan Murphy (Glee, American Horror Story) took on the huge task of adapting a movie version for HBO. Whether his Heart racks up Emmy noms doesn’t matter. Murphy did what he set out to do and made Kramer proud. Here, he opens up about the importance of the film—both to himself and to history—and also of how he and his cast of all-stars (Julia Roberts, Mark Ruffalo and Parsons, reprising his Broadway role) handled the script’s racier material.

ryan murphyAWARDSLINE: Was there a sense during production that something important was happening?
RYAN MURPHY: Yes. This was a 30-year journey, and there was a huge responsibility to get it right. I never have been involved in any production where there was absolute silence on the set. These sets always felt like church in that we all felt we were there (with) a combined energy to get the thing right. We wanted to do it for Larry (Kramer), and we wanted to do it for history. We wanted people to see this story and not forget.

AWARSDLINE: How much pressure did you feel during the casting process to match the right actor to each role?
MURPHY: Larry was … Read More »

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EMMYS: Hammond On The Renaissance Of Made-For-TV-Movies

Pete Hammond

Awardsline logo_use this oneThe Television Academy, by splitting miniseries and movies for the 2014 contest, has made it easier this year for the made-for-TV movie to compete. Outside of the occasional HBO film, the genre is usually at a disadvantage at the Emmys. Forced to face off directly with the more lavish miniseries form, these two-hour one-offs have had a difficult time holding their own. (Acting, directing and writing categories are still combined for minis/movies).  Occasionally a movie comes along that is so irresistible to TV Academy voters that it can’t be ignored. That was the case last year with HBO’s Behind the Candelabra, which swept both Primetime and Creative Arts Emmy ceremonies. In 2011, another HBO telefilm, Game Change, had similar success against the longform monsters, but it has not always been easy to beat the odds.

Frontrunner Status
normal heart mark ruffaloWith those two wins, TV movies are enjoying a bit of a renaissance—at least at HBO, which once again has the 800-pound gorilla in the race with Ryan Murphy’s adaptation of Larry Kramer’s play, The Normal Heart. The time finally seems right for this drama set in the early days of the AIDS crisis. Written 30 years ago and long in development as a feature film and then TV movie, this provocative and moving study about the human and political consequences of the HIV/AIDS outbreak finally found its way in front of the cameras, thanks in large part to Murphy, who promised the 78-year-old Kramer this movie would happen. In the same year that another decades-in-development-hell drama about the early struggle against AIDS, Dallas Buyers Club, won three Academy Awards—including best and supporting actor statuettes—it seems like kismet-style timing for a Normal Heart Emmy run. The fact that the TV movie still remains relevant and timely enhances the chances of a big win, and its backstory of a long and troubled road to the screen will only help it with voters. Kramer’s well-documented journey with the material should make him a frontrunner in the writing category, and Murphy has a good shot in directing. A superb cast also should score major nominations, including Mark Ruffalo for miniseries/movie lead actor, Julia Roberts (as a polio-stricken doctor) in supporting actress, and a plethora of supporting actors, including Jim Parsons, Joe Mantello (both appeared in the 2011 Broadway revival of the play), Taylor Kitsch, Alfred Molina and Matt Bomer, who in particular really socks home the role of The New York Times writer who becomes an early victim of the virus. Read More »

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Broadcast TV Journalists Association Unveils Critics’ Choice Television Awards Nominees

One day after theCritics Choice TV Awards Logo(1) Television Critics Association unveiled nominees for this year’s TCA Awards, the Broadcast Television Journalists Association announced nominations for its Critics’ Choice Television Awards.

FX-logoFX leads the BTJA’s noms list, with 19 –  followed closely by HBO which garnered 18.  Topping the list of nominated series, with five noms each, are CBS’s The Big Bang Theory and The Good Wife,  FX’s Fargo, Showtime’s Masters Of Sex,  and HBO’s The Normal Heart.

Other top-nominated serieshbologo3 include FX’s The Americans, AMC’s Breaking Bad, Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black, and PBS’s Sherlock: His Last Vow — each snagging four noms.

cbs8Walton Goggins and Allison Janney were both twice nominated. Goggins is nominated for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, for Justified, and Janney is nommed for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series,  for Mom. The two also will compete against each other in the Best Guest Performer in a Drama Series category for Sons Of Anarchy and Masters Of Sex, respectively.
Read More »

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HBO’s ‘The Normal Heart’ Opens With 1.4 Million Tuned In

By | Tuesday May 27, 2014 @ 12:57pm PDT

normalheart2HBO FilmsThe Normal Heart delivered a solid 1.4 million viewers across two plays Sunday night. Debuting nearly three decades after Larry Kramer’s play premiered off-Broadway, the Ryan Murphy-directed project premiered at 9 PM with an average of slightly less than 1 million viewers tuned in; an additional 434,000 thousand watched at 11:15 PM. That puts it fifth in viewership among the 17 HBO Films that have premiered on the network since 2010.

(For comparison’s sake: In March 2012, Game Change, about the selection of Gov. Sarah Palin as Sen. John McCain’s runninHBO Filmsg mate in the 2008 presidential campaign, snagged an average of 2.1 million viewers on its debut night, which marked the biggest crowd for an HBO original film since 2004′s Something The Lord Made, which snared 2.6 million viewers. In May 2011, Too Big To Fail, about Washington’s bailout of Wall Street, logged 897,000 Live+Same Day viewers in its debut. And 2008′s Recount, about the 2000 presidential election, clocked 1 million viewers in Live+Same Day in May 2008.

Before 2004, Nielsen used to roll all seven HBO multiplex channels into one big number. With that in mind: Nielsen reported back in December 2003 that 4.2 million watched the debut of HBO’s Mike Nichols-directed Angels In America — a miniseries that, like The Normal Heart, was adapted from a play (by Tony Kushner), was set in 1980s … Read More »

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OSCARS: Can Summer’s Awards Curse Be Reversed To Generate ANY Heat For Contenders In 2014 Race?

Pete Hammond

The Cannes Film Festival is getting underway next week and represents the Oscar_badge__140302212232first important stop of the year for what we hope will be Oscar-worthy movies. Of course most of those movies will not open until the fall when the usual glut of contenders descends on Hollywood. So far the 2014 pickings have been slim, but that is usually the case. There could be scattered nominations here and there for the likes of Noah, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Lego Movie and last weekend’s art house opener Belle among the precious few movies so far in 2014 that have a chance of turning up somewhere on Oscar’s list. Mainly what we have seen so far is just preparation for the race and anticipation. The National Board of Review was the latest group to announce their dates this week and will vote early on December 2nd. The major guilds, Golden Globes and Oscars have already staked out their key dates.

normalheart5But before we get to fall (the earliest 2013 Best Picture nominee, Gravity, didn’t open until early October), we have a long hot summer to get through after the highs (and hopefully not too many lows) of Cannes are over. But Oscar pickings seem even more slim than usual from a survey of the summer months leading up to the fall festival trifecta of Venice, Telluride and Toronto. I remain hopeful, but what can you say about a season where the strongest Best Picture prospect — in terms of gravitas and quality —  is going to debut on HBO?

That pay network’s The Normal Heart from director Ryan Murphy has all the earmarks of a true Oscar player except for one thing: It’s not eligible since it’s not a theatrical release. Small detail, but I have a feeling that if HBO had decided to try for theatres first it could have figured strongly at the Academy Awards. Instead, this story set in the early days of the AIDS crisis and  penned first as a play by Larry Kramer, who wrote this adaptation, promises to sweep the Emmys in August in many categories including for actors Mark Ruffalo, Julia Roberts and Matt Bomer (the latter heartbreakingly standing out among a uniformly fine supporting actor cast). Emmy voters have already received the screener of the movie which doesn’t debut on HBO until May 25th. US-OSCARS-PRESS ROOMIt’s no wonder so many A-list actors are flocking to the small screen when a net like HBO offers a home for projects like this that have been so consistently rejected by movie distributors that it takes an iron will just to get them made. You could easily have imagined last season’s Oscar juggernaut, Dallas Buyers Club, going the same TV route as Normal Heart had its producers given up — particularly Robbie Brenner (with Rachel Winter) along with Best Actor winner Matthew McConaughey persevering and virtually willing it into theatres leading to that Oscar triumph March 2nd.

Related: Hot TV Trailer: HBO’s ‘The Normal Heart’

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Hot TV Trailer: HBO’s ‘The Normal Heart’

By | Friday April 18, 2014 @ 5:12pm PDT

“To win a war, you have to start one.” This HBO telefilm arrives nearly three decades after Larry Kramer’s play premiered off-Broadway. Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Taylor Kitsch, Jim Parsons and Julia Roberts star in the adaptation directed by Ryan Murphy and scripted by Kramer. Set in NYC during the onset of the HIV/AIDS crisis of the early ’80s, The Normal Heart follows gay activists and their allies in the medical community as they try to expose the truth about the burgeoning epidemic. HBO already is looking into a sequel. The telepic, which co-stars Alfred Molina, Joe Mantello, Jonathan Groff, Denis O’Hare, Stephen Spinella, Corey Stoll, Finn Wittrock and BD Wong, bows May 25 on the premium channel. Here’s the first full trailer:

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HBO’s ‘The Normal Heart’ To Debut May 25

By | Thursday February 27, 2014 @ 10:23am PST

normalheart5The Normal Heart will premiere on Sunday, May 25 at 9 PM on HBO, the network said today. Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Taylor Kitsch, Jim Parsons and Julia Roberts star in the HBO Films presentation based on Tony-winning Larry Kramer’s play. Kramer also penned the adaptation and Ryan Murphy directs the story of the onset of the HIV-AIDS crisis in New York City in the early 1980s. Alfred Molina, Joe Mantello, Jonathan Groff, Denis O’Hare, Stephen Spinella, Corey Stoll, Finn Wittrock and BD Wong also star.

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HBO Eyes ‘The Normal Heart’ Sequel Written By Larry Kramer & Directed By Ryan Murphy

By | Friday January 10, 2014 @ 3:12pm PST
Nellie Andreeva

larrykramerryanmurphyEXCLUSIVE: It took Larry Kramer 30 years to see his Tony-winning play The Normal Heart make it to the screen. The path may be far shorter for a Normal Heart follow-up. I’ve learned that HBO has commissioned a script by Kramer for a potential sequel to the HBO Films’ The Normal Heart, which is set to premiere in May. I hear The Normal Heart director Ryan Murphy, who spearheaded the effort to make the play into a movie, would be back at the helm, with the film’s stars Mark Ruffalo, Julia Roberts and Jim Parsons expected to return, along with the entire producing team: exec producers Murphy, Kramer, Jason Blum, Dede Gardner and Dante Di Loreto.

juliaruffaloThe original movie (and the play) focused on the onset of the HIV-AIDS crisis in New York City from 1981-84, ending before there was an HIV test. The sequel would chronicle the events from 1987 through the 1990s, with Ruffalo, whose Ned Weeks (modeled after Kramer) witnessed the disease first-hand in The Normal Heart, becoming an activist trying to help people who have been affected — also similar to Kramer’s real-life trajectory. Roberts plays Emma Brookner, the polio-stricken physician who treated several of the earliest victims of the disease; Parsons portrays gay activist Tommy Boatwright, a role he also played in the play’s 2011 Broadway revival. Read More »

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TCA: HBO’s ’80s-Set ‘The Normal Heart’ Very Modern, Says Ryan Murphy

By | Thursday January 9, 2014 @ 5:22pm PST

“It’s very modern to me,” Ryan Murphy said of his HBOTCADeadline__140109155905__140109183154 production of  the 1980′s-set The Normal Heart, based on Tony-winning Larry Kramer’s play about the onset of the 2014 Winter TCA Tour - Day 1HIV-AIDS crisis in New York City.  The play ends in ’84 before there was an HIV test; Murphy’s film is about 45% new material written by Kramer, he said.  “Gay marriage is in the news, and people are fighting to be loved for who they are and to be accepted for who they are. That’s still very modern and applicable for the way we’re living today.” Murphy said he had to take out a second mortgage on his house to pay for the rights to the play — then acknowledged he was kidding, but that the rights were pricey.

Related: HBO’s ‘Looking’ Not “Just A Show For Gay People,” Says EP

“I tried to be true to those boys I feel I owe so much to,” he said of the adaptation.  “I’m married and have a child. It feels like it’s a civil rights movie. That fight paved the way for the life I have today. It’s a very painful chapter in our lives. At the end of the movie we talk about President Reagan and his legacy, and Ed Koch and his legacy”  — without whom, Murphy said, the HIV-AIDS crisis “could have been much less tragic.” Read More »

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TCA: HBO Sets Season 4 Premiere Date For ‘Game Of Thrones’, Slots ‘The Normal Heart’

By | Thursday January 9, 2014 @ 3:12pm PST
Nellie Andreeva

gameofthronesHBO‘s flagship drama series Game Of Thrones will return for a fourth season on April 6, the network announced at the top of its TCA presentation today. It will be followed by the third-season debut of Veep at 10 PM and the series premiere of Mike Judge‘s new comedy series Silicon Valley at 10:30 PM. The following Sunday, the three series will be joined by the second season of Vice at 11 PM. HBO stressed that Season 2 will not include controversial former NBA star Dennis Rodman. And HBO Films’ The Normal Heart, an adaptation of Larry Kramer’s play directed by Ryan Murphy and starring Mark Ruffalo, Julia Roberts, Matt Bomer and Jim Parsons, will have its premiere in May. The first official trailer for GOT‘s upcoming season will air this Sunday on HBO, immediately before the debut of True Detective.

Related:
TCA: HBO’s ‘Boardwalk Empire’ To End Run After Season 5
Darren Aronofsky Makes New Regency His Film Home; Will Hatch TV Projects For HBO
HBO Firms Up 12-Title Documentary Slate For First Half Of 2014

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Jonathan Groff And Joe Mantello Join HBO’s Ryan Murphy Pic ‘The Normal Heart’

By | Friday April 26, 2013 @ 3:00pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Glee‘s Jonathan Groff and Joe Mantello have been cast in The Normal Heart, HBO‘s original movie adaptation of the Tony-winning Larry Kramer play, which is being written by Kramer and directed by Ryan Murphy. They join Julia Roberts, Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons and Taylor Kitsch in the pic, which tells the story of the onset of the HIV-AIDS crisis in New York City in the early 1980s. Production is slated to begin later this year in New York for a 2014 debut.

Groff, repped by WME, already has a gig with HBO, having been cast as a lead in the premium network’s Michael Lannen pilot, which revolves around three thirtysomething friends living in San Francisco who grapple with the complexities of the modern gay experience. In Normal Heart he will play Craig, the first lover of Bruce Niles (Kitsch), an early victim of HIV-AIDS. Mantello will play Mickey Marcus, an instrumental member of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis.

Murphy executive produces with Jason Blum, Dede Gardner and Dante Di Loreto.

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Jim Parsons, Taylor Kitsch Join HBO’s Ryan Murphy-Directed Movie ‘The Normal Heart’

By | Friday March 1, 2013 @ 10:33am PST
Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: The Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons and Friday Night Lights alum Taylor Kitsch will co-star opposite Julia Roberts, Mark Ruffalo and Matt Bomer in The Normal Heart, HBO‘s original movie adaptation of the Tony-winning Larry Kramer play, which is being written by Kramer and directed by Ryan Murphy. The project tells the story of the onset of the HIV-AIDS crisis in New York City in the early 1980s. Parsons plays gay activist Tommy Boatwright, reprising his role from the 2011 Broadway revival. He was previously attached to Murphy’s adaptation when it was eyed as a theatrical feature. Kitsch plays Bruce Niles, a closeted investment banker who becomes a prominent AIDS activist. Read More »

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Julia Roberts & Mark Ruffalo To Star In HBO Movie ‘The Normal Heart’, Ryan Murphy To Direct

By | Friday January 4, 2013 @ 2:09pm PST

Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.

HBO announced this afternoon at TCA that it has greenlighted The Normal Heart, an original movie adaptation of the Tony-winning Larry Kramer play that will star Julia Roberts and Mark Ruffalo in the key roles and co-star Matt Bomer. The film is being written by Kramer, while Ryan Murphy is set to direct and executive produce along with Jason Blum, Dede Gardner and Dante Di Loreto. It’s slated to begin production later this year in New York City for a slated 2014 debut on the premium network. The play tells the story of the onset of the HIV-AIDS crisis in New York City in the early 1980s. Roberts will play Emma Brookner, the paraplegic physician who treats several of the earliest victims of the disease. Ruffalo will play Ned Weeks, who witnesses first-hand the mysterious disease that has begun to claim the lives of many in his gay community and starts to seek answers. Bomer will play Felix Turner, a reporter who becomes Ned’s lover.

The Normal Heart has had a long, tortuous path toward becoming a film. Barbra Streisand was involved at one point. Kramer became increasingly frustrated and was worried it might never come to pass. This version was announced in 2011 as a feature with Murphy, who optioned the rights to the play, directing, Ruffalo starring … Read More »

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