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HBO Home Entertainment is bringing director Ryan Murphy and writer Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart to Blu-ray this summer. The HBO original film is based on Kramer’s groundbreaking Tony Award-winning 1985 play of the same name and stars Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons, Taylor Kitsch, Julia Roberts, Alfred Molina and Corey Stoll. The Normal Heart streets on August 26th.

Official Synopsis: Murphy and Kramer’s 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.

Mark 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.

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.

The Blu-ray edition of The Normal Heart is presented in 1080p with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround. HBO has yet to detail special features.

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Filed under: Movies, The Normal Heart

MARK RUFFALO, knowing his host liked sweets, showed up at playwright Larry Kramer’s Manhattan home with pastries in tow—unaware that the then-77-year-old’s health now restricted such pleasures. v It was spring of last year and the actor was set to begin production on the long-attempted film adaptation of Kramer’s groundbreaking 1985 AIDS-political play, The Normal Heart. Little did he know it, but Ruffalo’s true audition was just beginning.

“Are you queer?” the playwright asked right off.

“No, I’m not queer.”

“Have you read my book [Faggots]?”

“No.”

“Well, you have to read it, otherwise, you can’t fully play this part.”

Ruffalo, recounting the exchange recently during a spirited conversation at a Hollywood hotel, called it his moment of recognition. “He was testing me,” the 46-year-old actor said with the sort of sheepish smile that hindsight affords. “And I remember just feeling a sense of fear in that moment.”

The actor, who has played roles ranging from a brawny green superhero (the Hulk in The Avengers) to a hapless sperm donor to a lesbian couple (The Kids Are All Right) in the course of his 25-year-career, now takes on Kramer’s quasi-autobiographical Ned Weeks, the ornery gay activist at the center of The Normal Heart, who fervently tries to shake the public to action after a mysterious disease begins plaguing the gay community in the early 1980s. Even his friends at times find him beyond obnoxious.

After enduring a winding road from stage to screen, the story, which was significantly reworked, ultimately came to be marshaled and directed by Ryan Murphy and landed at HBO. (It premiered in North America on May 25. On May 26, on HBO Go, within 12 hours of its US premiere. In the region, it airs on June 1, 10 pm, on HBO/HBO HD. It will be available on HBO On Demand beginning June 9.—Ed.)

Imbued with passion, pain and fury, the drama beckons one to look back just as gay rights are undergoing a sea change. To remember—for some, imagine—a society before gay TV characters were a commonality and same-sex marriage an actuality in more and more places.

The action in The Normal Heart takes place between 1981 and 1984 in New York City, when the gay community was still in the reverberations of the Stonewall riots and the sexual revolution. It hones in on sexual politics during the early days of the AIDS crisis—with its central character undergoing moments of rage and powerlessness in the fight to raise awareness, while most of his co-workers counseled a more moderate, step-by-step approach.

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The film, which also stars Julia Roberts, Matt Bomer and Taylor Kitsch, comes on the heels of last year’s critically acclaimed Dallas Buyers Club and the 2012 documentary How to Survive a Plague, both of which tackled the early years of the AIDS crisis. That it finally has an air date is its own victory.

“It was one of those projects that was almost mythical in its inability to get made over the course of 30 years,” Murphy said. Film adaptations have been “in the works” for years—most notably, Barbra Streisand, who owned the rights for 10 years, was going to helm it. The delay hasn’t softened its significance, Murphy said.

“Prejudice killed millions and millions of people during that time,” Murphy, the openly gay TV producer behind TV’s Glee and American Horror Story, said by phone. “That prejudice still exists today on some level. In hindsight, the thing that’s different, at least for me, is when I was growing up, it felt very much like my life. And now it feels like my history. I can have the happy ending—the right to marry, the right to have a child. I owe a lot of my life and freedom to those who fought the fight back then. We all do.”

It’s a period Ruffalo had lived through on the opposite coast, in Los Angeles, reading about the unexplained virus in the pages of the LA Weekly as a teenager. “It felt like a pandemic. And I was young, so I was still idealistic, and it was jarring to see the inhumane response to it all,” he recalled. “It didn’t compute. But Larry was right, I didn’t fully understand how deep it went.”

That’s not to say Ruffalo is unfamiliar with unbridled zeal for a cause. Today a resident of upstate New York, the actor has cultivated a profile as an outspoken anti-fracking advocate—hosting rallies and speaking out on various cable news programs. “I knew what activism looked like inside and out,” he said, pointing to the Act Up (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) movement, a grassroots AIDS initiative co-founded by Kramer as a model.

The pair’s initial sit-down lasted three hours. From there, a friendship started. And the tutelage followed. The legendary—and divisive—figure in the gay-rights movement offered a master class of sorts, sharing photos and stories of the places and people at the heart of the turmoil. He even offered Ruffalo his round-framed glasses for use in the film.

Kramer, who is HIV-positive and has undergone health complications since receiving a liver transplant more than a decade ago, retains his sense of humor. In an email, Kramer said he was struck with disbelief when Murphy put Ruffalo’s name forward for the role of Ned. “To be played by such a fine and handsome actor [I should have looked this good],” he wrote.

“We hung out together a lot, and I didn’t ask myself, ‘Can he play me.’ Actors are hired to portray, and good ones like Mark make it their job to go for it all out, which Mark did. He was also extremely passionate about his taking on the part, consumed with it. And this was very touching to me.” Ruffalo, as instructed, would read Faggots, a pre-AIDS, 1970s-set novel that explored sexual excess on New York’s Fire Island. Ruffalo dubs it one of the “great American novels. It’s as well written as Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. I really started to understand where the gay culture was before, where it was after, how prophetic Larry was. He was already saying, ‘We are not the sex that we’re having!’”

It’s a topic that incited the soft-spoken, genial actor at various intervals during the interview—to the point where his twitchy movements resulted in some spilled green tea. “This movie is less about AIDS than it is about love,” he said. “That’s what blasts through! That’s what carries them! That’s what saved them! It’s the grace. It’s so powerful…. Ugh. It’s so moving. Love in every sense of the word, every permutation.”

Ruffalo puts that vehemence into the role of Ned—at times practically slapping viewers to take notice—as his friends, particularly his first true love, Felix (Bomer), become stricken with the disease. The moments of heartbreak are equally striking, Murphy said. One scene finds Ned in a heated argument with Felix that culminates with the revelation that Felix has contracted the disease. “The small minutiae of emotion in that one scene is just extraordinary,” Murphy said. “There is like a 10-second fury where he’s quiet and taking it in to full-on rage. Listen, Mark and I would talk each day about how terrified we were being responsible for this piece. It was rough. But you really see Larry in him. He did an imitation of Larry that was not really mimicry but deep from the soul. And Ned is Larry.”

One might never know Ruffalo (who can next be seen opposite Keira Knightley in this summer’s romantic drama Begin Again) had trepidations about taking on the role. The actor, who had been tied to the project during Streisand’s failed attempt to get the film made, voiced his concerns with Murphy.

“I sort of felt like we were in a place where the character should and could be played by a gay actor,” Ruffalo said. “I think I was just insecure. This is a big material. And it’s Larry Kramer. I’m not as smart as Larry Kramer. I’m not as strategically minded. I’m struggling against my own limitations. And I mean, I have passion, but that guy would take that to the death if he had to.”

Murphy and Ruffalo stressed that the film takes on a new focus from Kramer’s agitprop drama. Murphy, who bought the rights to the play in 2012 and spent three years working on the script with Kramer, estimates that almost half of the film is new material—for starters, it opens and ends in scenes not witnessed in the play.

“The play was meant to get you out of your seat, to take you out of your ennui and drive you to action,” Ruffalo said. “But a lot of time has passed, so it becomes something else. We don’t have to shake the audience out of apathy. What we do is deepen the picture, show what kind of journey we were on that led us to where we now find ourselves.”

Now many ought to be ready to remember this story, he maintained.

“There was a gift in what happened with AIDS,” Ruffalo said. “The gift was that the gay community realized they were human, and that they demanded to be treated as so. It’s a story that has to be told and remembered. Every oppressed group has to carry its past into the present so that it becomes a bulwark against moving backward. The fight isn’t over.”

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Congratulations to Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Joe Mantello and Julia Roberts for their nominations in the Acting categories for the Critics’ Choice TV Awards! The Normal Heart is also nominated for Best Movie!

Best movie
An Adventure in Space and Time (BBC America)
Burton and Taylor (BBC America)
Killing Kennedy (National Geographic Channel)
The Normal Heart (HBO)
Sherlock: His Last Vow (PBS)
The Trip to Bountiful (Lifetime)

Best actor in a movie or mini-series
David Bradley, An Adventure in Space and Time (BBC America)
Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock: His Last Vow (PBS)
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Dancing on the Edge (Starz)
Martin Freeman, Fargo (FX)
Mark Ruffalo, The Normal Heart (HBO)
Billy Bob Thornton, Fargo (FX)

Best supporting actor in a movie or mini-series
Matt Bomer, The Normal Heart (HBO)
Warren Brown, Luther (BBC America)
Martin Freeman, Sherlock: His Last Vow (PBS)
Colin Hanks, Fargo (FX)
Joe Mantello, The Normal Heart (HBO)
Blair Underwood, The Trip to Bountiful (Lifetime)

Best supporting actress in a movie or mini-series
Amanda Abbington, Sherlock: His Last Vow (PBS)
Kathy Bates, American Horror Story: Coven (FX)
Ellen Burstyn, Flowers in the Attic (Lifetime)
Jessica Raine, An Adventure in Space and Time (BBC America)
Julia Roberts, The Normal Heart (HBO)
Allison Tolman, Fargo (FX)


Posted by
May 29, 2014

When Larry Kramer’s autobiographical play The Normal Heart first appeared off-Broadway in 1985, the AIDS crisis was immediate, mysterious, and very scary. Thirty years later, the director Ryan Murphy, who is known for creating TV shows like Glee and American Horror Story, is reminding us of the depth of the epidemic with a TV movie based on the play—which first aired, aptly, over Memorial Day weekend on HBO. Although the AIDS epidemic began not that long ago, many people don’t recall what it was like. Entire worlds were being wiped out, and it is important that the human devastation be acknowledged.

The story follows the indignant and fiercely political Ned Weeks, played by Mark Ruffalo, and his longtime companion Felix Turner (Matt Bomer), a New York Times style reporter. When Felix, who is not openly gay, finds a purple lesion on his foot, the shame and fear experienced by so many at the time becomes horribly vivid. As Felix’s health deteriorates, Ned becomes a militant activist for safe sex and government-sponsored medical research. In the process, he alienates leaders of the gay community and chieftains of the medical community. The intensity of the relationship between the two men helps explain Ned’s brash behavior: He doesn’t want to lose his great love.

Unlike some AIDS dramas, The Normal Heart actually shows the physical devastation of the disease. Bomer, who is the strikingly handsome star of USA’s hit show White Collar, lost 40 pounds over the course of the filming, wasting away as a dying person would. Bomer, the father of three young children with his partner, the power publicist Simon Halls, felt compelled to leave his family as he filmed the final stages of his character’s life, out of concern that it would be too difficult for his kids to watch or comprehend his transformation. Although physically healthy, Ruffalo’s character is a man obsessed—and his frantic zeal to save his lover’s life is loud and heartbreaking. Murphy has empathy for his often infuriating protagonist: Ned’s courage and determination remind us that the fight against AIDS should never be forgotten.

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I have added screen captures of Mark in The Normal Heart.



Posted by
May 25, 2014

I have added 3 photos of The Normal Heart’s cast from their USA Todat photoshoot. Thanks to my friend Claudia for donating them! The Normal Heart premieres tonight at 9PM on HBO!


Bennett Miller scooped the best director award at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday for “Foxcatcher”, a film showcasing another side to the acting skills of funny man Steve Carell.

Miller’s movie — based on the real-life murder of Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz by multi-millionaire John du Pont — has seen “The Office” star Carell hailed by critics.

The film, in which he plays the deranged, sinister du Pont, also stars Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo as Mark and Dave Schultz, two wrestling-champion brothers.

“It’s really something to be supported, and to have people who have faith in you, and to come out the other side,” Miller told the audience at the festival hall in Cannes as he accepted his prize.

Speaking afterwards, he lauded Carell’s courage in taking on the role.

“I wonder if it can really be communicated how courageous that is to show up knowing that the survivors of the family and the people who lived the story are going to be around set, and that the movie is going to be scrutinised,” he told reporters.

Both Mark Schultz and Dave’s widow Nancy came on set to help the actors and filmmakers during the shoot.
Carell said earlier this week that his first encounter with Nancy had been very awkward as he was decked out as his character du Pont when they met.

Miller also praised Tatum and Ruffalo, adding he never wanted to make a film without the latter, who “is an amazing actor” and “an amazing person.”

“Foxcatcher” opens on Mark (Tatum), who has always lived in the shadow of his loving elder sibling Dave (Ruffalo).

So when du Pont asks him out-of-the-blue to move to his sprawling estate and help put together a wrestling team for the 1988 Seoul Olympics, the insecure sportsman jumps at the chance.

Mark soon develops a father-son relationship with the erratic du Pont, who nevertheless turns on him and calls on his more confident brother to train the team instead.

Resentful at first, Mark eventually grows close to his brother again whilst du Pont becomes alienated from them, culminating in the tragic murder that made headlines in 1996 when the heir shot Dave Schultz.

The New York-born director has only made three feature films, but already he is a regular at international award ceremonies.

He directed his childhood friend Philip Seymour Hoffman to Oscar glory with “Capote”, his 2005 biopic of author and playwright Truman Capote.

Hoffman also won a BAFTA and Golden Globe for his performance.

Then came “Moneyball”, a 2011 biographical baseball drama which also got several award nominations.

At a press conference in Cannes on Monday, Miller choked up about Hoffman when a journalist asked about his ability to make actors disappear into roles, pointing to Carell and Hoffman’s star turn as Capote.

“It makes me emotional. The last time I saw you, I was more emotional than I wanted to ever be in front of people,” he said, before pausing and stumbling for words.

Miller took eight years to prepare “Foxcatcher”, researching the story by meeting those who knew the two brothers, and said the film had only properly been finished two weeks before.

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Filed under: Foxcatcher, Movies

Few days ago Liz had posted two pictures of Mark with Jim and Matt promoting The Normal Heart in New York. Today I add to the site the pictures of the press conference of that day.


I’ve made a massive additions of the photocall and premiere event at Cannes. Enjoy them!


Filed under: Foxcatcher, Gallery, Movies
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