Academy Award winner Julia Roberts and Academy Award nominee Mark Ruffalo will star in the HBO Films drama The Normal Heart, directed by Emmy winner Ryan Murphy (Eat, Pray, Love, Glee), it was announced today by Michael Lombardo, president, HBO Programming. Slated to begin production in New York City later this year for 2014 debut on HBO, the film is written by Larry Kramer, adapting his groundbreaking Tony Award-winning play of the same name. Here's what Michael Lombardo had to say about the project.
"We are so proud to be involved with this monumental project. Ryan has assembled an extraordinary cast to bring Larry Kramer's landmark theatrical achievement to the screen for the first time, and we couldn't be more thrilled to bring this important film to HBO."
Executive produced by Ryan Murphy, Jason Blum (the Paranormal Activity series, The Reader), Dede Gardner (The Tree of Life, Eat, Pray, Love) and Dante Di Loreto (Glee, HBO's Temple Grandin), The Normal Heart 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 fought to expose the truth about the burgeoning epidemic to a city in denial.
Roberts plays Dr. Emma Brookner, the paraplegic physician who treats several of the earliest victims of the disease. Ruffalo portrays 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. Matthew Bomer (White Collar, Magic Mike) plays Felix Turner, a reporter who becomes Ned's lover.
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, 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.