Ryan Murphy, the producer and director who finally got Larry Kramer’s groundbreaking play The Normal Heart to screen, remembered his late friend and collaborator today as “the single greatest and most important gay activist of all time.”
“His fight changed the health care system as we know it,” Murphy wrote in a lengthy Instagram post today. “I admired him above all others. He deserved the Medal of Freedom.”
Kramer’s harrowing 1985 play about the early years of the AIDS crisis in New York had a long and troubled Hollywood history. The project languished in development hell for three decades, most famously with Barbra Streisand attached as director. The log jam finally broke in 2011 when Murphy came aboard.
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The film rights, Murphy says, “had become available, and I wanted them.” After convincing Kramer – and meeting his $1 million price – Murphy took the project to HBO, where the movie finally aired in 2014 with a cast that included Mark Ruffalo, Julia Roberts, Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons and Taylor Kitsch.
“I loved working with him, his passion,” writes Murphy, whose latest series, Netflix’s Hollywood, fancifully reimagined film history as inclusive of women, gay people and persons of color. “I eventually even came to love our fights.”
In his tribute to Kramer, Murphy also reveals that he and the playwright had planned to work again, this time on Broadway. “I recently bought the stage rights to do ‘The Normal Heart’ and ‘The Destiny of Me’ in rep on Broadway,” Murphy says, referring to the 1985 play and its 1992 sequel. “He was so passionate and so vital I never imagined he would pass. I thought he’d outlive us all.”
Here is Murphy’s tribute in full:
I first met Larry Kramer in 2012. The film rights to his groundbreaking play “The Normal Heart” had become available, and I wanted them. We had a wonderful first meeting, he was kind and excited about my casting ideas — Mark Ruffalo and Julia Roberts (who would both go on to do the HBO film with us). From there we got into negotiations, and he said he wanted one million dollars for the rights. “Larry!” I said, “that’s a lot of money for a low budget film!” He paused and said “it’s what I’m worth.” I paid it. And I’m so glad I did. Larry knew the value of his work, his life, all gay people’s lives — and his fundamental stubborn belief in equality for all made him perhaps the single greatest and most important gay activist of all time. His fight against government, discrimination, prejudice and big Pharma helped save millions of lives. His fight changed the health care system as we know it. I admired him above all others. He deserved the Medal of Freedom. I loved working with him, his passion. I eventually even came to love our fights. I won a Golden Globe one year, and the first call I got the next morning was from Larry. “I’m glad you won, but I hated seeing you there,” he sniffed. “Larry, you should be happy for me!” I said. “Well, I’m not,” he replied. “Because you should have been at home working on our project.” He was terrified after 30 years of development hell it wouldn’t be made, that his tale of AIDS and rage and beauty would never be seen widely by young people. But we got it made. He cried when he saw the first cut. “All my friends, all my generation, gone…and it’s fucking unfair it didn’t need to happen” he said. Up until the end, we were still plotting. I recently bought the stage rights to do “The Normal Heart” and “The Destiny of Me” in rep on Broadway. He was so passionate and so vital I never imagined he would pass. I thought he’d outlive us all. His work and his spirit will. In his memory, watch “The Normal Heart” on HBO today. Or better yet, send an outraged email or tweet to a neglectful politician of your choice. He would have liked that.
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