BWW Exclusive: Ryan Murphy's THE NORMAL HEART Headed to HBO with $15 Million Budget?

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BWW Exclusive: Ryan Murphy's THE NORMAL HEART Headed to HBO with $15 Million Budget?Ryan Murphy, creator of such television shows as GLEE, American Horror Story, and The New Normal, has been hard at work on bringing the Tony-winning play THE NORMAL HEART to the big screen. It was announced back in January of 2012 that Julia Roberts, Alec Baldwin and Jim Parsons would join Mark Ruffalo in the cast of the film, with a script by playwright Larry Kramer and directed by Ryan Murphy who had optioned the play back in August of 2011 after it closed on Broadway. At the time, it was also reported that CAA was putting together the financing, and that it was to be produced by Brad Pitt's 'Plan B' Production Company

Now, a cable network insider tells BWW's Rialto Chatter exclusively that the film will instead be an HBO television production, with a budget in the neighborhood of $15 million dollars. There is no word yet on a timeline for the project, or if the previously announced starry cast is staying aboard the project. 

If true, this is a brilliant idea, as it is likely to give the film an even wider audience, and isn't HBO's first time doing a project of this kind, with their 2003 film of the Mike Nichols-directed ANGELS IN AMERICA (starring Al PacinoMeryl StreepPatrick WilsonMary-Louise ParkerEmma ThompsonJustin KirkJeffrey Wright and Ben Shenkman) being considered a large success for the network as the most-watched made-for-cable film in 2003, garnering critical acclaim and multiple Golden Globe and Emmy awards, among other numerous accolades.

THE NORMAL HEART, whose recent revival closed on Broadway on July 10, 2011, won three 2011 Tony® Awards, including Best Revival of a Play, Best Featured Actress in a Play (Ellen Barkin) and Best Featured Actor in a Play (John Benjamin Hickey). The play was also honored as the Best Revival of a Play by the Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Drama League Awards and received Drama Desk Awards for Best Ensemble and Best Direction of a Play, along with a Special Citation from the New York Drama Critics Circle.

THE NORMAL HEART was first produced by Joseph Papp and directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg at The Public Theater in 1985, where it ran for 294 performances. Joel Grey played in the role of “Ned Weeks” (replacing Brad Davis) in the original production. The play received an Off-Broadway revival in 2004.

A film adaption of THE NORMAL HEART has been in the works for years with numerous stars and directors attached to it, including Barbra Streisand who held the rights for a number of years. 

The story of a city in denial, THE NORMAL HEART unfolds like a real-life political thriller -- as a tight-knit group of friends refuses to let doctors, politicians and the press bury the truth of an unspoken epidemic behind a wall of silence. First produced by Joseph Papp at New York's Public Theater, the play was a critical sensation and a seminal moment in theater history. So ahead of its time was this play that many of the core issues it addresses - including gay marriage, the healthcare system and, of course, AIDS - are just as relevant today as they were when it first premiered.

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