FLASH FRIDAY: A Ryan Murphy Retrospective - THE NORMAL HEART, AMERICAN HORROR STORY, GLEE & More
Today we are turning our attention to one of the most notable creative minds in entertainment today who is responsible for bringing Larry Kramer's acclaimed Tony Award-winning play The Normal Heart to HBO earlier this week in addition to creating such TV hits as GLEE, NIP/TUCK and AMERICAN HORROR STORY.
Total Eclipse Of The Heart
A world without Ryan Murphy would be a mundane and ordinary one. After all, since his absolutely brilliant TV debut creating acid black teen comedy POPULAR through to the game-changing and button-pushing cable drama NIP/TUCK to the internationally celebrated network musical dramedy series Glee through to the daring situational comedy of The New Normal and the much-awarded anthology series AMERICAN HORROR STORY, Murphy has rewritten what can be done on TV in the 21st century - and how. While Glee made musicals cool again for an entire generation and American Horror Story has made horror a wildly popular avenue for great actors to do what they do best in oft outlandish scenarios and storylines, Murphy's latest small screen coup comes with even more audaciousness and accoutrement - HBO's THE NORMAL HEART.
It has taken nearly 30 years for Larry Kramer's AIDS era political play to make it to the screen and the man who can claim to have finally made it happen at long, long last is none other than Mr. Murphy. Originally purchased by iconic actress/singer/producer/director Barbra Streisand as a project she intended to direct and perhaps perform in, as well, the difficult journey traversed by Kramer and the play since 1985 is storied and complex. Yet, as we can all now attest, the dream was finally realized this year due in no small part to the shepherding of Murphy, who has another HBO series titled OPEN currently in development at the network and proposed a stage-to-screen iteration of Kramer's The Normal Heart while attending one of many meetings centered on other projects. Undoubtedly, the most reputable and risk-taking of all TV networks would be the perfect home for Kramer's blistering and in-your-face autobiographical dramatic take on recent history, but, would they actually be willing to take the gamble? With Ryan Murphy as director, overseeing a screenplay by Kramer himself, the deal was sealed and the movie was made.
Having directed screen superstar Julia Roberts in the recent film EAT, PRAY, LOVE and possessing a well-known history of seamlessly and sensitively employing any number of notable actors - perfectly cast, all - in his previous endeavors, Murphy layered the ensemble of The Normal Heart with stars, seasoned veterans and notable newcomers alike. Utilizing affable and enormously talented Glee featured player Jonathan Groff in a brief but important role as well as The New Normal guest star Matt Bomer as painfully sympathetic major player Felix, Murphy also took advantage of his association with the aforementioned Roberts to convince her to take on the role of wheelchair-bound Dr. Emma Brookner. Filling the vital lead role of Ned Weeks was Mark Ruffalo, while screen standout Taylor Kitsch stepped into the loafers of Bruce Niles.
Additionally, Murphy chose to showcase two performers who made a major mark while performing in the play in its recent 2011 Broadway bow - Emmy Award winner Jim Parsons and Tony Award winner Joe Mantello. With the cast complete, Murphy could then make the nightmare fully realized in Kramer's relentless, incredibly powerful and moving play a reality - and, as it would turn out, a dream, as well.
"To win a war, you have to start one," the unforgettable tagline for HBO's The Normal Heart boasts. As can clearly be seen in the final finished film, Ryan Murphy won not only the battle, but the war, too.
THE NORMAL HEART is now available on demand and on HBO GO. More information is available here.
Also, don't miss last week's extensive Flash Friday look at the history of THE NORMAL HEART, available here.
The Name Game
So, now, let's take a look at a few of Ryan Murphy's most notable properties with a special emphasis on THE NORMAL HEART.
First up, check out the glamorous POPULAR theme song series introduction.
View a poignant early scene from the medical-themed NIP/TUCK.
Masterfully merging music, theme, drama and action with some thrills, view the Season 2 closer for NIP/TUCK.
After that, see Murphy take it to the next level with GLEE.
Next, Murphy brought Glee out on the road - with a 3D movie to match.
AMERICAN HORROR STORY rewrites horror in much the same way that Murphy rewrote musicals with GLEE.
Stretching his creative muscles, Murphy created The New Normal for NBC.
THE NORMAL HEART is now the apotheosis of an unparalleled career so far.
Go behind the scenes of THE NORMAL HEART.
See the history that informed THE NORMAL HEART.
Join the stars of The Normal Heart on the red carpet.
As a special bonus, Ryan Murphy discusses THE NORMAL HEART.
Addressing the movie adaptation and how he depicted the most horrific elements of the disease and how it ravaged those whom it affected, Murphy - the man behind AMERICAN HORROR STORY, no less - sagely opined (here), "I think it looks like a horror movie in some ways. I wanted it to be very graphic from a medical aspect... I think many young people today don't know that it was really so horrific." Bringing the message to a new generation while stirring up the memories of those who lived through such a dark time in American history is one of the features that makes HBO's film of The Normal Heart so incomparably important and pricelessly applicable to the here and now, today, while also paying tribute to all of those lost along the way in the long battle in raising AIDS awareness... and all of those who fought so passionately and selflessly for the cause - which, as we now know, was not unlike the rough road journeyed by The Normal Heart itself on the way from the page to the stage to the screen. All are causes worth fighting for - and how. Bravo to HBO, Larry Kramer, the cast, crew - and, most of all, to Ryan Murphy.