Ryan Murphy: HBO's NORMAL HEART Adds '40 to 45 Percent New Material'

Ryan Murphy: HBO's NORMAL HEART Adds '40 to 45 Percent New Material'

At a panel discussion yesterday for HBO's highly anticiapted drama, THE NORMAL HEART, producer Ryan Murphy shared that he has added a considerable amount of new material to Larry Kramer's Tony-award winning play.

"[This] is similar to the play and very different," reveals Murphy. "I worked with Larry on the script for three years. We broke it out to 40- to 45 percent new material, and it's pretty broken out from the play."

Murphy acquired the rights to Kramer's work in 2010 and immediately signed on Mark Ruffalo to star and partner on the project. Julia Roberts, Matt Bomer and Jim Parsons were recruited soon afterward.

Although the story is set from 1980 to 1984, Murphy believes that his TV version has a current edge to it. "Larry wrote that play with the idea that silence does equal death. When people were writing about it, there were no solutions. It ends in '84, but what it's about feels modern to me with gay marriage in the news and people fighting to be loved and accepted for who they are. It's still very modern and very applicable to the way we're living today."

He added that the movie will focus on the relationship between the story's featured characters Ned and Felix. "We're looking at an epidemic as seen through a love story," he explains.

Roberts, who revealed that this was not the first time she had been approached to star in the play, couldn't turn down Murphy's request to join the cast. "It unlocked the door to who this woman is to me and where her ferocious, relentless pursuit of correctness comes from," Roberts said of the HBO project. "It was such a beautiful experience to get to play her and get to pay tribute to a person who never let anything stand between her and the right thing to do for someone else."

The Normal Heart debuts in May on HBO.

Read the story in full here: The Hollywood Reporter

About HBO's THE NORMAL HEART

Academy Award nominee Mark Ruffalo ("The Kids Are All Right"), Matt Bomer ("White Collar"), Taylor Kitsch ("Lone Survivor"), Emmy(R) winner Jim Parsons ("The Big Bang Theory") and Academy Award winner Julia Roberts star in a Ryan Murphy film, HBO Films' presentation of THE NORMAL HEART.

Directed by Emmy winner Ryan Murphy ("Eat Pray Love," "Glee") and written by Academy Award nominee Larry Kramer ("Women in Love"), adapting his groundbreaking Tony Award-winning play of the same name, the 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. THE NORMAL HEART will debut exclusively on HBO in May.

The film also stars Alfred Molina ("An Education"), Tony Award winner Joe Mantello ("Law & Order"), Jonathan Groff (HBO's "Looking"), Denis O'Hare (HBO's "True Blood"), Stephen Spinella ("Milk"), Corey Stoll ("House of Cards"), Finn Wittrock ("Unbroken") and BD Wong (HBO's "Oz"). An HBO Films presentation of a Plan B and Blumhouse production in association with Ryan Murphy Productions, THE NORMAL HEART is executive produced by Ryan Murphy, Dante Di Loreto ("Glee"), Jason Blum (the "Paranormal Activity" series), Brad Pitt ("Moneyball"), Dede Gardner ("12 Years a Slave"). Mark Ruffalo co-executive produces; Scott Ferguson (HBO's "Temple Grandin") produces.

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.

Alfred Molina plays Ned's older brother, Ben, who is a successful attorney. Joe Mantello plays Mickey Marcus, who is an instrumental member of the Gay Men's Health Crisis. Jonathan Groff plays Craig, Bruce's lover, an early victim of HIV-AIDS. Denis O'Hare portrays Hiram Keebler, Mayor Koch's gay aide. Stephen Spinella plays Sanford, one of Dr. Brookner's first patients. Corey Stoll portrays presidential senior advisor John Bower. Finn Wittrock plays Albert, a male model. BD Wong portrays Buzzy, a nurse who works with Dr. Brookner.

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 (GMHC), 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.

The talented behind-the-scenes team includes production designer Shane Valentino ("Beginners"), director of photography Danny Moder ("Jesus Henry Christ"), editor Adam Penn ("American Horror Story"), costumer designer Daniel Orlandi (HBO's "Game Change"), composer Cliff Martinez ("Drive") and casting directors Amanda Mackey ("The Proposal") and Cathy Sandrich Gelfond ("Ronin").

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