Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
HBO announced this afternoon at TCA that it has greenlighted The Normal Heart, an original movie adaptation of the Tony-winning Larry Kramer play that will star Julia Roberts and Mark Ruffalo in the key roles and co-star Matt Bomer. The film is being written by Kramer, while Ryan Murphy is set to direct and executive produce along with Jason Blum, Dede Gardner and Dante Di Loreto. It’s slated to begin production later this year in New York City for a slated 2014 debut on the premium network. The play tells the story of the onset of the HIV-AIDS crisis in New York City in the early 1980s. Roberts will play Emma Brookner, the paraplegic physician who treats several of the earliest victims of the disease. Ruffalo will play 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. Bomer will play Felix Turner, a reporter who becomes Ned’s lover.
The Normal Heart has had a long, tortuous path toward becoming a film. Barbra Streisand was involved at one point. Kramer became increasingly frustrated and was worried it might never come to pass. This version was announced in 2011 as a feature with Murphy, who optioned the rights to the play, directing, Ruffalo starring and Brad Pitt’s Plan B producing. In early 2012, Roberts, Bomer, as well Alec Baldwin and Jim Parsons boarded the film. By November, rumors started circulating that the project might be headed to HBO.
Kramer’s play debuted at New York’s Public Theatre in 1985 and was also produced in Los Angeles and London. The 2011 Broadway revival garnered five Tony nominations, winning for Best Revival, Best Featured Actor for John Benjamin Hickey as Turner and Best Featured Actress for Ellen Barkin as the doctor.
The Normal Heart reunites Roberts with Murphy after starring in his feature Eat, Pray, Love. Meanwhile, White Collar star Bomer appeared on Murphy’s Fox series Glee.