Did they track you down for this role, or did you push for it?
I think it was probably both. Probably more so on my side. I just felt that it was a story I had been familiar with for so long that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to at least try to be a part of it.
You were very young during the ’80s, and you were a long ways away from the center of this story in New York. Were you aware of the story in the ’80s? Did you see it on TV? And now as you see it from your perspective, now when you play this character, what does it feel like?
This play was actually the first exposure I really had, a real understanding of the illness. I read it in the closet of my drama room when I was 14 years old, and the irony of that is not lost on me.
So, you know, I grew up in the Bible Belt, and there was no talk about [HIV]. I remember reading this play and seeing this neon blinking SOS and being terrified but also glad that I had some kind of understanding of what was going on, and I did lose friends. I started working at the theater in Art Town in the mid-’90s, which was in some ways an especially difficult time in the epidemic, and that was my first direct contact in losing friends and things like that. So I guess this story, for me, was always the genesis of my understanding of what the disease was.
How many conversations did you have with Larry about playing Felix?
First of all, I love Larry. We spent a good deal of time together talking about the world. He has done revivals of this play for so long, I didn’t want to keep rehashing tough territory for him. So much of this story really is in the text. The most important thing that he told me was it is more about who this individual was before he got sick and after. And the good and the bad with both of those sides of the coin.
You can read the entire interview here.
Let’s start with the premiere. Larry Kramer was there. So many New York men who remember that time were there. I heard the sobbing was audible. What was it like to watch The Normal Heart on screen in a room full of those people?
Most importantly, getting to watch the standing ovation for Larry Kramer and to see him taking in a moment that was 30 years in the making was something I’ll never forget. For me, that was just one of those really rarified experiences that you’re very lucky if you get maybe once in a career as an artist.
But also, this is such a distinct part of New York history, this play, and I’m so thankful to HBO that they gave it such a grand opening there in New York. And paid homage and respect to this generation of people. Afterwards at the after-party, so many people who approached me wanted to tell me stories of people they lost and their experiences during that dark time in our history. They just wanted to cry and share their feelings with me. It was unforgettable. I became an actor because I read playwrights like Larry and Tony Kushner, and wanted to be a part of telling stories that hopefully have significance or can educate people or challenge their points of view or change their worldview the way these playwrights did for me. So to actually be a part of something like that as a grown-up, it’s like, man, you just check your ego at the door and try to serve the story.
There’s a headline that keeps circulating from a quote that you gave, where you said, “Larry Kramer probably saved my life.”
Yeah. I’m sure he did. At the time I first read it, my first sexual relationships were with women. But even then he put the fear of God in me! (Laughs) He educated me in a lot of ways. It was a very useful fear. But it was also the education to be smart and be safe, and that carried over into my later relationships and also when I started to have relationships with men.
But I think he saved me on a more profound than practical level. Even at 14 when I still didn’t know who I was when I read this piece—I was still figuring out who my most authentic self was—to have this voice that was such a firebrand and so honest and so authentic, to know that that reality was out there, even though it was nowhere near my immediate experience in suburban Texas, to know that somewhere it was out there gave me a sense of hope. And I think I knew on some level that a part of me that hadn’t been acknowledged yet was going to be OK.
You can read the entire interview here.
Before Matt Bomer even knew he was gay, he found Larry Kramer — or maybe Larry Kramer found him. In the closet of his high school theater in Spring, Texas, Bomer’s teacher had built a small library of scripts acquired on trips to New York.
Bomer pulled Kramer’s The Normal Heart off the shelf. He was 14. He loved acting, but he was the son of a former Dallas Cowboys player, so he also played football. He had girlfriends. His family went to church multiple times a week. It was the early 1990s, and for a Texas teenager, the AIDS epidemic was happening somewhere else, to someone else.
“I was relatively sheltered,” he says. The Normal Heart was his wake-up call. “It wasn’t until I read Larry’s work that I had any kind of understanding as to what was really going on in the world around me. It just lit this fire in my belly.” He was outraged at the injustice portrayed in the play, at the story of gay men whose unexplained, horrifying deaths seemed inconsequential — at best — to the many doctors and lawmakers and media who looked the other way.
So he started performing monologues at school from The Normal Heart and its companion piece, The Destiny of Me, and from another closet library find, Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. “I felt the need to let people know that this was going on,” he says — even if his audience was largely other theater kids in Houston’s suburbs. “I probably stuck out like a sore thumb.”
But as much as Kramer’s outrage spoke to a young Bomer, the underlying gay love story in The Normal Heart — between the activist Ned Weeks (based on Kramer) and Felix Turner, a New York Times style reporter — also worked its way deep into his teenage consciousness. “I knew on some level, even if it was way on the periphery, that it was part of my story, too.”
You can read the rest of the interview here.
How Larry Kramer’s play transformed his world view: “I was relatively sheltered. It wasn’t until I read Larry’s work that I had any kind of understanding as to what was really going on in the world around me. It just lit this fire in my belly.”
How the role of Felix Turner changed him: “You’re really lucky as an artist if you get a role that changes you as a person. It taught me how to access myself on a completely different level as an artist. And it blew my mind in terms of the level of unconditional love between Ned and Felix — my goodness, if these people could incorporate this into their lives, under their circumstances, why can’t I?”
On Kramer’s lasting effect: “Larry is somebody we wish we had as our best friend growing up — as uncomfortable as he may have made us sometimes. Activism isn’t beautiful and easy, or a bunch of people getting together and picketing; it’s a lot more complicated and difficult than that. And true love — the most unconditional love — can be experienced by anyone, regardless of their sexuality.”
On coming out to his parents: “I’m not going to lie and say it was a bed of roses. But with the gift of time and grace, my parents chose love. And I think it’s important for people to know that. We always hear, ‘Oh, it gets better, it gets better,’ and [then] so many people go, ‘No it doesn’t.’ I feel lucky to say that, yes, sometimes it does.”
On being out (or lack thereof) in the media: “It wasn’t anything I really endeavored to hide but a lot of stuff I would do would be these fashion spreads where there’s one paragraph about you at the end.”
You can read the rest of the article here.
With the end of his hit show, White Collar, in sight, the 36-year-old actor was looking to take risks, challenge himself, and change how he’s seen. He succeeded on all counts playing an AIDS-afflicted writer in HBO’s adaptation of The Normal Heart. The grueling role took a huge emotional and physical toll, but Bomer wouldn’t have it any other way [read more].
Matt Bomer is the cover star of Out’s June/July issue (available on newsstands May 15), and he spoke with writer Shana Naomi Krochmal about the experience of acting in the long-awaited adaptation of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart directed by Ryan Murphy for HBO. In the film, Matt Bomer plays Felix Turner, who falls victim to the disease as Ned Weeks (Mark Ruffalo) and Dr. Emma Brookner (Julia Roberts) raise hell from opposite ends to figure out what’s happening.
You can read a sneak peek of the interview here.
Matt Bomer, Mark Ruffalo, Jim Parsons and Taylor Kitsch share why they wanted to be part of Ryan Murphy’s drama that took 30 years to make.
“One of my big hopes is that people whoi did not experience it directly will A have an understanding of what people went through at that time, but even more importantly, that fact that gay mens health crisis and ACT Up really catalyzed the gay rights movement,” says Bomer. “We really stand on the shoulders of these people for the rights we have today.”
Even as Larry Kramer, the lifelong gay activist, worked with producer and director Ryan Murphy on the HBO adaptation of Kramer’s 1985 play The Normal Heart, which premieres May 25, Kramer kept asking the question: Why did it take so long? Why, he lamented, did it take so long to make the play into a film?
For Kramer, now 78, The Normal Heart — set in the early, terrifying days of AIDS when gay men in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles were dying of mysterious and rare diseases like Kaposi’s sarcoma — was always more than just a play. Its plot told of how Ned Weeks, Kramer’s alter ego, rallied then alienated his fellow gay activists who banded together in the battle against AIDS. It also served as a furious denunciation of the institutions — from The New York Times to the New York mayor’s office to the federal government — that Kramer blamed for initially ignoring the escalating epidemic; it was an urgent call for gay men to fight back to save their lives; and, nearly 30 years before the Supreme Court opened the door to federal recognition of same-sex marriage, it envisioned a world in which two gay men could wed.
You can read the rest of the article here, along with a sneak peek from the upcoming issue of The Hollywood Reporter, where Matt and his co-stars from “The Normal Heart” are featured on the cover.
Do you like to watch yourselves on screen?
MARISA: It would be hilarious to say, “I love it, there’s nothing better than a Marisa Coughlan performance.”
MATT: You always hope that you are involved in the story that you can sort of remove your ego from the equation and sort of see the story objectively. But it’s difficult, you know. Certain jobs maybe it’s easier than others.
MARISA: This one is a little bit easier because it’s its own world. It’s not a random episode of a TV show. We’re on a spaceship; we’re in the 70’s kind of world. So you do get to escape into it a little bit. But I typically find it difficult to watch myself.
MATT: Yeah, it’s pretty hard.
Tell us a little more about the movie.
MATT: What I responded to for this movie was the whole idea suburban duality having grown up in the suburbs myself and space is this sort of gave it the sense of alienation but having that idea that if we just live on the right space station, if we do the right thing, our lives will be perfect and we won’t have any problems and then it’s like one of those great John Cheever short stories near that time period where everyone’s shadow starts to slowly bubble to the surface and you see their inner demons come to life. Having grown up in the suburbs myself I respond to that. I play Ted who is married to Misty and is a mechanic and he very much wants to fix things. He’s one of those people where no good deed goes unpunished. He wants to do the right thing, is really trying to create the right life for his wife and it’s just circumstances not going his way.
And you’re kind of bitter, aren’t you?
MARISA: I am. What I liked about it with the character is you don’t necessarily totally get what’s going on with my character right away. I seem like a nice wife and a nice mom and then it doesn’t take long for “Oh no, she’s a horrible human being. She is awful.”
MATT: In Misty’s defense I think Ted made a lot of promises to her that I think. Having come from earth which is not a very desirable place to live at this point, he probably had to work his way up in the ranks . I think he promised Misty a lot of things that just did not work.
MARISA: This is true, this is true.
MATT:I mean how else could I be with someone this hot? I promise her false things.
You can read the rest of the interview here.
The Normal Heart doesn’t air until May on HBO but the cast and director Ryan Murphy were present yesterday on the first day of the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour to discuss the much-anticipated production.
Along with Murphy on the panel were stars Mark Ruffalo, Julia Roberts, Jim Parsons and Taylor Kitsch as well as, in the heartbreaking role of Felix Turner, Matt Bomer, who talked about the challenges of the role in the film version of the revered Larry Kramer play of the same name.
Following the panel, TheBacklot had the chance to talk WITH him about whether the role and the project changed him. “Hugely,” he explained. “It made me profoundly grateful in a whole new way for a lot of the things I’m fortunate to have in my life but mostly it really gave me a new understanding of unconditional love.”
With Ruffalo playing Felix’s lover, Ned Weeks, Bomer, sporting very short hair due to the project, talked about how AIDS affects the couple’s relationship in the course of the story. “What [Felix and Ned] go through is unimaginable and I think, because of the love they have for each other, Felix is able to heal in some ways even though he is sick and I think Ned is [able to heal] as well and I think that’s one of the things that makes the story so heartbreaking and profound and loving at the same time.”
In fact, Bomer expressed his gratitude for having Ruffalo as his on-screen lover. “Absolutely. Mark was a dream and doing the scenes with a type of intimacy we had to do with a different actor could have been really challenging,” he said. “I learned so much from working with him. He’s was so patient and amazing and brilliant in the role. I just had to be present with him.”
During the panel, Bomer shared where he first read Kramer’s play as a teenager. “This play was actually the first exposure I really had, a real understanding of the illness…I read it in the closet of my drama room when I was 14 years old.” He added, fully aware of what he’d just said, “the irony of that is not lost on me.”
You can read the rest of the article here.