Correcting Larry Kramer – The Truth About Our Effort To Make The Normal Heart
Larry Kramer does not need me to publicize his beautiful play. It stands on its own. For the last time – I will answer his complaints, which rewrite history.
When I saw the play in 1985 I was very moved and immediately contacted Larry to acquire the rights. After going through several drafts with Larry, I hired another writer to develop a screenplay that was faithful to Larry’s play -- but adapting it to make it more cinematic. It was finished in 1995. Ralph Fiennes and Kenneth Branagh were interested in doing the version that I oversaw.
I tried very hard to get it made, but when it became clear that we couldn’t raise the money to do it as a film due to the controversial nature of the material, I thought, all right, we’ll do it on TV. At least it would reach a wide audience. But even HBO would only pay Larry $250,000 for the rights, and he would not let it go forward for anything less than $1,000,000 and no company was willing to move on it.
After ten years, the rights reverted back to Larry. But even when I had no contractual involvement, I still persisted in pressing to get The Normal Heart made, purely because I believed in the project. As producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron can confirm, I thought that if we could get a great cast together, maybe a studio would finally finance it and we could persuade Larry to let us do it. I offered the part of the doctor to Julia Roberts because I thought she would be terrific. I also asked Mark Ruffalo and Bradley Cooper to be in it, and they said yes to my adaptation of the screenplay. By the way, this is not to say that it wouldn’t have been rewritten again. The work is never done until the movie is released.
I think it’s unfair to keep blaming me for the movie not getting made. I worked on it for 25 years, without pay. Larry had the rights for the last 15 years and he couldn’t get it made either. Those are the facts, and none of this is news to Larry.
More recently, he sent me a note before giving the project to another director, asking me again if I wanted to direct it -- but only with his screenplay. As a filmmaker, I couldn’t have my hands tied like that. What if I needed changes? Sadly, I turned his offer down and wished him well.
I will always believe in Larry’s play and its powerful theme about everyone’s right to love.
© 2012 Barbra Streisand