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

Comments for this Truth Alert

A very thoughtful and gracious reply.


Thank you Barbra once again for setting the record straight. It is so obvious that you were and still are dedicated to this project and want it to be memorialized on film in the best way possible.

I was there when you graciously and beautifully introduced a reading in 1994 in New York City. At that time you had not been doing many public appearances, and it was obvious that you believed in this play, the message it gives, and the fact that you were there to
cheer them said it all.

God Bless You and thank you for your gracious response to Mr. Kramer.
See you in Brooklyn in October.
(And who knows, maybe we will hear a theme song written and sung by Barbra Streisand!!!)

Love You,
David Rosenberg
New York, NY

Larry's made a career of complaining. First it was other gay men, then it was Ronald Reagan and the big pharma, then gay men again, now Barbra. I agree with Mark Atalon's comment above - the material is very dated now, and without a cinematic rewrite, too stagey. But just try telling Larry that.

Dear Barbra,

Even though I’ve known all along that Larry Kramer is the ONLY one who got in the way of getting this film made, reading your beautifully and poignantly written account of what actually happened shows your incredible grace and beautiful spirit. You are pure class in every sense of the word and I can’t believe how Larry Kramer has treated you throughout all of this. How dare he! He doesn’t deserve you. How foolish can he possibly be? I have no doubt that you would have turned his play into a MAJOR BLOCKBUSTER, and “The Normal Heart” would have gone down as one of the greatest films in history with YOU at the helm. It is definitely his loss and I hope he regrets it for the rest of his life. Just know that we ALL know that YOUR BEAUTIFUL HEART was in the right place, as it always is. Best of luck in all of your VERY EXCITING upcoming projects! It is SO THRILLING to read about all of your new endeavors! You are truly the GREATEST and WE LOVE YOU with all of our hearts!!!!
Counting the days ‘til your concerts in Brooklyn! Thank you for making my BIGGEST DREAM come true yet AGAIN!!!!

Robin Lipman
Coral Springs, Florida

What a bunch of crap. Money yes money, if Ms Streisand had handed him a million bucks he still would have complained and blamed Ms Streisand for anything and everything. She stole it, she did this, she did that. Sorry, but what he has is a way to get his name in the limelite... when-ever he wants. And yes it is because he uses Ms. Streisand. I really don't know anything about this but, TWENTY FIVE YEARS, wow what a waste.

excellent...honesty will always win out

Great response from Barbra. What a shame this project never came to fruition; loosers all. But it also never ceases to amaze me the capacity we all have for blame; sometimes things just don't work out. Move on and let the grudges go. Rob. London.

Barbra, I admire the fact that you have taken the time, twice now, to respond to Mr. Kramer's ill intended statements with such dignity. It's sad.....he seems to have so much anger inside of him. Anger and negativity will never yield anything positive. It's quite obvious that the only reason the film has not come to fruition is because of Mr. Kramer himself. Dear Mr. Kramer, enough of blaming Ms. Streisand, open your eyes and see the truth, for it shall set you free!

Best wishes to you Barbra!

Tom, NYC

What the heck is bugging Larry Kramer anyway?! Larry needs to get over the fact that his stubborn demands to get 1 million dollars for anyone to produce his screenplay has stalled this project for so long that it has lost much of its urgency and relevancy to today's youth in particular. Shame, shame, shame. This happened before with 'Yentl' when I.B. Singer's screenplay was not filmable for the modern audience and he resented being passed over too. Barbra is right to trust her professional judgement and experience in not caving in to the arrogant demands of writers. As for Barbra ... what an intelligent well thought out explanation ... thank you for clarifying it so clearly.


"The ultimate shielding of men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools."
- - Herbert Spencer

When diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) I had to turn down an opportunity to publish my first novel. You can have it, borrow it, barbecue it, paper an outhouse with it or create a piece of art from it - for nothing. It's in proof form though (there are pages everywhere) and it needs updating - hum. Reading the proofs gave me chickenpox if I remember ! But enough about my editor. =\8•)>

In extract the novel paints a portrait of an extraordinary complex man and couple of substance. It's themes are charged with life, truth, horror, despair, love, hope, dreams, farewells and a compassionate willingness to forgive.

Now why would one not be riveted ? Yeah, no … I mean, really, why ?

Going, going, going…

Please, don't check the reviews they're rather embarrassing - as is the table of contents.

Much laughter. =\8>•)

I remain in debt to you for this specific reverie.

As always, in all you do in life, remember you are loved, and listen carefully to the calling of your heart. Know that I wish you continued strength, I honor your courage, I admire your dignity, and that I hold you and yours in my heart.

And as always - you have my heart.

Be well to you and yours,

- Seán (the absolutely hideously crippled gay guy in a wheelchair) Eye-wink

What a lucky man Larry Kramer was - to have had the opportunity to work closely with you for 10 years on a magnificent project! And what an IDIOT he is/was to have turned away from that opportunity! Your explanation of events have been clear, concise and consistent, unlike his. It is truly sad, since, in 1985, we definitely needed this film to enlighten people of that time. I'm sad for you that you were not able to fulfill your desire to make this project a reality, when, by all appearances, it has been a piece of your heart. And sad for me (us) that we will never see your treatment of it! Thank you, Barbra, for your hard work in trying to make 'The Normal Heart' a reality in film and in life. See you in October!!!

Nelson Mandela said, "A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination." Thank you, Barbra, for your good head and good heart. The grace and generosity you have shown in responding to Larry Kramer reinforces what I have always known - you are a class act!

Mary A.
(Your fan since 1969 when I first saw "Funny Girl" at the age of 9!)

Hi Barbra,

I've been an enormous and faithful fan of yours for decades. I think the first movie I ever saw in the theater was "Funny Girl" and I walked around for 2 months after pretending I was Fanny Brice. LOL! Thank you for all you've contributed to this world with your talents and thank you for your passionate position and support for equality and for the democratic party.
I am so very sorry for all the upset you've gone through in your efforts to make "The Normal Heart". I totally understand this type of tale because if I had a penny for every person I have given my heart, my loyalty, and my talent to...for free... only to be betrayed and grossly unappreciated.... I would be a financially rich woman.
But instead I am rich with the truth and the truth was spoken quite eloquently by Abraham Lincoln when he said, "I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have."
My partner and I have loved each other for 30 years. I'm a songwriter and she's an artist. We created a short video to support the 2012 campaign to re-elect President Obama and to support equality. We are hoping you can just take a few minutes to watch it and maybe pass it along to some others that might be willing to do the same.

Here's the link to the video:

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Ellyn Fleming

I believe Larry Kramer wanted you to do the film because he believes in your artistic vision and your passion. The gay community regards you so highly that it would only be natural (and a coup of sorts) to have your name attached to the film. It is a shame that you and he couldn't get it together. We love you, Barbra.

Maybe it didn't work out because you are supposed to do a film about the KING of Israel and about miracles that came out of Jerusalem, because the KING is coming. If you had done this other work, this would not have come before you. God opens the right door at the right time when He wants the job done right. Maybe He chooses you at such a time as this to be the one to do this job? Love KKB

Bravo Barbra! What's the deal with Larry Kramer anyway? Seems like his play means nothing if he can't associate it with you in a negative connotation! It seems you've given more than your fair share to it, so he needs to get over it! I'm glad you turned him down the last time to direct it. Everything can't always be his way!

...and this is why so many people admire you. What a classy, honest response. Your years of work will not be in vain Barbra, I'm sure of it. After all, 'nothing is impossible'. From the moment I heard you say that on screen, I believed that and have lived my life by it. I look forward to the day when "The Normal Heart" film goes into wide release, having been directed by you. Your passion for this story trumps even Larry's. He's made it clear, through his words and actions, that he cares only about the money, not about getting this story into the hearts of people everywhere. Everyone can see that your intentions are authentic and pure, "for the love of the story". You are meant to direct this film Barbra and I have no doubt you will. It's meant to be, simple as that. Thank you for clearing up Larry's self-serving and dishonest "story" once again. Hopefully this will be the last time.

You tell him....! So well-written, and without all the vile that he spews in his writing.

Frankly, I think we all know he just uses your name to drum up more publicity. But really.... enough is enough is enough is enough....!

Tom R.
Dallas, Texas

Barbra I am so glad that you decided to tell the people what really happened.I know you would love to do this film but It is what it is and you have moved on to bigger and better endeavors.Sometimes when a door closes a window will open.The projects that you have coming I am sure will be just as Great.I wish all your dreams and ideas will bring you Happiness.Keep the Faith and keep on Trucking.
Take Care
Lee Anne

It's okay Barbra! No one is mad at you! Larry is just a bitter old queen!

I saw the play but I honestly think that a wide release is too late as it has now dated. It does however need to be seen by a wider audience and I hope that a tv movie does get made. From what I have read of Mr Kramer he sounds like a stubborn and difficult man and maybe if he changed his attitude a little and became more open to 'adaptation' this project could see the light of day.
Mark Atalon, London, UK

Everything happen for a reason.

Spoken with heart-felt honesty and supported by a tenacious, determined history.

Barbra, the comment from "yellowroses" said it best, a bitter old queen! (I would only capitalize the Q)!

i am so glad you bring light to the truth rather than the lies. Without knowig the details I knew there was more to this story tat was untold. I can see that you graciously did not seek to hurt anyone. As always, people often believe things they don't really know very much about... not just in subjects like the making of a movie of a wonderful play. But in decisions people make in voting, in judging people just because they are different than themselves... Another words this particularly truth alert, reflects a larger issue in our society.... thank Gd Obama won the election.... I think there is a connection here. Your truth alerts, because as I am learning... and I will speak for myself... I must take that moment to think, make space for myself and feel the message of good that is being sent to me.... what i need to do is listen.. This is to me is the larger truth that is reflected in the truth alerts, that you reveal about false understandings... Glad you made a space to do this...