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'The Normal Heart' with Julia Roberts & Mark Ruffalo Heading to HBO

by
January 4, 2013

The Normal Heart / Mark Ruffalo

It's been over two years since we last heard anything about "Glee" creator Ryan Murphy's adaptation of The Normal Heart, writer Larry Kramer's semi-autobiographical play, which premiered in 1985 (only to be revived in 2011) and focuses on the rise of the HIV-AIDS crisis in New York City between 1981 and 1984. Mark Ruffalo was attached to star in June of 2010, but since then development has been stagnant. But today HBO has announced that Murphy's Eat Pray Love lead actress Julia Roberts has joined the cast, and the film, which is also being scripted by Kramer, will premiere exclusively on the cable network in 2014.

The film takes "an unflinching look at the nation's sexual politics as gay activists and their allies in the medical community fought to expose the truth about the burgeoning epidemic to a city in denial." Roberts is playing Dr. Emma Brookner, the paraplegic physician who treats several of the earliest victims of the disease. Meanwhile, 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. Matt Bomer (Magic Mike) also has a role as a reporter who is also Ned's lover.

That last movie that took on AIDS was also an adaptation of a stage production in the form of RENT, though that seemed to be wholly disappointing for such an iconic musical heading to the big screen. This play was just nominated for five Tony awards in the 2011 Broadway revival, so the high profile is there, but not quite as iconic. Don't let the move to HBO fool you, as the cable network has pumped out plenty of films better than some theatrical releases. This might end up being better for Murphy as a director in the end. It's pretty impressive that he's managed to hold on to Ruffalo after The Avengers, and bringing Roberts on board is a good move as well. Obviously we'll be waiting a little while before this premieres, but it sounds good so far.

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