Playwright & Lifelong Activist Larry Kramer Dead At 84

Larry Kramer in 2010 (photo: David ShankboneCC License)

Larry Kramer, whose activism shocked the country into addressing the HIV epidemic as it killed thousands of Americans, has passed away at the age of 84.

In addition to his work as an award-winning playwright including The Normal Heart, he helped co-found the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (the first public service organization for those with HIV) and the activist group ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) which staged “die-in” protests to draw attention to the mounting death toll from AIDS.

From the New York Times:

Larry Kramer, the noted writer whose raucous, antagonistic campaign for an all-out response to the AIDS crisis helped shift national health policy in the 1980s and ’90s, died on Wednesday morning in Manhattan. He was 84.

His husband, David Webster, said the cause was pneumonia. Mr. Kramer had weathered illness for much of his adult life. Among other things he had been infected with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, contracted liver disease and underwent a successful liver transplant.

An author, essayist and playwright — notably hailed for his autobiographical 1985 play, “The Normal Heart” — Mr. Kramer had feet in both the world of letters and the public sphere. In 1981 he was a founder of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the first service organization for H.I.V.-positive people, though his fellow directors effectively kicked him out a year later for his aggressive approach. (He returned the compliment by calling them “a sad organization of sissies.”)

He was then a founder of a more militant group, Act Up (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), whose street actions demanding a speedup in AIDS drugs research and an end to discrimination against gay men and lesbians severely disrupted the operations of government offices, Wall Street and the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, credits Kramer with playing an “essential” role in the development of drug regimens that could help those living with HIV, and in urging the FDA to streamline its process for vetting and approval of new drugs.

Kramer’s play, The Normal Heart, opened at the Public Theater in April 1985 and ran for nine months. The play chronicled the early years of the HIV/AIDS crisis and his often aggressive activism to get people engaged in solving the epidemic.

In 2011, The Normal Heart was revived on Broadway winning the Tony Award for Best Revival. And in 2014, Kramer wrote a television adaptation for HBO (directed by Ryan Murphy) which won the 2014 Emmy for outstanding television movie.

In his review of the revival, Ben Brantley of the New York Times wrote, “By the play’s end, even people who think they have no patience for polemical theater may find their resistance has melted into tears. No, make that sobs.”

I encourage you to read the full profile by the New York Times here.

Mark Ruffalo Wins SAG Award For His Performance In The Normal Heart

Mark Ruffalo (L) with Matt Bomer (R)

Although he missed out on Emmy and Golden Globe Awards for his work on The Normal Heart, tonight Mark Ruffalo was awarded Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries for passionate performance in the HBO film adaptation of Larry Kramer’s play of the same name.

From Gay Star News:

Ruffalo played writer and AIDS activist Ned Weeks in the film based on the play by Larry Kramer. The character of Weeks is a fictionalized version of Kramer.

The award was accepted on Ruffalo’s behalf by presenters Jared Leto and Lupita Nyong’o since the actor did not attend the ceremony at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

Julia Roberts, Ruffalo’s co-star and fellow producer on the film, later took the stage to present another award and dispensed with her prepared remarks to praise Ruffalo’s acting abilities and to say ‘I am so absolutely tickled to my toes that he won tonight.’

Upon waking and hearing from my wife and kids that I won a @sagawards for #TheNormalHeart Love wins tonight!A photo posted by Mark Ruffalo (@markruffalo) on Jan 25, 2015 at 6:45pm PST

HBO’s “The Normal Heart” wins Outstanding TV/Movie at 2014 Emmys

The cast of the HBO film “The Normal Heart”

HBO’s “The Normal Heart” won the 2014 Emmy Award for best made-for-television movie.

The critically acclaimed film depicts the rise of the HIV-AIDS crisis in New York City between 1981 and 1984, as seen through the eyes of writer/activist Ned Weeks, the founder of a prominent HIV advocacy group.

“The Normal Heart” was directed by Ryan Murphy and written by Larry Kramer, based on his 1985 play of same name.

Fans and activists on the internet expressed worry that the ground-breaking movie would be shut out of the awards tonight.  Fortunately, not true.

Mark Ruffalo (L) and Matt Bomer (R) in “The Normal Heart”

Larry Kramer (scarf) stand to accept 2014 Emmy Award with “The Normal Heart” team

(via LGBTQ Nation)

President Obama calls “The Normal Heart” director Ryan Murphy after viewing film

Deadline reports that after viewing HBO’s The Normal Heart, President Obama called director Ryan Murphy on Monday to share how much he enjoyed the film and “found it incredibly moving.”

Murphy confirmed getting the call to Deadline, adding: “The whole movie is about Larry trying to get the attention of Washington and 30 years later, to get a call from the President is a full-circle moment.”

The cast of HBO’s “The Normal Heart” on Michael Sam’s “draft kiss”

The cast of HBO’s “The Normal Heart” stopped by HuffPost Live to talk about the upcoming debut of the film on May 25th.

During the chat, the question came up regarding how far the LGBT community has come in 30 years, including the NFL draft of Michael Sam and his televised celebratory kiss with his boyfriend Vito. Check out their comments in the video above.

The full interview is posted below the short clip.

HBO’s The Normal Heart covers Entertainment Weekly

This week’s cover of Entertainment Weekly focuses on the developmental journey of The Normal Heart, from Broadway to HBO feature film.

Despite involvement from names like Barbra Streisand, who owned the rights for 10 years, The Normal Heart appeared to be destined for only theater until Glee co-creator Ryan Murphy acquired the rights in 2009 with his own money.

“I really believed in it,” explains Murphy, who first read the play in college and directed the film version. “Larry set a very high price. I gulped and said, ‘Okay,’ and bought it. I think he wanted to see, ‘Is this kid serious?’ And I was.”

Kramer, who’s HIV-positive and currently recovering from unrelated medical complications, was unable to speak to EW but emailed that Heart made it to the screen “because of Ryan Murphy caring passionately about getting it made, abetted by [exec producer] Dante Di Loreto.”

The Normal Heart starring Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Julia Roberts and Jim Parsons debuts on HBO on May 25th. Watch the trailer below:


Matt Bomer reveals he married his partner 3 years ago

Matt Bomer reveals in an interview with Details Magazine (May 2014 issue) that he married his partner Simon Halls way back in 2011.

Talk of their marriage arose while he was discussing his role in the upcoming HBO movie directed by Ryan Murphy, “The Normal Heart,” about a gay man dying of AIDS.

“I wouldn’t have a lot of the rights I have today if it wasn’t for people like Larry,” he said, referring to the play’s original writer, Larry Kramer. “I just wanted to be involved with the project in some capacity. I didn’t care what my part was.”

“It’s rare that you get to play a great role that has an arc,” he added. “It’s rare that you get to be a part of something that, hopefully, has some significance socially or historically. And then to have a role that changes you? I think that’s the best you could hope for in this profession, and that was certainly the case here. I don’t think I’ll ever be the same as I was when I started the job.”

Bomer and Halls have three children together, 6-year-old twins and an 8-year-old.

The interview goes in depth about Bomer’s preparation and work on the upcoming HBO film adaptation of Larry Kramer’s “The Normal Heart.”  Read the full interview at Details.com

The film premieres on HBO May 25 at 9 p.m. EST.

Watch a behind the scenes video from the photo shoot for the magazine below:


Mark Ruffalo talks to HuffPost Live about “The Normal Heart”

Mark Ruffalo talks to HuffPost Live about what drew him to his role in the HBO film adaptation of Larry Kramer’s “The Normal Heart”:

“I have a lot of compassion for the struggle of people and I was growing up during the AIDS epidemic and I saw how cruel and insensitive people were to these people suffering.

“And it sort of has been forgotten, what happened in our culture during those times…and the small group of people who instituted vast change and brought us to the point today where gay marriage is almost as common as [traditional] marriage right now.

“That was an important story that needed to be told.”

“The Normal Heart” debuts on HBO on May 25th.