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.
But despite the support of high-profile directors and actors — at various times Barbra Streisand, John Schlesinger, Kenneth Branagh and Ralph Fiennes have been attached or interested — for nearly three decades the film adaptation remained in limbo. In part, it fell victim to Hollywood’s timidity about telling gay stories in general and AIDS dramas in particular — and Kramer’s play is a fiercely, explicitly polemical work. “Way back then, it just felt like an incredibly depressing tale that looked as if it would appeal only to a narrow demographic corridor,” says one source familiar with the project’s history. “It was viewed as a major downbeat story that didn’t seem to have any wide appeal.” And, too, Kramer never was the easiest collaborator. In 2012, recounting the years he and Streisand put into trying to make a movie version, Kramer accused her of lacking “the burning passion to make it,” a charge she resoundingly rejects. “It was hard for me to be attacked like that by Larry. I worked for so many years on it without ever taking a penny,” Streisand told THR recently. “I will always believe in Larry’s play and its powerful theme of everyone’s right to love.”
And so the property languished until Murphy, who’d broken ground by injecting gay storylines into his TV series Glee and The New Normal, came along in 2009. After winning Kramer’s trust, he sold the project to HBO with a blue-chip cast, including Mark Ruffalo, Julia Roberts, Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons and Taylor Kitsch. “Larry had his heart broken so many times,” says Murphy, “I promised him I would not stop until it got made.”
A date has been set for the premiere of The Normal Heart!
Sunday, May 25
9 p.m.: The Normal Heart (HBO)
Thanks to HollyWood Reporter for the information.
Taylor Kitsch was approached recently by an energetic military veteran in a hole-in-the-wall bar in Austin, Texas. The veteran wanted to let Kitsch know how much his film “Lone Survivor” — based on the nonfiction book about U.S. Navy SEALs who were ambushed in Afghanistan in 2005 — meant to him. Rather than brush him off with a handshake and a “thank you,” Kitsch struck up a conversation with the veteran.
Forty-five minutes later, Kitsch said he had bonded with the veteran over the film, learned about his time in the service and met his son, who was thinking of enlisting.
“It happens all the time — all the time,” Kitsch said over the phone from Austin, where he lives, about getting approached by service members and veterans. “That’s what this movie does. It’s an incredible thing to be a part of. From a personal standpoint, it’s pretty damn validating. It makes you feel great that you got to do this and do this right. First and foremost, I cared about what the families and military community thought of the film. Once I got those, I couldn’t (care less) about what everyone else thought.”
Kitsch and his cast mates, including Mark Wahlberg, were so moved by the military cause they’re now active in promoting the Lone Survivor Foundation and its fundraisers. “Lone Survivor” author Marcus Luttrell (the only survivor of the 2005 ambush) founded the charity to help returning service members make the transition to civilian life through a therapeutic and holistic healing retreat.
The foundation — which also offers couples and family retreats for service members — will host Concert for a Cause featuring the BoDeans on Thursday at the House of Blues and the third annual Rock for the Ranch fundraiser Saturday at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel.
“This organization helps mend the transition when men and women come back from service,” Kitsch said. “It helps them get the counseling they need.”
We’ve all seen the videos of troops surprising their loved ones after coming back from overseas. They’re constantly featured on cnn.com. You can also find them on welcomehomeblog.com, a website dedicated to homecoming videos. Many of us have been moved to tears by these happy reunions — and Kitsch is no different.
“Oh my God, I break half the time,” Kitsch admitted. “My buddy sent me a video of a bunch of them edited together. I’d already seen a lot of them, but I still broke.”
The former “Friday Night Lights” actor has been living in Austin for the past six years. He tried living in the Los Angeles area, but it wasn’t for him. The Hollywood lifestyle just doesn’t fit the laid-back British Columbia native, who has said in interviews he was homeless in New York at one point and sleeping on subway trains. And while he doesn’t seem all that interested in fame, he is proud that he’s able to use it to bring attention to the Lone Survivor Foundation.
“I love it,” Kitsch said. “It’s very fulfilling. The thing about celeb parties is, maybe it feels good for two seconds. This is something I can actually contribute — something bigger than me. It’s a great thing.”
Entertainment One Films US has acquired the U.S. distribution rights to the comedy “The Grand Seduction,” starring Brendan Gleeson and Taylor Kitsch.
The acquisition comes five months after the film’s world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Producers are Roger Frappier and Barbara Doran. eOne is planning a theatrical release in the summer.
Don McKellar directed from a screenplay by Michael Dowse and Ken Scott, who wrote the script for the original 2003 French-Canadian film, “La Grande Seduction.” eOne’s Mark Slone executive produced alongside Jeff Sackman and Joe Iacono.
The story centers on a depressed town that needs to convince a doctor, portrayed by Kitsch, to take up residence so a petrochemical factory can move in.
Entertainment One Films already holds the distribution rights to the film in Canada and the UK.
On the morning that we meet, 32-year-old actor Taylor Kitsch is a patchwork of frayed flannel and denim. He’s Paul Bunyan-big, and speaks like a country road – leisurely paced, with winding turns that sometimes go nowhere. We’re sitting down to breakfast at his favorite beachside hotel in Santa Monica where he’s hunkered down for a week of meetings. At night, he’s been driving out to the Valley to play hockey.
“Us Canadians, we find that shit,” he says with a laugh. “Hockey’s like therapy for me. I went through a terrible break up a while ago and it was the one thing that allowed me to actually not think about it for an hour-and-a-half.”
A tossed off aside, to be sure – therapy on ice! – but it encapsulates Kitsch’s onscreen appeal, and has a lot to do with why the L.A. machers keep banking on him. He’s a man’s man, a jock even, but he’s comfortably evolved. He talks about his vintage Triumph bike like a veteran gearhead, but he isn’t afraid to feel.
This much was clear on the cult series Friday Night Lights where, for five seasons, he played Tim Riggins, a star high-school fullback saddled with a drinking problem, a conscience, and his own catchphrase – “Texas Forever.”
After Friday Night Lights, the powers that be gave Kitsch the keys to two potential franchises: John Carter and Battleship. For a variety of reasons beyond a young actor’s control, both went tits up, and he found himself in the odd position of having to hit the reset button on a film career before it really started.
And so here we are. The underdog label fits him better anyway, and Kitsch’s 60-second back-story is a lesson in triumph over adversity. The youngest of three brothers, he was raised by a single mom when his father took off. Money was sometimes tight. Like many young Canadians, Kitsch dreamed of playing pro hockey one day, and maybe could have if a knee injury hadn’t sidelined him. Asked to quantify his disappointment, Kitsch trains his emerald green eyes and says plainly: “One of the only memories I have of my father is him skating with me when I was 4-years-old. That’s pretty heavy shit.”
Indeed it is. In need of a new career plan, Kitsch moved to Manhattan at the urging of a modeling scout, where he got more work catering bar mitzvahs than he did on the runway. These were dark days, though some were darker than others. At one point, he admits, he was even properly homeless, sleeping on subway cars when the weather got too bad.
Which is all to say that when those would-be blockbusters crapped out, well, Kitsch had seen worse. And if he’s got any regrets about doubling down on movies with CGI aliens, he’s certainly not saying. In his defense, he points out, John Carter was a live-action Mars epic directed by the guy who just won a couple of Oscars for Wall-E.
“If I even told you who else was trying to get John Carter’s role!” Kitsch says, though he stops himself, and won’t elaborate. As for Battleship? If nothing else, it was a chance to spend a couple of months in Hawaii playing a board game with real U.S. warships. “The Navy closed down the USS Missouri for us for two weeks!” he says, proudly.
At this point, a waitress comes by again to ask Kitsch if he’d like coffee. This is not her first spin by the table, nor will it be her last. Kitsch is still getting used to the attention, which might be why he still lives in Austin, Texas, two years after FNL wrapped. The pace, the people, the landscape – it suits him. In fact, the only particularly Hollywood thing about Kitsch is his breakfast order: a fruit plate with Greek yogurt on the side. I ask if he’s felt pressure to move to L.A. You know, to be seen. He shakes his head: “They want you bad enough they’ll come get you.”
And it sounds like they do. Rumors of Kitsch’s meteoric ascent weren’t exaggerated, just premature. Look for him to earn his Next Big Thing crown in 2014 with pivotal roles in two very different male ensemble films: Lone Survivor (a true story about a tragic Navy SEAL mission in Afghanistan) and an HBO adaptation of The Normal Heart, Larry Kramer’s Tony Award-winning play about the 1980s AIDS crisis.
Lone Survivor comes from director Peter Berg, who cast Kitsch in Friday Night Lights, and gives him another gift here. Kitsch plays Mike Murphy, the leader of a four-man platoon that went hunting for a Taliban leader named Ahmad Shah in the mountains of Afghanistan in 2005.
Kitsch likens Lone Survivor to The Deer Hunter and Platoon, and he’s not overplaying his hand. The film is two hours of tough-to-watch battle-scenes wrapped in moral quandaries, tied up in an ethical-dilemma bow. To prep for the project, Kitsch and his co-stars (including Mark Wahlberg and Ben Foster) trained with actual Navy SEALS in the desert outside Albuquerque.
“The first day of training was live fire,” Kitsch says, assuring me this wasn’t some pretty-boy project. “Real bullets, dude.” He recalls hiding in a ditch while SEALs dressed as Taliban charged past him unaware. During training, he even shot a SEAL in the face with a paintball gun and drew blood, he says, grinning wide. But don’t let his bluster fool you. When Kitsch saw a finished cut of the film, he admits. “I cried three times.”
No one was injured during the filming of The Normal Heart, though by all accounts the experience was just as harrowing. It’s a story about the earliest days of the AIDS Crisis, when men were dropping dead at an alarming rate from a mysterious “gay cancer.” Kitsch plays Bruce Niles, a Wall Streeter who moonlights as the head of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, a pioneering treatment center and pressure group. What Kitsch loved about the role was the towering fear it inspired within him.
He took the script to his old New York acting coach, Sheila Gray, and laid himself bare: “We were both, like, Holy fuck,” he says. It’s worth nothing there are no CGI Aliens in either of these projects. When asked if that was intentional- if he was looking for a pair of deeply human roles to erase the memory of a box-office turkey based on a board game – he shrugs it off: “I’ll keep swinging for the rest of my career.”
For Kitsch, opportunity looks a lot like hard work, and he prepped for The Normal Heart by “reading a stupid amount of memoirs.” The film co-stars Mark Ruffalo and Matt Bomer, and Kitsch will remember the experience as a master class in acting and knowing one’s limits. When the production set up shop on Fire Island for a pivotal scene, Kitsch chose to sleep on the mainland. “I know if I’m with the boys I’m gonna party ’til 3 AM and drink 18 bottles of wine,” he says. “I needed to get some rest.”
Kitsch picks at the remains of his fruit plate, moving a pair of figs around with his lumberjack paws. He’s got a busy day ahead – “eight back-to-back meetings” – but seems in no rush. Like any athlete raised in a locker room, he loves to shoot the shit: about the house he’s building on a lake in Austin, about learning to fly-fish in Newfoundland, about women. On the subject of his dating life, he’s country boy coy, but it sounds like he’s having a very good time. “I’m not getting married next year. I’ll tell you that much,” he says.
Making any kind of long term commitment, personal or otherwise, isn’t likely. He was offered a big network TV show this past season – a gig that paid “just stupid money,” he says, still marveling at the figure – “but I ain’t signing no seven-year deal.” As for the rumored Friday Night Lights movie, he wishes them well, but says he’s done playing Riggins. “Why mess up something that ended so fucking great?”
Kitsch pauses to reflect on the past year and the freedom he’s enjoying. “I love that I can literally shut down and just concentrate and really see what I’m capable of doing.” Texas Forever.
Sitting on the list of HitFix’s best battles of 2013 is “Lone Survivor,” which features a 30-40 minute fire fight between SEALs and enemy insurgents. It is a long, intense, sequence and when we asked Taylor Kitsch to tell us about it, he acknowledged that it wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to film.
“You kinda know what you’re getting into when you sign on,” Kitsch said, adding that the challenge of it is “What you crave as an actor” and, “I loved it… we all loved it.” But, before they even got that far, a lot of training was required, and in the interview, Kitsch offered up a laundry list of various things they had to undergo and that they “Were lucky enough to have, like, some active and some just retired SEALs with us” during the training.
The sense of respect and awe Kitsch, and all of those we talked who worked on the movie, have for the SEALs and what they do was evident, and more than just the SEALs as a group, but as individuals as well. In “Lone Survivor,” Kitsch portrays Michael Murphy, and in order to learn about his character, he asked Marcus Luttrell, the survivor of the battle in question and author of the book upon which the movie is based, about Murphy. He explained that if he wanted to know something about someone he would go ask their best friend, “And that’s what I had, I had Marcus Luttrell.” He continued, “I had access to someone that knows this guy inside-out… stories of sadness, of courage, of having 25 too many beers together, to all of it, you know, I had access to that and that was a great thing.”
“Lone Survivor” is directed by Peter Berg whom Kitsch has worked with more than once before. With working relationships and friendships already a part of the discussion, we had to ask Kitsch about why he keeps returning to Berg. The “Friday Night Lights” actor answered by saying “We’re friends first and foremost,” and then quickly added “He’s just insanely talented,” and that “On any set, that director-actor relationship is bound by trust, and we have that in spades… I’ll go to war—no pun intended—with him any day of the week.”
“Lone Survivor,” which also stars Emile Hirsch, Mark Wahlberg, and Eric Bana is currently playing in New York and Los Angeles. It expands nationwide on January 10th.
Source: Hit Fix