the cinema

Can Barbra Streisand and Larry Kramer Be Friendly Enough to (Finally) Film Normal Heart?


Are we the last ones to hear about this? Barbra Streisand, having finally finished renovating her manse, is turning Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart into her next film project, and assures on-lookers “interesting cast members” are in place. Of course, Streisand has been here before: She had the rights to Heart (a semi-autobiographical play about a gay Jewish guy, and his straight brother, during the 1980s AIDS crisis) and spent 10 years putzing around with them before the rights lapsed. Somewhere along the line, she and Kramer (then friends) tussled over the approach to the film adaptation. Reports Outrate:

Kramer’s new-found intractability on any kind of second-questions concerning gay guys created problems at Streisand’s Malibu workshop sessions, where each occupied polar opposite ambitions for the film adaptation, and neither was prepared to give an inch.

Reportedly, Kramer insisted that Streisand frame the two brothers as identical twin souls, but she was more interested in exploring the dramatic potential of exploring their differences. “One’s homosexual, one’s heterosexual,” she said at the time in a Vanity Fair interview that I keep under glass. “They’re equal in the eyes of God and the law, but they’re not the same.”

Eventually, Kramer insisted on penning the final screenplay, recalling that he told her at one of their last meetings that “she didn’t understand: this was my life story. I had to write the final screenplay. No one else could be brought in.” He wanted to write an elegy for a paradise lost; she was more interested in “what I experienced when I first saw the play – the rage and the compassion I felt for these characters.”

How much Kramer dreamed of getting one more crack at an Oscar (he had been nominated for 1970’s Women In Love, but lost to Ring Lardner, Jr. who wrote the screenplay for MASH) we’ll never know, but he spat rage as he left the project, publicly stating that he couldn’t understand why Barbra chose to make a throwaway movie “about a woman who has a facelift” (The Mirror Has Two Faces) instead of what could have been an era-defining and career-topping piece (if it had been done correctly).

“It was a story that had a message and had to get out fast. I believed it would help change the world. I don’t think that was decent of her to do to me, her gay fans, and the people with AIDS she talks so movingly about. I love her, but she has pissed on this project for ten years.”

But now they’re back together, says Streisand. This, coupled with Winona Ryder’s confirmation that there will absolutely be a sequel to Heathers — and it’s a good day in film.