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.

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  • AlanInSLC

    A sequel to Heathers? Oh lord!

  • stevenelliot

    Yentl combined with the AIDS crisis? Sounds toxic….

  • michael

    oy mary

  • Chris Sullivan

    Unsurprisingly, quite a lot is left out of this article.

    Streisand was unable to secure the cast she wanted at the time nor get the financial backing that she needed. Because Barbra didn’t or wasn’t able to do everything things that Larry Kramer wanted her to do, in typical drama queen fashion, he lobs unmerited insults. Very typically petulant of Larry and counter-productive at best. What Larry Kramer needs to learn is that making a film is a collaborative effort and that means people will need to work together and Streisand in not one to be dictated to. Larry Kramer has done a lot of good work for AIDS – no doubt. But he can be an obnoxious pain in the ass, a fact he self-servingly overlooks during his tantrums.

  • Lee

    The financial backing she needed?

    The bitch SHITS money, has a gay son who may or may not now be HIV+ and she lets money get in the way of dramatizing the best work I’ve seen [and I’ve seen them all] about the crisis peak of AIDS.

    Yes, Kramer is often his own worst enemy, but his credentials of activism over ego, both in and out of “art,” trump hers by miles and miles and miles and mile.

    This project aside, she COULD have been one of THE greatest champions of gay rights and AIDS justice in the Reagan passive holocaust years, and she didn’t do 1/20th of what she could have.

  • Chris Sullivan

    Lee – You’re an idiot and you obviously don’t know anything about movie making. Additionally, Streisand gives countless sums of money towards all sorts of causes, including gay rites and AIDS causes. I know, countless queens the world over think they own her, but they don’t. Grow up.

  • alan brickman

    larry kramer is a hero he also said why weren’t gay people marching earlier?

  • Fitz

    Stristand love is one of those areas where I don’t feel very gay. I just don’t get the appeal of the megalomaniac who screams on key and keeps making films about “am I pretty enough”.

  • osocubano

    I love Barbra Streisand as a singer, but moviemaking is not what she does best. It’ll probably stink.

  • Mark Adnum

    @Chris Sullivan: First of all, I don’t know why you say it’s “unsurprising” that a “lot is left out of this article”. The article summarises how Streisand and Kramer were unable to come to a creative agreement during their workshopping sessions. While there were, no doubt, other factors that saw Streisand’s The Normal Heart slip into development hell and ultimately out of her hands altogether, this creative impasse between the original author and the potential producer/director was the main reason why the project never made it to the screen. From what I understand, no script draft was ever completed that either party was prepared to green light; Streisand did mention that she thought Ralph Fiennes would be an ideal lead but that was about as far as casting plans got.

    Oh, and while you’re calling people “idiots” who “don’t know anything” (you said: “Streisand gives countless sums of money towards all sorts of causes, including gay rites and AIDS causes”) you may like to remember in the future that words like “countless” are a little problematic as if she gives an amount of money to anything – as per your example copied below – then it would have to be countable otherwise it wouldn’t be measurable as an amount, would it, it would be “countless” as you say which suggests such an enormous amount of money that no technology or manpower can ever count it.

    Also, it was widely reported in the early 1990s that Barbra once paid more for an antique chair at an auction than she had donated towards AIDS in the years up to that point (so, again, it was far from “countless”) and she said herself that “Elizabeth Taylor has [AIDS] as her one single cause” in answer to questions as to why her donations to that cause were considered relatively small.

    Finally, by gay “rites” which particular and customary observances or practices typical to gay men are you referring to? I’m really not sure why or how Streisand would give financial support to gay rites – maybe it’s something metaphysical and … countless.

  • Coke

    #1. It’ll probably be a great movie as long as she’s not also acting in it.

    #2. Every freaking thing makes Larry Kramer angry. It’s his purpose in life to be angry.

    #3. Not many people would spend the majority of their own personal money stash to make a movie, or even half of it.

    #4. Somebody has to be in charge, ultimately. If you can’t work with somebody for whatever reason, work alone or drop the project. That’s what happened before.

    #5. Jason has nothing to do with this. He’s obviously private, and has a right to that, regardless of his mother being gaycon #1. Let him be.

  • mike kent

    @Lee: EXCELLENT! Over the top! Your anger hits the spot and I agree with much of what you say about Streisand. If she had been really committed to this project, it would have been done. PRONTO! And one would have thought that being an A+ lister in LA-LA LAND and having a son who is HIV+ would have catapulted the entire thing. But…Noooooooooo…. First, there is no part in it for her to play, and second, there is no part in it for her to play. Sad. Really sad.

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