HBO debuts The Normal Heart on May 25th, but we’re getting some glimpses into the production of the film before it airs. The latest bit of backstage insight: as star Matt Bomer lost weight for the role, director Ryan Murphy got increasingly anxious about his health.
In the film, Mark Ruffalo plays Ned Weeks, a man who sees the devastation of the early days of the AIDS crisis and is galvanized to action. As he works to raise awareness and fight institutionalized homophobia, his HIV+ partner, played by Matt Bomer, grows increasingly frail. It’s the story of the chaotic, sometimes panicked, sometimes meticulous origins of the community’s reaction to the crisis.
For the part, Bomer lost 35 pounds over the course of four months. That seems like a fairly slow, safe pace to lose weight, but it’s still a pretty dramatic dive for a man who was already as fit and trim as Bomer. During that time, he would send update photos to Murphy, who started to get a little anxious.
“I would say,’Please get your blood checked!’ … I was nervous,” Murphy told the Huffington Post.
Once Bomer was finally ready to shoot, his transformation was upsetting to those around him. Murphy recalled how he’d have to sit still between takes to conserve energy. But it was worth it, Bomer said. “The thinner I got and the more my health was compromised, I had more of a lust for life than I’ve ever had,” he told HuffPo. That sounds like a strong, empowered attitude to bring to the role, and we’re looking forward to seeing it on the screen.
This is just the latest incarnation of Larry Kramer‘s groundbreaking play, which debuted off-broadway in 1985 and in London in 1986. Throughout the ’90s, staged versions of the show served as fundraisers for Broadway Cares; and it returned to Broadway in 2011, directed by Joel Grey.