Barbra Streisand Responds to Larry Kramer Regarding The Normal Heart Film Adaptation
By Michael Gioia
The war of words continues between The Normal Heart playwright Larry Kramer and Academy Award-winning actress Barbra Streisand, who was previously attached to direct a film version of his Tony Award-winning play.
Following the The Normal Heart's recent opening at DC's Arena Stage, Kramer reportedly forwarded the production's rave reviews to Streisand, who acquired the rights to direct a film adaptation in the 1980s—a project that never came to fruition. "Glee" co-creator Ryan Murphy is now attached to Kramer's award-winning work about the AIDS epidemic, which will star Mark Ruffalo, Julia Roberts, Alec Baldwin, Matt Bomer and Jim Parsons.
"Why make me sad that I'm not directing your wonderful play??," Streisand responded via an email sent by her assistant, according to The New York Post. That question prompted Kramer to reply in a lengthy email that was reprinted in full by the Post.
"When your options lapsed, I said you could buy it for a million dollars and do whatever you wanted with it… You kept telling me I wanted too much money," reads Kramer's email.
He added, "Ryan has wonderful ideas that jell and enhance my work. You said you couldn't get financing. He has his financing. He said if he couldn't get it, he'd finance it himself. (You chose to remodel and redecorate your houses.) This is a man whose driving passion to make this movie is extraordinary… I will always regret not having the experience of working with you on something, but I feel totally blessed that Ryan Murphy has come into my life to take your place."
Streisand issued a statement on her personal website in response to his email, which follows:
"Larry Kramer does not need me to publicize his beautiful play. It stands on its own. For the last time – I will answer his complaints, which rewrite history.
"When I saw the play in 1985 I was very moved and immediately contacted Larry to acquire the rights. After going through several drafts with Larry, I hired another writer to develop a screenplay that was faithful to Larry's play—but adapting it to make it more cinematic. It was finished in 1995. Ralph Fiennes and Kenneth Branagh were interested in doing the version that I oversaw.
"I tried very hard to get it made, but when it became clear that we couldn't raise the money to do it as a film due to the controversial nature of the material, I thought, all right, we'll do it on TV. At least it would reach a wide audience. But even HBO would only pay Larry $250,000 for the rights, and he would not let it go forward for anything less than $1,000,000 and no company was willing to move on it.
"After ten years, the rights reverted back to Larry. But even when I had no contractual involvement, I still persisted in pressing to get The Normal Heart made, purely because I believed in the project. As producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron can confirm, I thought that if we could get a great cast together, maybe a studio would finally finance it and we could persuade Larry to let us do it. I offered the part of the doctor to Julia Roberts because I thought she would be terrific. I also asked Mark Ruffalo and Bradley Cooper to be in it, and they said yes to my adaptation of the screenplay. By the way, this is not to say that it wouldn't have been rewritten again. The work is never done until the movie is released.
"I think it's unfair to keep blaming me for the movie not getting made. I worked on it for 25 years, without pay. Larry had the rights for the last 15 years and he couldn’t get it made either. Those are the facts, and none of this is news to Larry.
"More recently, he sent me a note before giving the project to another director, asking me again if I wanted to direct it—but only with his screenplay. As a filmmaker, I couldn't have my hands tied like that. What if I needed changes? Sadly, I turned his offer down and wished him well.
"I will always believe in Larry's play and its powerful theme about everyone's right to love."
Performances of The Normal Heart continue through July 29 at the Kreeger Theatre in DC. Read about the production here.
San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater will open its 2012-13 season with The Normal Heart, directed by five-time Tony Award winner George C. Wolfe. Performances are scheduled for Sept. 13-Oct. 7 at the American Conservatory Theater.
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