Larry Kramer's 'Normal Heart' Beats, Finally, on HBO

"Why did it take so long? Why did it take so long to make the play into a film?" That is the question Larry Kramer asked several months ago, as work progressed on Ryan Murphy's HBO adaptation of Kramer's devastating 1985 play.
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"WHY DID it take so long? Why did it take so long to make the play into a film?"

That is the question Larry Kramer asked several months ago, as work progressed on Ryan Murphy's HBO adaptation of Kramer's devastating 1985 play The Normal Heart.

Kramer's quote comes from Gregg Kilday's cover article in The Hollywood Reporter on the long circuitous road from stage to screen that this epic drama has traveled.

Suffice to say, despite remarks from Barbra Streisand, the star originally and most often attached to all tales of The Normal Heart, there appears no clear answer. It seems enough -- maybe -- that the project finally got traction.

• LARRY, whose health has declined, was rushed a print of the film. He was "overcome with emotion." Well, he is just like everyone who sees or reads his great work. (A revival of the play several year ago elicited the same reactions as when AIDS was new and an almost certain death sentence. Audiences, who could not recall, or were not even born when AIDS cut its most deadly swath were sobbing in their seats.)

Larry Kramer is a heroic, ferocious Cassandra. Telling truths nobody -- straight and gay --wanted to hear. But unlike the mythical heroine of The Trojan War, Kramer not only lived to see his dire predictions come true -- Cassandra's unsatisfying fate -- he has lived to see his predictions alter the course of history. I love him for all this!

The Normal Heart premieres on HBO May 25th. It stars Julia Roberts, Jim Parsons, Mark Ruffalo, Taylor Kitsch and Matt Bomer.

•ALSO in this very special issue of THR is a piece on the private correspondence of director Elia Kazan.

In a letter to his wife, Molly Thatcher, Kazan attempts to explain his past affair with Marilyn Monroe: "I took her to dinner because she seemed like such a touching pathetic waif. She sobbed all through dinner. I wasn't 'interested' in her, that came later. I got to know her and in time introduced her to Arthur Miller, who also was very taken with her. You couldn't help being touched. She was talented, funny, vulnerable, helpless in awful pain, with no hope and some worth and not a liar, vicious, not catty and with a history of orphanism that was killing to hear. She was like all Charlie Chaplin heroines in one."

• KAZAN, who wrote to Molly in 1955, also revealed of Marilyn: "She is not what she appears to be...she is not a big sex-pot as advertised."

The cruel irony/P.S. to this is that Kazan, after years of estrangement with Arthur Miller, would collaborate with him again, mounting one of (I think) the worst moments in American theater history -- Miller's play After The Fall. This was Miller's confession/denunciation of Monroe as a castrating, self-destructive bitch, from whom he had to escape. That Monroe was two years dead and unable to defend herself appeared of no interest to her ex-husband or her ex-lover. Miller's pretense that the "Maggie" of his play was not Monroe -- or his version of her -- compounded the insult. Marilyn's good friend, author James Baldwin, walked out of After the Fall, so furious was he over Miller's characterization of her. (The star, Barbara Loden was costumed, bewigged and given the appropriate Monroe-like gestures, in case anybody didn't quite get it.)

•THOSE who disliked Arthur Miller -- and there were many -- found some satisfaction in the fact that After The Fall was his last success. He would wallow in epilogue and various variations on Marilyn for the rest of his life.

Miller's inactivity as a writer -- except for his tedious screenplay for The Misfits -- was often blamed on Marilyn. He himself said it. But right after the Miller/Monroe divorce, columnist Max Lerner opined that it was less likely that Monroe had constricted Miller, but that he had sought her out precisely because he had run out of material.

Several weeks before her death, an interviewer faced Marilyn with Lerner's observation. Did she have a comment? She paused, and then said: "If I answer, will you promise to repeat my quote in its entirety?"

The writer said yes.

Marilyn replied: "No comment."

This is the only thing Marilyn Monroe ever said criticizing a husband -- or anybody else in public life for that matter. She was, as Kazan noted, "not vicious." And it is an indication of her agony, being blamed for the failures of a man she literally saved; standing with him and risking her own career as he was grilled by The House of Un-American Activities, in the matter of his youthful Communist flirtations.

Miller and Kazan left that Marilyn out of After The Fall.

•OVER THE weekend, two talented young actors reached their respective peaks, and both have made serious noises that their acting days are coming to an end. I do mean Captain America himself, Chris Evans, and Jack Gleeson, late of Game of Thrones.

Evans', whose latest -- Captain America: The Winter Soldier -- took the top spot at the box office for the second week in a row, has admitted he feels pretty much done with his career. He wants to move on. Ditto, Mr. Gleeson, who so memorably portrayed evil King Joffrey in GOT. Unless you live under a rock or don't have DVR, you know that Joffrey got his just desserts in last Sunday night's episode. He was wonderfully bad, but simply had to go. (Most fans didn't think Joffrey suffered enough!) Gleeson wants to finish school.

Maybe these two will change their minds after a few years. But getting away from show biz for a period of time never hurt anybody, believe it or not. (Lindsay, are you listening?)