When The Normal Heart author Larry Kramer sat down with Ryan Murphy to discuss making a movie version of his landmark play about the early days of the AIDS crisis, the outspoken Kramer was very 'bold' with his questions.
Murphy recalled part of their initial conversation at a special screening in Los Angeles on Wednesday (21 May) attended by Gay Star News: 'He said: "Are you going to show cock? Are you going to really go for it? Are you brave enough to show what it was really like?"'
Murphy's movie, which premieres Sunday (25 May) on HBO does not shy away from the free sexuality of gay men in the pre-AIDS early 1980s nor the ravages of the disease that became an epidemic.
'I think it looks like a horror movie in some ways,' Murphy said. 'I wanted it to be very graphic from a medical aspect. ... I think many young people today don't know that it was really so horrific.'
The skin lesions from Kaposi's sarcoma, the vomit, the dementia, the dramatic weight loss and more is depicted in the film.
The 48-year-old Murphy told the crowd at the Landmark Theater in Los Angeles that he lost 10 friends to AIDS when he was still in his early 30s. One friend, he said, was on his deathbed but still did not want to admit he had AIDS because if he survived he didn't want to lose his job.
'It was a very real thing in my life, that pain and loss,' he said. 'I think I had to deal with some stuff (through making the movie) that I hadn't dealt with as a person.'
One of the film's stars, Matt Bomer, joined Murphy after the screening looking fit and healthy in contrast to the second half of the movie during which his character is deteriorating. The actor lost at least 40 pounds to convincingly portray a man dying from AIDS.
'Matt put himself through such an ordeal that it actually was hard for him to breathe, hard for him to stand up,' Murphy said.
The director also shared with the audience that after Bomer's death scene, he and on-screen partner Mark Ruffalo 'were so into it that they could not stop crying' and laid there on the bed after the crew had left.
Bomer said being a part of the long-awaited film version of Kramer's play was 'a massive responsibility. It's so much bigger than me or any actor involved.'
Bomer also said a key message of the film is 'understanding how a generation of people had to say goodbye to each other ... but unconditional love was found amid the most difficult circumstances.'