Ryan Murphy Brings ‘Provocative’ Series to HBO

Ryan Murphy, who is currently represented on television with three scripted shows (American Horror Story, Glee, and The New Normal), is added an HBO series to his roster. Open, which is described as "a modern, provocative exploration of human sexuality and relationships," has gotten a pilot order from the network. Collaborating with Dexter co-executive producer Lauren Gussis. This will be his second project with the cable network, as his adaptation of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart is also being produced by HBO

Deadline gives some details about the show:

Open revolves around five lead characters, including a married couple of thirtysomethings, the husband’s male co-worker and a woman in her 40s who is a yoga professional. Murphy said he had been bouncing ideas about a show exploring human relationships when Dante Di Loreto of his company, Ryan Murphy Prods, heard about Gussis working on a similar project and put them together. “She was great fresh voice and energy,” Murphy said about combining his efforts with Gussis. The two worked on the script in December, marking the first time Murphy had written a project on spec instead of selling a pitch. As for the spec landing at HBO: “I’m thrilled about it,” Murphy said, noting his great relationship with Lombardo through Normal Heart and calling HBO a perfect home for Open. “They have great projects, and this is really an adult show that is very frank in its depiction of sex.” But that depiction never feels gratuitous, 20th TV chairman Newman adds. “It is a very honest exploration of relationships and intimacy, and the sex feels organic to the subject matter,” he said.

"That depiction never feels gratuitious." Considering Murphy is responsible for a serial killer who targets plastic surgeons on Nip/Tuck, a ghost rapist on American Horror Story, and all of that Autotuning on Glee, I’m already giving this project a side-eye. But hey, at least HBO’s relaxed standards means there will be more naked people. Silver lining!

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Taylor Kitsch Joining ‘The Normal Heart’ Cast

Taylor Kitsch, AKA Tim Riggins on Friday Night Lights, AKA my boyfriend, is said to be joining the cast of Ryan Murphy’s HBO adaptation of the play, The Normal Heart.

The autobiographical play by Larry Kramer focuses on the HIV/AIDS crisis of the early ’80s. 

The Normal Heart debuted off-Broadway during the mid-’80s, debuted on Broadway in 2011 and won Tony Awards for Best Revival, Best Featured Actor, and Best Featured Actress.

According to Perez Hilton, Kitsch would play Bruce Niles, a closeeted investment banker turned activist who spars with the lead, Ned Weeks.

Others actors already cast for the HBO project — which could be either a film or a miniseries — are Julia Roberts, Matt Bomer, Mark Ruffalo, and Jim Parsons.

Roberts will play Dr. Emma Brookner, a paralegic doctor who focuses on this strange illness mainly killing off gay men in New York City and Parson will reprise the role he played on Broadway of Tommy Boatwright, a gay activist.

Bomer will play Felix Turner, a New York Times reporter who becomes Ned’s lover. 

The Normal Heart is to appear in 2014.

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Stage and Screen Actor Lee Pace Talks Shop

Lee Pace had me at “Hello.” Or, rather, the film equivalent, which was 2006’s The Fall. Spectacularly strange and visually arresting, that movie made an instant devotee out of me. Though the tall, dark, and handsome actor had been in the biz for a few years prior to this weird and wonderful discovery, I’ve followed the 33-year-old’s trajectory ever since—and re-watched The Fall more than a few times.

Fast forward to 2012, which has been especially packed for Pace, featuring roles in Lincoln, Breaking Dawn: Part 2, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Indeed, it’s safe to say that he’s had a good year, especially considering all three titles hit theaters (for all intents and purposes) simultaneously. This triple whammy of sorts simply must bode well on the success scale. 

From indie flicks like A Single Man and Ceremony, to blockbuster franchises, this guy’s got that special something that attracts casting directors and keeps crowds captivated. Beyond the big screen, New Yorkers can currently catch Pace as Italian composer Vincenzo Bellini in Terrence McNally’s Golden Age, a play directed by Walter Bobbie with performances through January 13 at Manhattan Theatre Club. Age audiences are granted a backstage pass to listen in and look on, taking in behind-the-scenes goings-on during opening night of Bellini’s last opera, I Puritani, at the ThéâtreItalien in Paris. Part comedy, part drama, the two-and-a-half-hour-long performance paints a living picture of what it might have been like to be there. 

The charming and approachable Pace was sweet enough to take time before taking the stage recently to talk about a few things. From his privileged yet hectic career to memorable moments, from his stance on New York to his “heartthrob” status, Pace provides a refreshingly sincere look at his life. 

So, you’ve had a super busy year…
It has been a busy year. I’m really feeling it now that the year’s coming to an end. These movies came out this past month and now we[’re] doing eight shows a week [for Golden Age]. It’s been a lot of work, so I’ll to be looking forward to a quiet new year. But, it’s been great. It’s good to be busy. There’s nothing I like more than being busy. Good characters to play and good people to work with. There’s been a lot of that this year, so I couldn’t be more grateful.

Is there any reprieve during the holiday?
Theater schedules through the holidays are relentless. I guess I figured we’d still be doing eight shows a week, but it’s tough. There’s so many shows. But, it’s good. It’s a privilege to be able to do the show for people. That people want to come is awesome.  

Given your recent roster, are there any standout moments of 2012?
Shooting scenes with Steven Spielberg in the Congress (sic) [for Lincoln], that was pretty incredible. Big scenes, lots of extras, a couple cameras moving. You really feel like, Wow, I’ll remember this. It kinda doesn’t get better than this. Then, I went to New Zealand to work on The Hobbit for a couple months. To be on those sets, which [were] equally incredible, and to collaborate on and play a character that is the product of so many people’s imaginations—Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens, Fran Walsh and the costume designers—[was] very, very special. 

Any funny stories that you recall?
Funny things happened, but I always forget them. I am such an idiot. 

[Laughs] Okay, any instances on stage where you feel compelled to burst out laughing?
We really like each other a lot. All of the guys [in Golden Age] shar[e] a dressing room. We have so much fun during the half hour, talking. Ethan Phillips is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met and he keeps us going all through the half hour, so there are times I’ll look at him on stage and remember a joke he told and I have a hard time not laughing. 

I can imagine. What’s it like portraying a real life character versus a fictional one?
Both Fernando Wood [of Lincoln] and [Bellini of] Golden Age are based on real men. You want to have a certain respect for who they were. You want to find a connection to the real person. Understand them from an actor’s point of view, which is different from a historian’s point of view and different from a writer’s point of view. 

For sure.
In Golden Age, it’s a character. It isn’t a biopic of Bellini. This is a work of art. Terrence McNally is using the character to tell a story. I see it as my job to connect the dots between Terrence and me and Bellini, who wrote this beautiful music. I tried to figure out what it was about him, who he was, the details. There’s so many things that go into making a character.

I bet. Your Bellini also displays distinct mannerisms, tending to twitch and putter a bunch…
[Laughs] Twitch and putter. I’ll remember that tonight when I’m twitching and puttering. [Laughs]

It’s not intended as an insult!
No, he is very twitchy and putter-y. Where I started with my research was listening to the music and really trying to understand that music and believe that that music was coming out of me, that I’d written it. Before I started, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to create something like that, to write music as complicated as this music. Just trying to get myself into that headspace, being backstage listening to it, that’s where I really started working out the physicality and how I moved. It kind of grew from that, so that the nervous energy finds its way into keeping the beat with the opera. He’s not a neurotic man. He’s concerned about how this artistic effort is going to be received by a discerning audience of people that he respects. He wants to do something that will be meaningful to them. It’s all about the music. He takes this opera that he has created extremely seriously. 

As you do your own work…
On the good days! No, I do. When you work with people like Daniel Day-Lewis, Steven Spielberg, and Peter Jackson, you see how they take it seriously. It’s meaningful. They’re so talented. On set with Steven Spielberg, everyone felt how much that story meant to him, the story of the 16th president. Everyone on that set felt it and [was] inspired by it. And that’s how we all found ourselves on his page, because he’s inspiring. 

Wish I could have been there! So, theater versus film? Is there one you prefer?
They’re very, very different. I can’t say I prefer either one because I love both for different reasons. In film, you have very little time to get it right. And it’s not even about getting it right, because it’s important to let go of that way of thinking about it. You get what you get and move onto the next setup, onto the next scene. On stage, George C. Wolfe, who directed me in [the play] The Normal Heart, called it the actors’ revenge, because you have to step onstage every night and tell the story yourself. You just have to do it yourself. 

In a movie, you turn over your performance to the director and the editors to edit and to layer in sound and everything else that makes the performance emotional or funny or whatever. In theater, you have to land the jokes yourself. You have to understand what’s funny about it. You have to kind of feel the audience. What they’re about on any given night. With a movie, you don’t have that. You can’t do that. In The Hobbit, we can’t feel what the house is going to be like before we do it. 

Of course not. So, onto something still loftier, what’s been the greatest challenge of your career?
If I could name a challenge, it would be laughable compared to the challenges so many other people face. It’s the “funnest” job in the world. I guess the biggest challenge I could say these days is just taking it seriously. When you’re in your thirties, the parts get good for men. You get really interesting characters. That’s what I’ve noticed. Complicated men dealing with complicated things. Seeing that there’s so [much] more to investigate about the way people are, and communicat[ing] those things to an audience, that’s the challenge. You want [the] stories to be good and you want them to be truthful and that’s a challenge. 

Seeing as this is an NYC-centric outlet, where exactly are you based?
I’ve been living here while I do the play. But, I live outside the city now. I live up in the country. It was a new move. I’d lived [in New York City] for a long time, since I was 17. 

How do you like living off-island?
I like it a lot. I love New York City. I’ve spent my adult life in New York City. I have a really complicated relationship with New York City, as every New Yorker does. You can’t go through almost 15 years [here] and not have a complicated relationship with it. Part of that relationship is, I’m going to take a little break and live in the country. [Laughs]

I hear that. Lastly, any thoughts on being considered by some to be heartthrob, a sex symbol?
Oh god no. What does that mean? I have no comment about that. I don’t know what to say about that. It’s news to me. 

Ryan Murphy’s ‘The Normal Heart’ Headed To HBO

Looks like I spoke too soon when I wrote with glee (get it?) that there’d be competing AIDS dramas in 2014’s Oscar race. The news hit the theater world today that Ryan Murphy’s adaptation of The Normal Heart, Larry Kramer’s autobiographical play about the early days of the HIV/AIDS crisis, is headed to the small screen rather than your local multiplex.

Broadway World reports:

Now, a cable network insider tells BWW’s Rialto Chatter exclusively that the film will instead be an HBO television production, with a budget in the neighborhood of $15 million dollars. There is no word yet on a timeline for the project, or if the previously announced starry cast is staying aboard the project.

If true, this is a brilliant idea, as it is likely to give the film an even wider audience, and isn’t HBO’s first time doing a project of this kind, with their 2003 film of the Mike Nichols-directed ANGELS IN AMERICA (starring Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Patrick Wilson, Mary-Louise Parker, Emma Thompson, Justin Kirk, Jeffrey Wright and Ben Shenkman) being considered a large success for the network as the most-watched made-for-cable film in 2003, garnering critical acclaim and multiple Golden Globe and Emmy awards, among other numerous accolades.

It’s certainly a brilliant idea! Too bad the movie will be directed by Ryan Murphy, creator of the grating Glee, the increasingly batshit crazy American Horror Story, and the offensively silly The New Normal. But there will be a long monologue from Julia Roberts in which she screams from a wheelchair, so. 

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Matthew McConaughey Really Wants An Oscar For ‘The Dallas Buyer’s Club’

Celebrities! They’re just like us! Sometimes they are spotted at the airport looking emaciated and with terrible haircuts and mustaches! Yes, that’s Matthew McConaughey right there, who is looking gaunt and sickly for his role in the upcoming The Dallas Buyer’s Club, in which he’ll be playing an AIDS patient. Ladies and gentlemen, get your 2014 Oscar ballots ready because McConaughey is gunning for a trophy!

McConaughey was spotted last week at LAX while taking a break from filming the movie, which also stars Jennifer Garner and Jared Leto, who, according to E!, will be "playing a cross-dresser with AIDS." This sounds like a fun little flick, huh? How will this fare against Ryan Murphy’s big-screen adaptation of Larry Kramer’s masterpiece The Normal Heart? Well, Jennifer Garner is certainly a poor man’s Julia Roberts, who will be starring in The Normal Heart as a wheelchair-bound doctor (Ellen Barkin won a Tony for the role in the play’s Broadway production last year). The Dallas Buyer’s Club definitely lacks the star power of Kramer’s AIDS epic (Alec Baldwin, Mark Ruffalo, Jim Parsons, and McConaughey’s Magic Mike co-star Matt Bomer have all joined the cast of The Normal Heart). 

This match-up is really the Armageddon / Deep Impact of 2013 AIDS movies, huh?

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Julia Roberts to Star in Ryan Murphy’s ‘Normal Heart’ Film

Here’s some exciting news for people who love depressing films about dying gay men: Ryan Murphy’s upcoming adaptation of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart has added some big names to its cast: Alec Baldwin, Jim Parsons, and Matt Bomer. They’re joining Mark Ruffalo, who will play the protagonist and Kramer’s doppelgänger Ned Weeks.

Larry Kramer’s play is an autobiographical account of the early days of the AIDS crisis in New York City. It follows a group of gay men who struggle to bring awareness to the disease by forming an advocacy group, based on the efforts of Gay Men’s Health Crisis, from which Kramer himself was ousted after bringing negative attention to the group with his out-spoken demands from the city’s leaders (particularly Mayor Ed Koch). It recently won a Tony for Best Revival of a Play for its run last year, and Ellen Barkin picked up a statue for her role as the wheelchair-bound Emma Brookner, a doctor who is one of the few in her field to pay attention to the disease’s spread among the gay population in New York.

Julia Roberts will play Emma Brookner in the film, which Ryan Murphy is directing. For those who got to see the fantastic production on Broadway last year, this pairing is quite surprising. First of all, the source material works best as a performance piece — it’ll be difficult to transfer a script that is primarily a string of loud, angry monologues. It’s also hard to imagine Julia Roberts stepping (or, really, sitting) into a role that was performed with such vigor and fierceness by Barkin, who completely earned her Tony by taking over the stage solely with the power of her famous voice. Can Roberts compete with an actress who was so able to demand the attention of an audience as she sits nearly motionless in a wheelchair? 

While I can see the importance of bringing Kramer’s story to a mainstream audience, it seems like the folks behind the film already have diluted the power of The Normal Heart. On the one hand, the HIV/AIDS crisis is still very much a crisis, and delivering Kramer’s (albeit divisive) message to those who would not seek out the play on their own is an admirable feat. But putting Ryan Murphy in charge, the guy behind such important and politically conscious offerings such as Nip/Tuck, Glee, American Horror Story, and Eat, Pray Love, seems like a major misstep. Let’s hope that there are some altruistic motives behind this proposed film (LOL, right?), which already seems like the kind of movie that solely exists for the potential to gather Oscars for the people who made it.