Kai Z Feng/OUT magazine
Playwright Larry Kramer wasn't immediately sold on Matt Bomer playing Felix, a gay man dying of AIDS, in director Ryan Murphy's HBO adaptation of his play The Normal Heart.
"I said, 'I really believe in Matt Bomer,'" Murphy recalls in the upcoming June-July issue if Out magazine. "And Larry said, 'But he's so beautiful! Is he too beautiful?'"
But then the two men met. "I was pretty starstruck," Bomer said. "It was like meeting one of the Beatles. He was so central to my understanding and development. We talked for a really long time."
Kramer then emailed Murphy, saying, "He's the one."
The Normal Heart is Kramer's semi-autobiographical play about the early days of the AIDS epidemic in New York City. Bomer's costars include Mark Ruffalo as his lover, Ned, and Julia Roberts as Dr. Emma Brookner, one of the first doctors to treat AIDS patients. Rounding out the cast are Taylor Kitsch, Jonathan Groff, Jim Parsons and Denis O'Hare.
Bomer lost 40 pounds for the role. "I think Matt felt the ghosts," Murphy said. "I think he felt all the shame and humiliation and degradation of all those brothers who have died of AIDS. It was a very beautiful, spiritual thing to witness."
Bomer was only 14 years old when he first read The Normal Heart. "You're really lucky as an artist if you get a role that changes you as a person," Bomer, now 36, said. "It taught me how to access myself on a completely different level as an artist. And it blew my mind in terms of the level of unconditional love between Ned and Felix—my goodness, if these people could incorporate this into their lives, under their circumstances, why can't I?"
The Normal Heart premieres on HBO on May 25.