The Normal Heart premiered on HBO on May 26 to rave reviews and a look back at a time period when AIDS was wiping out an entire generation of young men. Matt Bomer stars in the adaptation of Larry Kramer‘s play of a closeted New York Times reporter who becomes involved with an AIDS activist played by Mark Ruffalo.
Bomer spoke with Vulture about the material and how he discovered Kramer’s work back when he was struggling with his own sexuality as a teen.
He said, “The play has been a part of me for over 20 years, so there’s a sense of comfortability that comes with that, but also a sense of real pressure that comes with that, I think. But it was a real luxury. I think I first met with [director] Ryan [Murphy] in 2011, back when it was a film. When I first heard that they were making it, I didn’t care what role I played, I just wanted to be a part of the story. And I was just incredibly fortunate that Ryan saw something in me for this role and believed in me, because there was nothing, really, in my body of work that would have indicated that I could play this role. So that’s a testament to him.”
Bomer knew he had to be a part of this production, so he went to great lengths to make sure he was ready for a role he connected to.
“I felt such a profound responsibility to be a part of this story that I literally rented out a theater. I found this cheap theater on Santa Monica Boulevard, in L.A., and they would rent out the entire theater to me for twenty bucks an hour and I would go there every day and kind of do the stage production on my own, shared the 36-year-old star. “I was just kind of exploring the words, and the character, and the material. So I guess on some level I felt innately drawn to be a part of this story, but at the same time I felt an incredible sense of responsibility, that I was going to have to put in more work for this than I’ve ever had to put in for anything in my life.”
The work even involved a 40-pound weight loss for the White Collar actor, but it was all worth it to him.
He explained, “As an actor, it’s kind of hard to talk about gratification because it’s sort of fleeting; it’s all moment to moment, but even when there was a situation where I was thin as a rail and was like, ‘Hmmm, I could just pee in my pants right now instead of getting up and having to use the energy to go the bathroom,’ I still was dying to get to work.”
It was hard for Bomer to let go of The Normal Heart after he finished shooting. He shared how some roles live with an actor after a project is completed.
“Certain characters are sticky, especially if they help you grow up as a person, I think. And a project that helps you become a better person, they just don’t come along every day, so I kind of want to get all the juice I can from this and then worry about strapping on whatever I’m going to be wearing for Magic Mike.” he summed up.