Barbra Streisand Speaks Out About Attempts To Get ‘The Normal Heart’ Made

6a00d8341c730253ef01538e5bc91f970b-250wiWith the HBO adaptation of Larry Kramer’s play The Normal Heart due out next month, Barbra Streisand is speaking out about charges leveled against her by Kramer, namely that she is to blame for a film version of the play not being made sooner, even going so far as to call her a ‘hypocrite’ on gay rights. Streisand told The Hollywood Reporter:

In the press, Larry kept speaking out against me. But I think it's unfair to keep blaming me for the movie not getting made. I worked on it for 25 years, without pay. Larry had the rights for the last 15 years and he couldn't get it made, either. Those are the facts.

In 2007, he sent me a note before giving the project to another director, asking me again if I wanted to direct it — but only with his screenplay. As a filmmaker, I couldn't have my hands tied like that. What if I needed changes? Sadly, I turned his offer down and wished him well.

I will always believe in Larry's play and its powerful theme about everyone's right to love. It's been 28 years since I tried to get this piece made … so much has happened since. But I'm glad it's finally here. 

Kramer has previously accused Streisand of re-working the play to focus on the character of the doctor, whom she was originally set to play, marginalizing the gay characters. For her part, Streisand has said that Kramer’s script was not cinematic enough and refused to be tied down artistically by his draft. The HBO version, which stars Matt Bomer, Taylor Kitsch, Jim Parsons, and Mark Ruffalo among others, was directed by Ryan Murphy and premieres May 25th.


  1. says

    regardless of one’s feelings of her, or Kramer (personally i’m in love with both) – this is a classy statement.

    and i’ll say this: sometimes “it didn’t get made until now” *because it wasn’t meant to be made until now*

    right time. right cast. right moment. no use worrying about what could have been when what is happening and being done is of such worth.

  2. David From Canada says

    Kramer and Streisand both have very strong personalities and convictions. From what I remember years ago, Babs even threatened to sue him, in order to get the movie made.
    What might have been…….

  3. Russ says

    What might have been, indeed. A real director vs. the director of “Eat Pray Love” and “Running With Scissors,” both execrable. The mind reels. Let’s hope the cast saves it.

  4. Dback says

    She was, indeed, very serious about making it-she put together a hell of a cast reading and recorded it for CD. (Look around for it-Eric Bogosian, Stockard Channing, David Drake, etc.) She probably did ask for changes and tweaks, but if you know anything about Kramer, “compromise” and “tact” are not in his vocabulary. It was meant to marinate till now. (An original review from the 80’s called it “trashy, interminable non-play”; time has been kinder to it.)

  5. Scar2 says

    Russ: I feel you. Those are two of my favourite books & the film versions were both disappointing. However, I do have faith in HBO & I’m hoping television will capture the play better. I think Kramer & Streisand are both control freaks & it would never have worked.

  6. Paul B. says

    As much as I regret saying this…you don’t get to be a great artist by compromising your vision. So, it’s very hard to collaborate with each other…I would assume. I’m not an artist but I live with one…it’s pure hell. He’s got “huge talent”…so I stick around. But oye…what a kinish he is. Only Jewish by marriage…sorry if my spelling is off.

  7. chevytexas says

    Old guy anger and angst and blame is Larry’s schtick. Foaming,fomenting and revisiting slings, arrows and imaginary papercuts across the decades remind me of another curmudgeon, John McCain. Yes, to those of us born in the Eisenhower administration like Larry (who is probably Truman admin), these tantrums represent poor public judgment in a man who has given much, and will again when he stops pretending he can do everything himself. The piano doesn’t write the concerto.

  8. gr8guyca says

    This is one of those rare “he said/she said” debates when I think they are both right. As the writer, he is justified in not wanting his work misinterpreted. As a director, she is right in not being tied down to an inflexible script.

    It’s good that this project finally moved beyond these two immovable objects.

  9. Buckie says

    I take anything Larry Kramer says with a grain of salt. Having seen him publicly foaming at the mouth nutso several on several occasions.

    I’m not impressed.

  10. MIke says

    Streisand as the doctor would have been similar to Streisand directing Streisand playing a psychiatrist : 5 inch long perfectly manicured fingernails and camera shots ONLY from the left. Love her but in movies she just doesn’t translate well to “regularly everyday working woman”.

  11. Martin says

    That was a very classy reply. I appreciate everything that Larry Kramer has done, but I feel like he’s still super pissed about the 80s and how slighted the gay community was back then over AIDS from the “mainstream” so he has a lot of malice in his heart. I agree that now is probably the best time for Normal Heart to actually be presented in film to the public. Hopefully Kramer can one day overcome his anger issues.

  12. Jons says

    Kramer is such an execrable human being I wonder how he got to be so well-known. Every time he speaks up it’s to blame someone, to rant against something or say “I told you so”.

    That plus his own self-made legend as a gay freedom fighter that far exceeds his actual role in history.

    Her response is very classy, and regardless of how it really went down (I wasn’t there), I’m much more willing to believe her than to believe him. Even if he turned out to be 100% right, it’s the story of the boy who cried wolf.

  13. dommyluc says

    I am not a big Streisand fan, but I admire her and her commitment to the gay community. Kramer should know very well the amount of homophobia that was probably involved in keeping his story off the big screen – look at the production history of “Brokeback Mountain’. And I also believe a huge amount of sexism was also involved: Streisand is a huge star, but I bet if Spielberg or Lucas wanted this made, it would have been done years ago. Of course, Steven would have changed the story to a light-hearted romp about str8 SF couples dealing with the common cold. Glad he never got his hands on it – it would have been the worst thing since Clint Eastwood did “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”.

  14. Houndentenor says

    Kramer has every right to be angry but I think it’s unfair to blame it on Streisand. No one else could have gotten it made either, especially not as he would want it. He needs to stop blaming her.

  15. Dastius Krazitauc says

    “you don’t get to be a great artist by compromising your vision.”

    What about the screenwriter as artist? Why don’t they get to say no to compromise in support of their own artistic vision? If you respect the talents of everyone working on a project, there has to be some collaboration and compromise on everyone’s part. Every movie can’t be made in Yentlvision, with the same person producing, directing, writing, acting, singing *all* of the songs.

  16. Boss says

    hey, the very art is about collaboration: otherwise NORMAL HEART wouldn’t be a play (screen or otherwise), it would be a novel. Her statement is classy, helps raise the level of awareness about the piece itself…BUT i wish she (or her writer) hadn’t added the bit about “even he couldn’t get it made for fifteen years.” It’s also a bit cliched to expect their behavior to be so awful based on stereotypes about their past…YENTL or angry diatribes. If artists can’t evolve, they cease to be truly relevant. These two tried to evolve together and it didn’t work out, but it doesn’t mean either can’t in another context.

  17. Another Russ says

    Anyone who has read Kramer’s book “Faggots” knows that before AIDS, he had quite a bit of malice towards the gay community. That book read like it was written by the bitter step sisters in “Cinderella”.

  18. says

    Another Russ – and anyone who’s read or seen The Normal Heart will note the refreshing self-awareness in which Kramer calls himself out for his bitterness and pious hypocrisy whilst writing “Faggots” – it’s a lovely meta-moment inside The Normal Heart as ‘Ned’ (Kramer’s avatar) is flatly and directly called out on the content of his novel, and how its content and tone directly contradicts his own claims to his “wants” in life. 😉

    having had my hands on the shooting script for this film, i can say it’s been beautifully opened up for the screen. monologues have become flesh-out scenes, new characters added, breathing room given.

    Barbra’s film would have been different. Had anyone else helmed it before now, it would have been different.

    it’s being made now because it was meant to be made *now*

  19. Paul R says

    I could be wrong, but I didn’t read Paul B.’s comment as an attack on Kramer. It can certainly be read that way, but colaborating with him or Streisand would be tough for anyone, so they were a poor match from the start.

  20. Joseph Singer says

    @ David Ehrenstein:

    “Typically Towleroad comments prefers the glamorous Fag-Hag to the serious gay man”

    What a nasty catty thing to say. Larry Kramer is notorious as being a sourpuss who is impossible to please. He was bad-mouthing same sex marriage until last year. Larry Kramer is a very hard person to please… at all. If you cannot say something nice about someone you should just control yourself and shut up.

  21. Victor says

    If anyone is doubting Kramer’s words, and since Yentl has already been mentioned, I’ll add my two cents. The author of the original story “Yentl” was Isaac Bashevis Singer. And he not only demanded and got his name removed from credits, but also wrote a very angry review in The New York Times.

    While I love Barbra, and actually enjoyed Yentl, her story deviated quite far from Singer’s intentions.

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